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Catch up with the Jones family, as their three children return to school and how they all try to navigate ‘the new normal’ - working out exactly what that looks like for their family.

The ‘new normal’ has been tricky to navigate.

With swimming lessons at different times and on different days for all three children, theatre club, guitar lessons, football, and Brownies to attend - my head was spinning after only the first week of ‘normal’! Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great to see the children enjoy all their favourite activities again after so long, but sometimes it feels like there's so much pressure to make the most of it, and enjoy all the things we haven’t been able to do. From signing the kids up to extra drama and swimming classes and taking part in the upcoming pantomime, to accepting every invitation that comes our way!

Information overload

I have never received so many emails and text messages in my life! With every re-opened activity comes a staggering amount of information; including messages about new Covid protocols – reminders to wear masks, mandatory one way systems, and staggered drop off and pick up times. Then comes ‘Track and Trace’ - the dreaded pings on my phone asking me to collect my child from school and take them for a PCR test… or bubble is closing and we’re back to home schooling. I am so fortunate that I stay home to look after the kids - I honestly don't know how my working friends cope with the disruptions to working life and childcare arrangements. It must be so stressful.

Christmas is coming!

As we head towards Christmas, I’m avoiding TV ads, magazine articles, and social posts ‘encouraging’ me to hurry and buy ‘all the toys’, decorate the house perfectly, and to buy my turkey now or Christmas will be ruined!

I am planning our days and weeks ahead with intention, trying to spread out the parties and social gatherings and make sure we all have a healthy dose of downtime to enjoy as a family. It has been tiring and sometimes I find myself dreaming of the simpler, ‘less full’ days we enjoyed with less rushing and stressing. Definitely not full lockdown! Just something less busy, where we seemed to realise how much enjoyment there was in the simpler things - daily walks, looking for shells at the beach, and feeding the birds. We can still enjoy those things despite the ‘scary’ news reports about fuel and gas prices, food shortages, and doom-scrolling social media!

Time together as a family

As things get busier, it has become even more important to carve out time together to simply be together as a family. The children are definitely happier when they have some pauses within their week. Time together chatting about our day, drawing around the table, or playing a family board game after dinner gives us that time to rest and reconnect as a family. 

Our children thrive on routine, so our ‘new normal’ now obviously includes all those extracurricular activities that have restarted, but it also includes regular bed times, scheduled quiet reading or drawing time, eating together, and discussing our days - I love hearing about the children's activities and games in school and what they've been learning.

The children take it all in their stride!

Whilst there is still uncertainty around school attendance, extracurricular activities, self-isolation, and obviously the ‘strangeness’ of attending PCR tests and taking lateral flow tests - the children seem to be taking it all in their stride so far. I explain the tests as being necessary and explain that by knowing whether or not we're ill with the virus, we can help protect other people and keep them safe. They understand that and want to help.

Take things one day at a time

Our family in the main has been very positive throughout this whole experience and we are enjoying the things we previously took for granted - going back to the theatre, the cinema, and being able to host birthday parties for the children ‘in real life’ rather than via zoom, has been fantastic.

Knowing there may be further restrictions ahead and that we won’t be able to plan for every eventuality means we are trying to take things one day at a time. My advice for any other parent who may be finding it difficult to cope in these uncertain times is to stick to your child's routine as much as possible. Make sure that everyone is getting enough sleep and eating well (or as well as a picky eater might eat!); get outside every day (especially important now the nights are drawing in with the added bonus that getting outdoors helps to ease pressure and let off some steam, whilst tiring them out too!).

If you are struggling with any aspect of worrying or anxiety, then reach out to talk to a friend, family member, or an organisation who can provide support. It is so important for us all to get things off our chests and it is reassuring to know there are other people out there who feel the same way.

We are living in uncertain times and there are so many pressures at the moment, so please don't suffer in silence.

The ‘new normal’ may well take some getting used to, but I am hopeful we will figure it out – together.