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Stop fussing! And other lockdown lessons

Parenting can be a little fraught when you're essentially under siege in your own house. So we decided to talk to our young people to find out what they think we could be doing better.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL. I REPEAT: THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Just in case you needed to remind yourself, consider that your daily refresher. Because, lord knows, we are simply not supposed to be locked in a house with our immediate family for weeks, months — hell, it’s getting close to a year — on end.

But while we fret about finances and panic over parenting, spare a thought for our offspring who have no choice but to live with their strung-out parents and are often the subject of our most distressing worries: are they learning enough? Are they socialising too much? Are they coping? Are they sleeping? ARE THEY HAPPY AT THE VERY LEAST, PLEASE GOD? The list goes on. And on. (And on a bit more.)

So, we thought we’d do a little research — nothing too onerous — just a general ask-around. Our very own Muddy staffers and readers spoke to their children and asked them what advice they would give to make us all better lockdown parents. And here are the surprising, and hopefully useful, results.

Hero Brown, Editor-in-Chief

Cass, age 11

Every time we are tired or grumpy or lacking in energy it doesn’t mean we’ve had too much time on devices. Taking us away from our phones is always the default — no problem if your child is getting rude or aggressive and doing nothing else, but most of my friends are like me and only on for a couple of hours a day. What adults often forget is that our technology is sociable. When I’m playing Nintendo, I’ll often use the Discord app to chat to my friends while I’m doing it. X-Boxers play with their friends too. Sometimes I felt lonely and bored in the first lockdown and technology is the one way we can all stay in touch through the next few months. 

Iris, age 13

Mum, stop being so squeamish when sex comes on in a movie or you’re wondering what’s appropriate for me to watch. I’m OK to watch 15s, I did sex ed in Y3! If I find something uncomfortable, I won’t watch it but parents are more embarrassed than we are about these things. I think they often think of us kids as being a lot younger than we are, we need to be allowed to grow up! There are plenty of sex scenes in ‘accepted’ comedies like Friends that are just as risqué as some movies, you know.

Finn, age 18

Being an older teenager at home, and taking A-levels, there’s a constant pressure to make sure I’m ‘doing’. I’d say to any parent, see if your child is up-to-date with schoolwork, leave them to it. Show your appreciation that they are in lessons, engaged, and don’t worry too much if they haven’t had a shower before registration or their room is a mess. It’s pretty tough being a teenager even without a lockdown and the educational pressures now — older teens particularly need their own space and freedom (even if that’s just the four walls of their own bedroom), and over-parenting, however well-meaning, has the opposite effect than intended. If you step back, it will allow us to step up.

Rachel Jane, Editor, Muddy Berkshire

Morgan, age 15

With remote learning and playing on the Xbox with my mates, my screen time has gone through the roof. Parents are busy juggling, but I’d rather they would remind me to go outside for some fresh air more than the constant reminder to pick my dirty socks and pants off the floor. Parents need to get some perspective. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

Sam, age 6

I hate to break it to you but Homeschool isn’t a real school and mum isn’t a teacher. Lots of breaks and snacks are essential and if I get a bit done each day, she should take that as a win. I also think kids should choose what we eat every night — then you’ll know it will be eaten. 

Sue Tucker, Editor, Muddy Dorset & Somerset

Jago, age 17

Make sure there’s always stuff like jars of different pesto, pasta, bread, bagels, snacks, fruit, and juice, so we can make ourselves meals, snacks, and smoothies throughout the day to keep us going.

Ginny Light, Muddy Associate Features Editor

Nora, age 7

I like learning from people apart from Mummy or Daddy like online art classes or cooking. We also want lots of time to play in between homeschool. Can we play more games at dinner like picking a question out of the jar to ask each other or word games?

Catherine Vonledebur, Editor, Muddy Warwickshire

Jude, age 19 (home from university over Christmas)

When I don’t have to get up for lectures, what time of the day I’m groggy from waking up doesn’t make much of a difference and the bowl of cereal I eat five minutes before dinner does not make me any less hungry for it — “you’re a growing lad” aye. You probably appreciate the one less person occupying your morning routine, one less shower, one less tooth brushing invading the bathroom.   

Naomi, age 11

Please don’t tut and say “Oh no, not again, Naomi” when I watch Stranger Things for the third, fourth… fifth or is it sixth time?? (I dunno, I’ve lost count!) I know I did the same with Free Rein and Full House, I just really miss them when they’re finished.

Maya, age 17

As a 17-year-old I do tend to oversleep more than anyone else in the house. Obviously if I had the choice, I would choose to be an early bird. However, my energy tends to peak right before I should be sleeping. So as a result of this, yes, I do wake up late. In response to this, when I come downstairs and say, “Mornin'” I usually get the response of “Afternoon more like”. I already feel like a bum getting up late but you don’t have to remind me.   

And some sage words from the kids of Muddy readers…

Flynn, age 9

I just really want to get back to normal — it’s harder this time because it’s cold and muddy outside. We have to make sure we get a break from each other and not argue or fight. I like to go in my bedroom to chill out and get away from my little brother and sister. I do something that calms me down, like practicing the guitar or drawing. Sometime Mummy and me bird-watch from the window for an hour and count what we have seen. It feels peaceful.

Griff, age 7

If I get angry or upset I go on the trampoline and wear my head phones and listen to music and jump, once I’m done jumping I’m not cross anymore. I like to build Cranes or things that have motors or pulleys. I made a Trebuchet. Remember it makes me happy to build.

Bella, age 9

After a day of homeschooling and working, put your own phone and laptops away and just listen to each other.

Emma, age 14

It’s your lack of trust in me to do my own work and not trusting me to work alone in my bedroom that really annoys me. And not letting me sleep in!

Fred, age 11

I’d like more help from Dad as he just hides in the office. I think probably it’s only mums that help all the time. It would be nice to share you and Dad through homeschooling.

Harry, age 18

Mum, please try to remember that you didn’t have to do your degree with your Mum nosing around your bedroom, looking over your shoulder and asking you questions after listening in to your lectures.

Andrew, age 12

Having bad wifi signal out in the country isn’t great. But I also find it really embarrassing and annoying when you listen in while I’m having a live lesson.

Ruby, age 14

It’s very stressful with the uncertainty of exams, missing friends and getting bored at home. It would be very easy to stay in bed late and eat junk food. But please remind us to get exercise, even if it’s a walk, to look after our mental health.

Do your kids have any tips for creating a happy household in lockdown? Please add their advice using the comments box below.

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