With half term ahead of us, psychotherapist Noel McDermott is advising families to take a moment to remember the challenges you have been through as a family and the things that became precious and healing during the pandemic.
The most precious thing we gained in the lockdowns was remembering we love each other and that love simply means time together. Don’t underestimate ‘family time’ – remember how creative we became, creating games and ways of having fun together as a family unit.
Ideas for half term activities
- Stay in your in pj’s for longer than normal and enjoy snuggling up in bed with breakfast of all your favourite treats!
- Make more time for family meals and conversation. Get the baking bowls out and get creative in the kitchen with everyone doing their bit
- Have a movie day on the sofa, let the kids choose what they’d like to watch and what treats they’d like to indulge in
- Dust off the board games and spend an afternoon battling it out as a family!
- Don’t forget the importance of ‘park time’. Remember how precious it was to be able to go out to the local park and play together and how it helps our psychological and physiological health
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott explained to Channel Eye: “We went to these core activities during a time of crisis, and they helped us be resilient in the face of challenge and they remain the core resilience activities. Loving, healthy active time together is the centre of everything, with this in place we can face changes and growth with confidence”.
Time is the most precious resource we can give
A central lesson we can reinforce now is how amazing we are, to have come through challenge and distress together and to actually grow from this challenging place.
Our vulnerability opened us up to the important things in life, those we love and those that love us. It’s not stuff and things we need, but each other and how we express that is by time. We give each other our time, probably our most precious resource especially as life seems to be speeding up at a rate of knots.
Downtime is vital during the half term and other holidays, not just to rest but to rest with each other. It’s like a litter of puppies sleeping in a bundle, where you are not sure where one begins and ends. That’s what is needed, the reassurance of resting safely together.
The power of physical contact
Focus on physical contact, take every opportunity to rest and be in gentle and loving physical contact with your children. This contact produces a hormone called oxytocin which reduces stress and promotes loving feelings of connection to others. We feel more connected in a global sense and more secure and can carry that security into other aspects of our lives.
Biophilic activities & nature
Nature has a similar impact in the sense of creating connectedness. A walk in nature, sailing, a boat trip, skiing, camping, climbing trees in your local park all activate what is called biophilia, an inbuilt capacity we have to relate to and take comfort from other forms of natural life.
Biophilic activities reduce stress responses and create a sense of connectedness and wellbeing. This is in many ways similar to physical touch with a loved one and biophilic activities produce a neural state similar to that created in mindful meditation, all of these outputs are profoundly healthy for us.
Being a parent we always forget that we ‘need to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first’, as they say on the plane every time you fly. If the oxygen mask drops, put it on yourself first because if you run out of oxygen then you can’t help anyone else.
Here the mask is a metaphor for self-care, so make sure you find time and activities that recharge your own batteries, which of course may include any of the above, but also may include you being selfish. Don’t worry about being selfish to get your own needs met. You’ll find a little of that goes a long way in terms of improving your capacity to be loving to your kids.
It’s not possible for anyone to be fun and loving if they can’t think straight due to exhaustion and burn out. If you are brimming over with stress, you won’t be fun to be around anyway, so you may as well go somewhere to recharge.
Modelling self-care is so important in your relationships to your kids, as is modelling all sorts of healthy behaviours. The bottom line is your kids become you. They will copy what you do and ignore what you tell them to do.
If you have healthy eating habits, so will they, if you show compassion kindness and love, so will they, if you are interested in learning then so will they be.
If you want your kids to be happy and healthy the best way to achieve that is that you are happy and healthy, so focusing on your own health and wellbeing is allowing and teaching your kids how to do this as well.
Advice from Noel McDermott, a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. Noel is the founder and CEO of three organisations, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental Health Works Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources to help clients access help without leaving home.
This article is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.