Caring for Kids During the Lockdown

What strange and uncharted territory we find ourselves in as parents during the Coronavirus pandemic! While we all grapple with the fears and anxieties of this difficult period in our world, those with children face a specific set of challenges! So, what can we do to help our children weather some of their own emotional challenges in the face of such an unusual and isolated time for them?

While there are some amazing resources available online to explain the Coronavirus to your kids ( ) – it helps to know what to do with them on the ground, day-to-day. I will be posting some of my favourite activity resources for younger kids over the coming days so keep an eye out. Meanwhile – consider the following:

First: develop some routine for your days. The days are going to start blending into one long blur. Having a routine establishes predictability and marks the time for children (and adults) helping them feel safe, secure and like they know what they are doing. Ideally, you can punctuate a lot of free time with a few predictable activities – for example – school work for older children, a few age appropriate chores, structured activities like arts and crafts for all age groups and then fun family events (have a Fancy Friday and all dress in your best evening-wear for dinner, a fun excuse to dust off that old cocktail dress and tux you never have a chance to wear anymore!).

Second: See what emerges in the moments of boredom. We are learning more and more in the science of child development, that a bit of boredom is good for children of all ages. For younger children, play play play! Imaginative, independent play releases energy and allows young children to process what they are experiencing day-to-day, including their worries and fears. For older children who are starting to leave the age of imaginative play, keeping busy is still crucial. Structured routine activities, as above, are part of this, but reading, audiobooks, board games, card games and the odd computer/playstation type game are also good ways to punctuate the day.

Third: Very importantly – keep physically active! Physical exercise is proven to improve mental health and plays an extremely important role in mitigating anxiety and stress on a neurochemical level – for all age groups. Outdoor active play is helpful in affording this. Ball games, riding bikes, bouncing on trampolines and playing catches/tag are good examples. If outdoor play is not an option, some of these types of games can be adapted indoors (think duster hockey, the floor is lava, obstacle courses with couch cushions). There are also a number of free online kids (and adults) exercise and yoga videos becoming available which are fun, healthy and could be great for the whole family to enjoy (and useful for parents to keep moving too!)

Fourth: Stay connected! Luckily we have phones and video calls. Call grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Let kids talk to their friends on video calls and chat – monitored as appropriate. For older children, arranging properly monitored group online gaming sessions can help them connect and keep them busy and even intellectually stimulated (if it is the right sort of game).

Finally: It is okay to dream about the lockdown free future! If children are missing people or activities, think and talk about them and make some plans for once lockdown is over (ensure children know that although we don’t necessarily know when this will be over – it will be over).

Finally, we as parents must remember that WE are our children’s greatest resource in times of change, stress or unpredictability. The best many of us can do for our children is to take care of ourselves. My husband and partner, Andrew has written a bit on this subject at .

If you need to, please reach out! Andrew and I may not be able to invite you to our rooms for face-to-face consultation, but we are both available to make an appointment to meet you online using Zoom or Whatsapp video call. Stay safe and look after yourselves!

Pandemic and panic; social distancing and social isolation.

We are living through a #pandemic right now. The Coronavirus, which most of us South Africans had scarcely thought about a mere two weeks ago, is now the topic of almost every conversation and feels as though it controls most of our daily lives.

Management strategies are rightfully focussing on #socialdistancing and careful hygiene in order to slow the spread of the illness, protect the most vulnerable members of society from infection, and help the health care system cope with the large number of anticipated cases.

For most of us this means #lockdown: working from home, no school for kids, and keeping social contact to a minimum. For those of you who are still keen to risk it, restaurant hours and pub hours are reduced in any case. Sports events are cancelled, and gyms have way too many surfaces and sweaty bodies in confined spaces to be a viable place for most people.

Emotional responses vary widely: severe anxiety and panic about job security, infection of a vulnerable loved one are common states. On the other extreme others seem indifferent, are almost proud of their indifference, and continue their lives as if nothing is happening. Most of us have mixed feelings. We are worried, yes, but we hope for the best and long for an end to this all.

#Lockdown presents us with some unique psychological challenges. We face fear and uncertainty, the possibility of economic loss, a loss of personal freedom, the potential loss of vulnerable or elderly loved ones, a sever curtailment of recreational possibilities, and so on.

This represents a loss of our normal coping mechanisms. We use socializing, gym, even work or school, as coping tools that help occupy us productively, enhance self esteem, and distract ourselves from unwanted thoughts and feelings. When our normal coping mechanisms are no longer available we are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, or other symptoms. We also face the very real possibility of finding ourselves slipping into unhealthy patterns of coping, such as emotional withdrawl, substance abuse, or other addictive behaviours (e.g. pornography, online shopping).

Psychotherapy is a known and effective coping mechanism in and of itself. Talking to a therapist is proven to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and addiction, while building up resilience and healthy coping skills. If you ever had any doubts about taking the step to starting therapy as a regular part of your life, now is the time.

Throughout corona lockdown and beyond I will be available to offer therapy and counselling to those in need. President Ramaphosa has indicated in his recent speech the importance of maintaining access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this is of course mental health care. A useful article on mental health and coronavirus can be found here:

The single best antidote to stress, anxiety and depression is meaningful social connectedness. The best advice I can give it to maintain meaningful contact with friends and loved ones. Social distancing is not the same as social isolation.

How much therapy is enough therapy?

This is a good question to which there is no general answer. How many sessions of therapy you need to attend depends on the individual person and the nature of the problem involved. In general, I adopt an approach of client-led ending – I will wait to raise ending therapy when my client raises the issue him/herself. In my experience this can be after five or six sessions, but often up to a year or more of regular, weekly sessions (50+ consultations).

Research in the area reflects my experience of this. Studies reported by the American Psychological Association ( show that there is no optimal number of sessions – it all depends on the individual case.

I encourage an ongoing conversation about your progress in therapy. If it feels like you are stuck, if the approach is not working, or if you are finding for reasons you can’t quite pin down that you don’t want to come to your sessions, the best thing to do is to raise it with me so we can understand what it is about.

It is normal to feel stuck in therapy at times, and it is normal to feel afraid of change. Even a manifestly positive change can leave people feeling unconsciously vulnerable, and it is natural to resist. I understand this, and I find that a gentle approach to change brings better results that trying to push too fast too soon.

A good psychotherapy process should start with setting goals about what you would like to work on and how long it might take to get there. However, I have found that this plan is one that is refined and elaborated along the way.

The goal for therapy also needs to take into consideration the reality of your budget and was is realistically affordable on a monthly basis. Most of my clients have medical aid which often pays for 15 consultations a year. I do suggest that you don’t rely exclusively on your medical aid for coverage, but plan towards an ongoing budget for your therapy that feels affordable. When we start, we are never sure where we might end up, and it is helpful to settle into a therapy routine where you know that you have the time you need to work through what you need to.