NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this – we are in a four-week lockdown to eliminate Covid-19.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer your questions in a twice-weekly column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to: before 9am tomorrow.

I’m a mother of two kids aged 16 and 12. My family stay home, except for essential grocery shopping, for our safety. I was very stressed when I found out a parent in my daughter’s school tested positive for Covid-19 before lockdown. I didn’t let my children attend school the next day and felt very relieved when the lockdown was announced. What worries me most now is what will happen when my children have to return to school? My daughter’s school hasn’t supplied hand sanitisers to use, fabric reusable towels are used for some green environment purpose and students treat those who wear face masks like evil monsters. I can’t cope with the depression I’m going to face when schools reopen. It’s like a giant rock pressing on me and I can’t breathe and I’m dying the next second! Please help me!

Your worry and fear is understandable, especially as a parent. The thing that has really tipped me into intense worry and anxiety at times during this lockdown has been worrying about my kids’ health.

However, it seems there now will be clear direction about when and how children return to school to manage exactly the concerns you outline – we need to trust that.

It’s also true that you’re not alone. Even thought it will seem like most people will be talking about the relief when the strictest of the level 4 restrictions are lifted, it’s also true it will present a challenge for many.

Never auto playFocus Live: PM Jacinda Ardern concerned about how much sleep NZ Herald political reporter Jason Walls is getting during coronavirus update. 

The idea of leaving the house, being more free to move around can feel quite overwhelming after a period of lockdown. We know from South Korea, and China, that when the restrictions were lifted many people felt anxiety that limited their ability to leave the house.

How can I get my toddler to sleep when as parents we’re so stressed ourselves from juggling work at home and childcare fulltime?

The most important thing to do as a parent is to focus on ourselves first.

Even though it’s hard, if we can get ourselves more regulated – then it’s easier to get our children regulated and relaxed for sleep.

Maybe take turns as parents doing more for yourself each day, with the aim of then being the parent that focuses on bedtime.

Ease up on some of the rules, allow a later bedtime or skip the bath if these sorts of things start battles.

And be prepared to spend more time with them around bedtime – read an extra book, use the time to check in and connect. If your little one is picking up on your anxiety, they won’t be able to tell you, and feeling closer and more connected with you will help.

Do I actually need to shower and brush my hair while working from home if I’m okay with not doing that? Nobody is going to see me anyway. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, you can of course do whatever you like.

However, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of trying to keep things as normal as possible. This includes getting up and getting ready for the day, even if no one is going to see you.

How we treat ourselves impacts how we feel. “Formal Friday”, which has taken off on social media, in a positive example of this.

While it might seem pointless to wear formal or evening wear if you live on your own, if it helps you feel better, then go for it!

Also feel free to take time off and have a “weekend.” However, keep some boundaries around how much, and when you let things go.

The risk is if we slide into inactivity, not looking after ourselves, sleeping in and all the things it might feel easier to do, it can lead to a low mood and even a period of depression. Inactivity is the enemy: get moving and treat ourselves well.

My 27-year-old son in the UK is having a difficult time in solo lockdown with noisy neighbours and has been furloughed. He’s suffered mental health issues in the past and has text to say that he feels like he’s going “a little bit nuts”. He is not responding to calls or texts. I feel so helpless. Any advice much appreciated.

I can understand your concern, and it must be really hard.

It’s okay to be clear, let him know you’re worried and ask him to simply make contact so you know he’s okay.

You may want to send a little time looking at what support options are available in the UK, and send these to him so he can access those himself.

And if he has a history of harming himself, or you’re worried about his safety, then you could consider contacting the UK police and requesting they conduct a welfare check – this may seem extreme, but it is something police routinely do.

If you feel he is safe, then try to focus on yourself, and distract and focus on things that will help you manage the distress you’re feeling.

It’s hard for many of us to be so far away from our loved ones at this time, with little idea when we might see them in person again.

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