Andrew Thomas talks to parent and bay coach Chris Garner about ways families with primary school-age children can meet the challenges of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions

The current lockdown, says parenting expert Chris Garner, means that ‘we are all under each other’s feet and potentially getting on each other’s nerves’.

So how do families negotiate the stresses and strains of spending far more time in each other’s company without many of the usual leisure and recreational activities available to them?

“One of the most important things is for parents to take some time to take care of themselves,” said Chris, 58, whose Kendal-based company Parent and Bay Coach offers services and help to support people throughout their parenting journey.

“Parents need to make sure their own mental well-being is intact so they can meet the needs of other members of the family.

“Find half an hour for yourself for a bath, a cycle ride, a walk, a bit of yoga, to paint or to bake, or whatever you like doing – you do need the break.”

Coronavirus restrictions would undoubtedly cause some strains. “Normally we get up, have breakfast and go our separate ways and have different experiences in a day,” said Chris. “We can’t do that now. We are stuck together each and every day.”

It was vital, she said, to pick up on the positive things in family life, rather than focus on issues like children not getting out of bed when you called them or not doing their schoolwork.

“Parents have a lot more pressure at the moment because they have had to become home educators, which won’t come easily to some. But education does not have to involve sitting at a desk. There are all sorts of things you can tune into online and on the BBC. You can do maths with Carol Vorderman, exercise with Joe Wicks and David Walliams is telling stories online.

“These things can help you plan your day. Routine is so important for all of us. It is very easy to sleep in late, slob about all day and fight over what you will be having for dinner.

“Children can help with organising the routine. Get a big piece of paper and ask them to fill in a schedule for schoolwork and home exercise and so on. It works better if they own the routine.”

Chris suggested that, in the morning, the focus could be on tasks that needed doing. Children could help with the laundry, write out a menu for the evening meal or write a shopping list.

“In the afternoon activities could include making dens, digging in the garden, going on a walk or bike ride and arts and crafts, such as making another rainbow for your window,” she said. “Be creative with clap for carers, asking children ‘what could we bang on this evening during the event?’”

Walks could be livened up by spotting and identifying trees and looking for wildlife or by playing games such as I-Spy and spotting a car registration number with a child’s initials in it.

Discipline was also important at this time, said Chris. “Parents need to set the ground rules so everyone knows what is acceptable and unacceptable in their homes. Any issues need to be addressed immediately or they could potentially blow up into something bigger.”

In the end, however, people needed to remember that this was only a short time in their lives.

“We need to take stock and see all the good in one another. We will have grown as individuals and discovered new skills in ourselves and our family.

“People should remember that they have survived as a family this far in lockdown and they should celebrate that.”

·       To contact Chris Garner go to