When the Hong Kong government announced the suspension of face-to-face classes in kindergartens and primary schools until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday, a collective moan reverberated around the city. Social media platforms and chat groups exploded with complaints from parents and carers concerned about the extra stress and workload at home. Hong Kong resident Teresa Wong (not her real name) says the last time classes moved online , her stress levels soared. But she also recalls how maintaining a healthy routine with her son, who is now seven, helped keep her sanity intact. “Having structure in my daily routine, some semblance of normality in this ‘new normal’, stopped me losing it,” says the 37-year-old lawyer. Wong’s advice about developing a routine is wise, says Hong Kong-based counsellor Reshma Chugh. “ Kids do well with routine , so make sure they stick to their normal pattern as if it was a normal school day: same wake-up times, meal times and sleep times.” Opening communication lines so parents and carers can tap into a child’s emotional state is also vital. Lockdown bonus: Hong Kong gyms offer free online yoga and fitness classes “Ask your children how they are feeling and if they need your support – and show up when they ask for help, so they know they have someone to rely and depend on in times of need,” says Chugh. If children are feeling overwhelmed with online learning, then help them with their organisation skills, she says. “Don’t always fix their problems straight away, but allow your child to find solutions and guide them through it.” Chugh also recommends setting up video calls for kids so they can stay connected with their friends. “ Social interaction and being able to speak to their peers and feeling connected to their friends is important for their mental health.” Katrina Rozga, director of therapy and counselling at Hong Kong’s Jadis Blurton Family Development Centre, says kids are perceptive and can pick up on our moods much more than we realise. “If we want to make our home as stress-free as possible then the first place to start is with ourselves,” says Rozga. “ Self-care is vital for any parent, but more so when dealing with the pandemic and school shutdowns. “We can help our kids regulate their emotions by regulating our own. This doesn’t mean masking how you feel, but modelling that it’s OK to feel sad or angry, then showing them how to cope with those difficult emotions.” As a parent … many are feeling Covid fatigue and are drained – almost burnt-out – so it’s important not to beat yourself up if you’re not functioning at your usual standard Dr Quratulain Zaidi, Hong Kong clinical psychologist Don’t forget to plan fun activities for the kids to break up online learning, Rozga adds. “Hiking or dance parties or calming activities like breathing , mindfulness or meditation are great to do with kids so they can see you taking care of yourself. “Make sure that they know that you know things aren’t easy for them and that you understand how hard all the transitions between in-person and online are.” Mother-of-two Chugh says it’s also important not to put pressure on yourself to be the best parent or teacher at home, especially when juggling family and work duties. “It’s not realistic – you are doing the best you can,” she says. Hong Kong clinical psychologist Dr Quratulain Zaidi says a lack of certainty creates increased stress, while learning in isolation can have an impact on a child’s social-emotional development. “Wrangling a five-year-old in front of a computer screen for several hours a day requires constant supervision, technical assistance and cajoling, an impossibility for many working parents, particularly essential workers and those juggling multiple children,” says Zaidi, founder of MindnLife in Central Hong Kong. “As a parent at this time of prolonged uncertainty, many are feeling Covid fatigue and are drained – almost burnt-out – so it’s important not to beat yourself up if you’re not functioning at your usual standard. “This can apply to your quality of work, the upkeep of the home, or your ability to keep your kids focused on their schoolwork.” When children misbehave, says Zaidi, it’s often a reaction to the amount of stress they’re under and a way to vent their frustration. “Keep this in mind when acting as a disciplinarian during these difficult times – and do your best to remain calm,” advises Zaidi. Hong Kong children’s well-being hit hard by school closures, survey finds “Start by managing your own stress levels through exercise, a healthy lifestyle, making time for fun, and adopting a regular relaxation practice ,” she says. “The calmer and more relaxed you are, the better you’ll be able to handle your child’s reactions to stress.” Zaidi’s advice for keeping the peace at home 1. Take a breath. Respond rather than react. 2. Losing your cool is not cool and it’s getting harder with every school closure. Losing your temper only damages your relationship and affects your child’s sense of safety and security. No pyjamas for online lessons, pupils on extended break told 3. Sometimes it’s best to do nothing. Sometimes ignoring bad behaviour can be an effective tool when trying to get your child to stop doing something. When a young child is looking for attention, not giving it to them can make them realise that they should either stop or find a more respectful way of finding attention. 4. Monitor your child’s social media use. Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .