Encouraging responsibility at home and dealing with overwhelm

With the COVID-19 lockdown and school closures rolling straight into the long school summer holidays, many parents, and in particular many mums are struggling with meeting the consistent demands of their multiple roles.

Whilst we are primary care givers and parents responsible for keeping our children safe and well, keeping them well fed and giving them access to exercise and mental stimulation – we are not waitresses. Whilst we are responsible for nurturing them and providing constant love and support – we are not cleaners.

It can feel exceptionally difficult to juggle so many roles at the same time and many of us are left feeling overwhelmed and unproductive.

Dealing with overwhelm sometimes is not one big solution, but lots of small ones. Whilst the following suggestions may not appear to be hugely significant, when you add them all up they can make a significant impact every day.

Drinks on tap

One of the questions I get asked multiple times a day is – can I have a drink? Even the older children, who can help themselves will often not. One of the things I do is to keep two drinks dispensers in the fridge (two, so there is a choice) and then also place some cups next to the drinks (otherwise the next question is – where a re the cups?). When the children ask, I remind them they can help themselves.

This is just a small thing but it can avoid some of that stop start to the day when you are trying to meet everyone’s needs.

Daily jobs or chores

One of the things I implemented a couple of weeks into lockdown, when it quickly became clear I was spending my entire day going around in circles tidying up after everyone, was daily jobs/chores for the children.

They are different everyday, depending on what needs doing but after showers/baths in the evening all the children do three jobs before bed.

It could be sorting the recycling, helping with the dishwasher, tidying their toys or their rooms, helping with laundry, dusting – anything really.

This does make a huge difference to the number of tasks I have to do every day. It reminds them that this is a family, not a hotel, and of course means they will be able to do these things for themselves when they are older.

Sibling responsibility

Encouraging siblings to take responsibility for each other is also important. Can an older child set up and play a board game with a younger one for example, or do a jigsaw. Can they take them outside to play whilst you catch up on a few emails. Even if this is only for ten minutes, it might be enough for you to make that phone call you’ve had to abort 37 times in the last week!


Ever get the feeling that you are constantly required to entertain your children? Some children are really good at entertaining themselves for a period of time, but some children really struggle with this.

In most homes at any one time there are literally hundreds of things children could do. Obviously what they can do will depend on their age and ability but allowing them to be ‘bored’ as they see it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Whilst we arrange days out, take children out on walks, play in the garden, bake and cook with them and arrange countless other activities, we are not clowns and not here for their entertainment. Sometimes they need to entertain themselves, even if it’s just for ten minutes at a time.

The best kinds of games are always when they make them up, these are often the times they become lost in their play and their world of make believe, which is really lovely. Building blocks are great for younger children as they can create tons of different games out of the same thing. At the moment the younger boys are loving the Magicube, a magnetic construction system that has turned the classic cube into something “magical”. The cubes can be attached on any side, making building fun and easy. This means that you can build a ton of different things out of the same cube – one day it might be a robot, the next a house!

Where the lost things go

One of the things that happens frequently with children in the house is that random things are left in various locations around the house. A quick way to deal with this is to get a tub or basket and wander around putting all the things into the basket. I then ask the children to choose 5 things each from the basket at the end of the day to find homes for. It really does help to keep the clutter at bay!


  1. Some great ideas here. As a primary teacher I encourage the children to do things for themselves. It might not be perfect, but it’s how they learn

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