Wednesday Wisdom

March 18, 2020

Controlling the Controllables

By Dr Kathy Weston

Controlling the Controllables


As a family, we have been forced into “isolation” this week in response to the eldest’s sore throat and temperature.

Initially, I was looking forward to spans of uninterrupted time together, but as day two started, my energy dissipated, whilst the demands of keeping children both entertained and educated grew.

Forced isolation has also meant forced introspection (not easy for a raging extrovert), but it has meant that, for the first time, I took a proper stroll around my own garden; noticing the black squirrel that lives in on our beech tree, the purple crocuses and yellow daffodils that have sprouted up and the hole in the hedge that has suddenly appeared. My morning work has been punctuated by visits from a pheasant, a muntjac deer and a neighbour’s large domestic cat.

In short, being forced to pause my life has meant I have become more observant, mindful, and, on the whole, have a greater appreciation of my immediate surroundings. The rushing has stopped, and a new plan of action required, to accommodate the necessity of being socially distant.


There is no doubt about it, we need to dig deep now and cultivate ‘mental toughness’.

That phrase may conjure up an image of a macho, physically robust person, when actually demonstrations of mental toughness may assume other forms. It might mean getting out of bed when you don’t want to, being patient when you have really had enough, being kind when you feel angry inside, and giving to others when we really don’t have enough for ourselves.

Mentally tough people are also realistic. There is a lot that we can’t control in this current situation, so let’s focus on where we can have influence. As a family, list all the things that you can control over the coming weeks (our hygiene, the extent to which we stay connected to others via tech, our attitude, our choice to help others around us, etc.).

We need to be proactive, yet take each day at a time, extracting positives where we can. Panicking requires mental effort and reduces an individual’s sense of control. If you are stuck at home together, create plans that involve a balance of activities and that feel relaxing, uplifting or physically fun.


We may have to educate our children at home over an extended period now. My first piece of advice here is to get organised.

I have chosen to do my own work in the morning and host afternoon school. Create a timetable and agree who will do what. Find a space, however small, that is designated for learning. Use all available online learning platforms.

Got primary aged children? Check out this amazing list of resources that you can access. For those with older students, now is the time to explore virtual classroom support. There are numerous virtual learning platforms available (My Favourite Teacher is my top pick). To improve revision and study skills, use this brilliant resource courtesy of Wellington College.

Mostly however, introduce your children to aspects of learning that they may not have come across before. We have been exploring radio stations all over the world via Radio Garden and using a virtual tour of the globe to hone those geography skills. We have been using YouTube to explore techniques for improving the design of our paper aeroplanes and trying our hand at learning Spanish for 30 minutes a day.

Parental engagement is a powerful way to boost your child’s learning, whatever their age, so let’s embrace it.

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