‘My husband’s finding being sober harder than ever’ Nadia Sawalha opens up about isolating with her family and her top tips for homeschooling

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  • If there was anyone who was well prepared for lockdown, it’s Loose Women regular Nadia Sawalha.

    She and her producer husband Mark Adderley have been homeschooling their daughters Maddie, 17, and Kiki, 12, for almost five years now, and have regular, open conversations about their mental health as a family, both in private and on their YouTube channel, as well as on Nadia’s podcast Confessions of a Modern Parent.

    But, during a phone chat with our sister publication Woman’s Own, Nadia, 55, tells us that even she has been struggling with isolation – and Mark, who has been sober for 17 years, is finding it harder than ever to abstain from alcohol.

    With Loose Women originally taken off air due to the pandemic, Nadia tells us why she and the girls fought to get it back on TV…

    Hi, Nadia! How are you coping with isolation?

    I’m OK. I feel very lucky because everybody is well, my parents live right next door to me, and even though I can’t be with them, I can talk to them over the garden fence. In the first week, it was truly awful and I was spinning out of control. I got hold of myself, banned myself from watching the news, got into exercise, and have started going live on YouTube and Instagram with the family a lot, which really helped.

    You’ve been open about Mark’s addictions in the past. Has he been struggling more than usual because of lockdown?

    A lot of people I know who are sober have said it’s been the single most challenging time to not drink, and he has said to me a number of times, ‘Oh, my God, this is really hard,’ but he also hasn’t considered for a minute having a drink because he knows he won’t stop, and the anxiety levels would go up.

    Nadia with husband Mark and daughters Maddie and Kiki | Getty

    How are your daughters coping?

    For Maddie, she has gigs booked, she was going to be in a play, all her festivals are cancelled, and there’s all that anguish for her that she’s missing out – and she’s got a lovely new boyfriend who she can’t see. It’s like Romeo and Juliet! I’ve been crying for her, like, ‘Why can’t they be together?’ She and Kiki have been brilliant, though. I feel very sorry for the little ones.

    Do you worry about your children’s mental health?

    Yes, I do, but we’re lucky in that they’re homeschooled anyway, so they’re used to spending a lot of time at home. It’s like we’ve been preparing for a pandemic without even knowing it! They both have regular CBT counselling because we say to them, ‘Your mind is as important as your body,’ and we’ve had worry sessions for years, where we sit and talk about our problems, so it’s just a natural part of how we are as a family.

    What are your top homeschooling tips?

    Number one is to not try to recreate school in your home – you will fail because you’re not a teacher. Also, someone said to me, ‘My kids thought I knew everything, and now they know I don’t know everything.’ But the best thing to say is, ‘I don’t know about that, let’s have a look,’ because then you’re teaching them to look for the answers to things they don’t know rather than waiting for someone to tell them. Lastly, don’t forget education doesn’t have to happen between the hours of nine and three!

    Nadia and her Loose Women co-stars at the NTAs | Getty

    How did you find being off-air from Loose Women?

    I missed it terribly because I really think it’s the sort of programme that people need to be watching. We need people going, ‘I’m really going through that as well.’ So that’s why we were trying so hard to find a way to get us on-air.

    For more tips, visit Nadia Sawalha’s YouTube channel The Sawalha-Adderleys: Family, Films & Fun