A New Normal
Many families are dealing with the sudden reality of having kids home from school. Some parents are also now trying to work from home. Others are off work and dealing with the stress of not getting paid. You may now have responsibilities to educate (and entertain?) your children in a way that you’d never have expected. It can feel daunting. Many parents are exhausted from the physical and emotional reality.
But the keyword here is "reality." The only way out is through. The best we can do is make this a learning experience for ourselves and our children — not just in academics, but in how to accept things we cannot change. How to find adventure in adversity. How to be creative and resilient in the face of challenges.
The Importance of Routines
Routines aren’t just nice to have. They’re a critical requirement for emotional wellness. This is true for adults, but it is especially important for children. Maintain a sense of normalcy by creating and keeping routines.
Continue doing your same morning and bedtime routines. Get the kids dressed before they start the day. Try to make sleeping and eating schedules as consistent as possible. If your kids have distance learning from their school, you may want to set up a separate weekend and weekday calendar.
If you can, find out what schedule your child followed at school, and set up something similar at home.
1. Write It Down
Get some paper or open an electronic document. Label it with the hours of the day, starting with the time your child usually wakes up until the time they go to sleep.
Go through the list below and make sure that everything your child is expected to do is included. Consider adding the items below that make sense for your child.
- Morning routine (get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, eat breakfast, etc.)
- Bedtime routine (bathe, brush teeth, read a book, etc.)
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Snack time if appropriate
- Academic work
2. Designate Helpers
If your child can’t do the activity alone, put an adult’s or a sibling’s name in parentheses so they know who can provide help.
3. Add in Fun
Now that you have some structure to the day and the “have-to-dos” are listed, add in a mix of creative and physical activities to add variety and fun.
You can also designate some free time and let your kids choose from a list. Move on to the next step for a list of ideas. You can add things to the list that you and your family already enjoy.
Along with a comfortable routine, kids (and parents) still need to have fun and learn through play.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to come up with all of this on your own! There are tons of great resources online to help you with ideas.
Here is a short list of ideas for some things you can do offline to avoid restlessness and keep everyone healthy:
- Puzzles, games
- Craft projects
- Taking things apart, putting them back together
- Cooking class/pretend YouTube cooking show
- Organize the garage
- Scavenger hunt around the neighborhood or house
- Dance contest
- Kids-led exercise class
- Science experiments
- Organize photos
- Regular video calls with family and friends
- Jumping on (soft) pillows time
- Virtual playdates with kids from school
- Free play (don’t forget to make time for play!)
- Get outside into nature
- Take a walk or a hike
- Write a story or shoot and edit an original video
- FaceTime/video chat study groups
- Take up a new hobby
- Read together or alone
- Keep a daily journal
Screen time is likely to increase during this period. Many parents are struggling to accept the new reality with the screen time limits that they usually have. In this case, we need to cut ourselves some slack. Remember: This is temporary.
Instead of feeling guilty, try to:
- Set some new, realistic limits. Designate a specific time of day when it’s on the schedule.
- Make screen time as beneficial as possible. It’s okay to let your kids rewatch a show that makes them belly laugh, as well as to encourage educational programs.
Your kids’ school is likely to have resources available for activities you can do at home (in addition to take-home classwork). You can also ask friends with kids in other schools what resources they’ve found. The internet is your friend. There are tons of wonderful online articles with suggestions for simple activities that don’t take a lot of planning. You just have to look.
There are many phenomenal educational programs and learning opportunities out there. Here are some places to look for educational resources that your kids will enjoy. Many are offering free programming during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- At-Home Learning From PBS SoCal
- Mystery Science
- Scholastic Digital
- Khan Academy
- New York City Department of Education
How to Approach a Challenge
A routine can make a big difference in how you and your kids adjust to being together day after day. Here are more helpful suggestions.
1. Patience and Listening
Try to follow your child’s lead for what they’re interested in, and how they like to learn. Pay close attention when they play. Listen to what they talk about when they’re entertaining themselves.
Ask questions to learn more about what they’re thinking or feeling. Encourage them to say more before you jump in with answers or facts.
The more you can get to know what they’re thinking, the better you can support their learning and well-being.
2. Keep in Touch with Other Parents
Even from different locations, we’re all in this together. Stay in contact with other parents. Share what’s working.
Be there for each other with support when days are tough. Check in just to see how folks are doing. You may get a suggestion for an activity that worked for their kid that never occurred to you.
3. Communicate Boundaries
Teach your kids to respect your time. You have work, and so do they. Share with them what you’re working on so it’s not a black box they don’t understand. Let them know that you’ll be back to play with them in one hour.
For kids too young to tell time, set a timer so that they will have a concrete way to mark an end time. As you figure out what works for you and your kids, you might find creative solutions that give you time while they stay occupied.
4. Take It One Day at a Time
This will be an adjustment for both you and your kids. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day. And just because today was a struggle, it doesn’t mean tomorrow will be.
Remind yourself that spending more time with your children can be its own blessing. Keep the love and patience in large supply, and you’ll get through it together.
5. Keep a Positive Mindset
This limited, restricted time is a chance to get your mind in check. The way you approach this time together will make an impact on your relationships and your family’s ongoing health.
This is an opportunity for you to turn off the news, connect with your kids, play games, and enjoy your time together. Your mindset will help to determine how your family thinks about this time once it passes.