Shari, a mother of two, and I talked recently, and our session quickly turned to how her kids, 11 and 4, are handling being at home — and how Shari and her husband are doing as well. Together we created a list of ways to help her kids thrive during the current stay-at-home order.
Take Charge Of Your Current Situation
Our new normal of physical distancing is going to be with us for a while. If you’ve been limping along or holding your breath for the order for a return to school, stop kidding yourself. Don’t wait a moment longer to create a new way of living at home that helps you and your children thrive. You can do it!
How To Begin
Have a family meeting, or if you’re a single parent and need another adult to talk to, brainstorm with other parents and friends about what is working for them.
Most importantly, think about how to create stability, a regular schedule (better for everyone’s nervous system), and new expectations that fit the current reality.
Change Your Expectations
Don’t expect your child to handle this situation the way you are. They don’t have the life experience to understand what strengths are needed now or that this, too, shall pass. Deal with your child’s understandable frustration, impatience, and sadness with kindness and calm. Use reflective listening to help them feel heard, understood, and loved. It will be a valuable parenting tool you will use long after this is all over. (See the Resources list at the end of this post)
Create A New Schedule
Decide on a new schedule for everyone, not just for the kids. When will school and work hours be? Meal prep time? Alone time? Family fun time? Outside time? Free time? Decide on who will do what chores and make housekeeping both educational and fun. Yes, your child can and should learn to do their laundry and make scrambled eggs or grilled cheese or a salad. (See Resources section, below.)
Remember, you are teaching life skills that will help and sustain your child for the rest of their lives.
School At Home
Whether your kids are getting lessons online or not, accept the fact that you are one of their teachers now and expect to have a learning curve around that. You have the opportunity, and perhaps the necessity, to teach your child valuable Life Skills, such as self-initiation, balancing work and play, self-regulation, time management, and cooperation.
Discover Your Child’s Learning Style
Remember that your child might not thrive on computer learning or being away from their friends. Whether they are an introvert and happy to be home or an extrovert who feels like they are being punished, acknowledge that this is a massive change for them and actively help them adjust. Discuss the difference with them and ask them how they learn best. If you can determine whether your child is an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner, you can help shape the at-home learning to suit their style. (See Resources)
Keep Connections Vibrant
Helping your child stay connected to their friends is important at any age. There are lots of ways to do that without falling back on video games or chats. See Resources for an article with five great ideas on how to do it.
Don’t expect your kids to know how to manage their time and get all their schoolwork done during certain hours. They have not had to do this in a traditional school setting, where every minute is accounted for. Use this opportunity to teach them proper time management, such as the Pomodoro Technique.
This technique is more than just a rigid system using blocks of time to do tasks. It teaches you to understand your work style, reinforces the need for breaks, and ultimately helps you learn to chunk down large projects and finish what you started without distraction. You can use any timer, but the little tomato timer is adorable. (Pomodoro means tomato in Italian.) (Link in Resources)
Set Screen Time Limits
Now that your child might be on the computer a lot doing schoolwork, you want to be monitoring their total screen time. Also, consider getting a blue light blocker for all screens, or blue light blocking glasses for each family member. I painted my blue light blocking glasses with gold nail polish, just for fun. You could let the kids bedazzle theirs with whatever you have around. (Link in Resources)
Get Outside Every Day
If allowed where you live, this could be the biggest sanity saver you implement. Go for a walk with your child every day. Make each walk a game, hunting for teddy bears or rainbows, as many neighborhoods are doing, or the color red or things made of iron. Whatever it takes, get moving outside.
Walking Distance Game
Use a pedometer or FitBit to record the distance walked every day and multiply that by the number of walkers. So if you go 2 miles and have four people, you’ve logged 8 miles. Add up the miles every few days or week and then pull out a map and see how far you could have traveled from your home. Get other family members or classmates in on it, and you’ll be “traveling” across your state in no time. Let the kids decide where they want to travel to as a motivator to get them walking. Put a map of your area on the wall and track how far you’ve gone, then use that as a jumping-off point to learn about that area’s geography, geology, or history.
A Fun Way To Teach Your Kids About Money
This idea is from my friend, Heather, who has three small children at home. “Tired of your kids asking for a snack every thirty seconds? Looking for fun ways to practice money skills? Give them a budget and charge for snacks. Today my kids got $1.43. Snacks from the snack cabinet are 37 cents (prices change daily). Today’s sweet treat (s’mores we’re making on the fire we’ll start with flint and steel) is 60 cents. A glass of milk is 22 cents. Fruit and nuts are free. Not to devalue fruit, but if they blow their budget, I don’t want to withhold food.”
Birthdays are special and still can be, even though your kids can’t have a party in person with friends and extended family. Here’s an idea: have a parade instead! Invite family and friends to drive by your home at a certain day and time and honk their horns. They can decorate their cars with streamers, make signs, and drive by multiple times. Ask near neighbors to put signs up on their lawn.
We are all living in an unprecedented time that history will long remember, and people will talk about for generations to come. Help your kids record their thoughts, feelings, and observations in a journal, which could be in the form of pictures they draw or gather, journal entries they write, or audio or video diaries. Let each child choose their format and encourage them to mix media. (See Resources)
Ask For Help
Reach out to your child’s teacher, other parents, school psychologist, or the many resources on the internet for ideas for managing this brand new challenge.
If you can, connect with your neighbors, even if you only know one. Start a neighborhood Facebook group or phone chain. Share ideas, info about what’s on the store shelves, and check on your elderly neighbors.
Be Gentle With Yourself
I know you love your children. Remember that all they REALLY need right now is your love. And you can’t give that if you’re stressed out, so be sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Forgive yourself every single day and start each day fresh and new. Together, we will get through this, become closer, and learn valuable life lessons.
All My Very Best,