Coronavirus has officially struck the US. Schools are closing, people who can are moving to work from home. There are so many big emotions involved in this, and I recognize how challenging this can be in so many ways. There are so many things to talk about, but I’d like share things that you can do and implement in your family to help this time run smoothly.
1.) Answer Their Questions, But No More than That
Kids listen. More than you know. They pick up on our anxieties, and they hear conversations even if we think they aren’t listening. If they are asking questions, answer them succinctly and in a developmentally appropriate way. As grown ups we tend to over talk when we are anxious. Be mindful of simply answering the questions they are asking, and don’t give them more information than what they are asking for. This is exactly how we handle sex talks in our house. When you ask me a question, I answer it. If you ask another, I answer that one too. If you don’t, then I take it as a sign that you have gotten all of the information that you are ready for. This works with all kinds of hard conversations.
Kids want to know that you will be open and honest with them, but they also want to have a place with you that can be free of worry and anxiety. Intentionally keep conversations about what’s going on in the world until after bedtime, or when they aren’t around. This allows them to still have the space to be kids.
2.) Keep Up With Structure and Routine
Kids crave structure and routine. When things feel different and uncertain, it helps them feel comfortable and safe. Make a routine and structure for your family while you are home together. It’s completely okay if this routine is a little more lax than their typical school day, it’s impossible to keep up with something like that. It should, however, still include a bedtime and time to work on academics. We often have a loose schedule that we follow during the summer, so I have modified that idea for our family and will be including the following:
Independent Play-screens okay
I make it clear when they have independent time if it will be screens on or off
Independent Play-screens off
Academic Work Time
Sometimes this will be working on the stuff that was sent home from school, and sometimes this will mean fun science experiments, baking or exploring virtual places online. It also might mean art, music or fun reading lessons. I’m hoping to find a balance between the work sent home, and fun projects. We are lucky to have awesome teachers who I know have/will provide us with some guidance.
Daily Chores/Picking Up
If we are all stuck in the house together, things are going to get messy pretty quickly. Each kid will have a chore that they are expected to complete daily, and their will be a dedicated time to complete this and to help pick up.
I’m hoping that the weather cooperates and this gets to be the bulk of our schedule. This is a great opportunity for us to take a step back and reconnect with each other and the world around us. We are fortunate enough to have four acres of land to explore. Even if you are not that lucky, get outside. Go for a walk, blow bubbles, use sidewalk chalk. Get connected to the world, as it’s a powerful tool for self care.
We talk about self care a lot in our family, and I want to intentionally schedule it into our day. Time to just relax and do things that make us happy. Sometimes that might mean doing Cosmic Kids Yoga, or playing on the swing set. Sometimes that might mean doing our favorite things separate from each other. Whatever we need to do to stay centered.
Meals and Bedtime
Kids love to help, and during the summer each kid is in charge of dinner once a week. Obviously the level of “in charge” varies by age, but this is a rule I plan to implement as well. We will have to get creative, as I hope to avoid the grocery stores right now, but any way I can get them involved, I will.
Also, I very much recommend sticking to a bedtime. Kids need a lot of sleep, and will be much easier to have around if they continue to get a good night sleep. I don’t think anybody needs to be waking up to an alarm clock right now, but it will be helpful to stick to a semi normal sleep schedule. This will also make the transition back to school a little easier as well.
On that note, please strongly consider removing devices from kids room at night. Charge them in your room, so that they temptation to sneak them is lower. Kids do not have the ability to put the screen away and go to sleep. They do not have the ability to not check the new messages or their social media if they wake up at 2 am. Many adults struggle with this, and adolescent brains are not fully developed. Do them a favor and take the screens away at night, so they can sleep peacefully without the distraction.
3.) Take a Break
Let’s be real. This is going to be challenging. Especially if you are also trying to work from home. Make sure you get a break. Maybe it’s tag teaming with your partner so you aren’t the one who is “on” all of the time. Maybe it’s a nightly walk by yourself, or a half hour scheduled in of “you” time. Not only will you need this for your own sanity, it is a wonderful model to your kids on how to take care of yourself.
4.) It’s Okay if There is More Screen Time, but Limits are Good
Listen folks, the screen time is going to increase. There are going to be days where it saves you from losing it. That’s okay. But be mindful that it doesn’t become your baby-sitter all day. Too much time on screens creates cranky, snarky, miserable kids. Nobody wants to be stuck at home with that. So be mindful of creating other opportunities for them, or even better watch as they create their own, but don’t beat yourself up too much if you need to lower your standards a smidge on this one.
By the way. It is completely okay to set limits on ANY device that comes into your home, whether it was purchased by you or issued by somebody else.
5.) Stay Connected
We are so lucky to live in an era that allows us to socially distance ourselves, but still stay connected to our friends and family. Encourage FaceTiming and connecting with friends and family. Encourage virtual conversations (although always helpful if they are monitored!) so that your kids still feel connected to their friends. Do the same for yourself. Reach out to your friends and family regularly, and stay connected. This will help us all stay grounded and connected as we progress through this new and scary time.
I fully recognize that many of these suggestions assume that there is a level of financial stability and support within your home. This “social distancing” is going to be devastating financially and emotionally for members of our communities. If you have the means to support members of your community in any way, this is the time to do it. Buy gift cards online to local businesses, continue to pay daycare providers or other helpers and ask people in the service industry how you can help them. If you don’t have the means, and need to stick to a strict budget, then do that. Reach out to people instead, and see if they have a need that you can fulfill. Even if we need to stick to our own homes, we still have the ability to come together and support each other through this challenging time.