We are all experiencing a new normal as we take shelter and work to flatten the curve with this Coronavirus that is circulating around the world. It has brought a new normal for each of us in our daily lives. We now interact through social media, live stream apps and electronic devices. Our kids, for the time being, can’t play at the park or have sleepovers with friends. Our weekend trip to the movie theaters is no longer on the agenda nor is the zoo or aquarium. Family time is, for now, indoors and outside so long as we keep a distance from others. So, what do we do with our kids when we are stuck at home for the next few weeks, possibly longer? I can say as a mom of four, two of which are under the age of two, I have had to get creative! Here are a few ideas to stay healthy (physically and mentally), beat the cabin fever and make the most of this time together.
What can we do with our kids?
Establish a routine: Kids thrive in consistency. Structure each week for your kids as you normally would be following the same weekday and weekend schedule. On weekdays, keep with the morning routine as they have been following prior to quarantine. Getting up at a consistent time each morning, eating breakfast, making their bed and getting dressed for the day. It will also help to keep bedtime consistent. Keeping their body clock on track will help transition into the new norm. It’s also ok to just take a breather sometimes and be spontaneous. In the evenings after the school work and your work is done or on the weekend. Make the most of this time.
Family game night: So many of us have moved to online games, Xbox and iPads. Get moving. Create an Indoor scavenger hunt! Kids will love this! You can incorporate learning as well to make up for the lost school hours by having them find objects in alphabetical order. Charades is always a family favorite as well. Don’t forget about those board games! I have some great memories of family nights circled around the dining room table buying hotels in Monopoly or yelling YAHTZEE! Make some popcorn and let the good times roll! (See what I did there?).
Grab those books off the shelf: Dive into some books or listen to audio books together. You could even have the kids do a book report for one of them homeschool assignments! How long has it been since you or your kids have sat down to read a book just for leisure? What a great conversation starter at the dinner table!
Get outdoors: Fresh air is good for the body, mind and soul! Get out and enjoy it whenever the weather allows and keep that social distance. Hop on your bikes, scooters or go for a nature walk together. Kids can even collect treasures along the way. Just be sure you talk to the kids ahead of time about staying together and giving everyone their space right now to help us all stay healthy!
Get in the kitchen with the kids: Let them help make dinner or bake up some delicious treats. Here is a great way to also incorporate some learning for your homeschool kids! Have them help measure the ingredients, read and follow the directions!
How do I keep my kids engaged?
Follow the school week schedule: Make a chart and schedule for each day broken down by hour and activity. Kids love to know what to expect. Talk through it each morning and again each night to set the expectation for the next day. To keep them on schedule, much like an actual class room, set a timer to help them know when it is time to take a break, time to move to another learning activity, lunch or recess!
Create your classroom: If your kids are of school age, dedicate a space in your home specifically for school activity. Let them help you set it up! Make it fun and interesting with maps, artwork, fun pens and pencils. This should be a toy free zone to minimize distraction and keep them focused just as if they were sitting in their classroom at school. Be sure their desk space is equipped with anything they will need for each day!
I am supposed to homeschool? Some schools offer online learning courses or workbooks, otherwise, there are great resources on line that offer learning activities for each subject and every grade and age. There are many other ways to bring school and learning home as well. Preschooler in the house? Choose a letter or number for each day and incorporate it into a craft and snacks. Create a scavenger hunt to get out some of that energy and send them around the house searching for anything that starts with the letter of the day! Think outside the box and make it fun! Keep in mind that everyone is in the same boat. Don’t stress about your child slipping far behind their peers. This really is about keeping them healthy and bringing them some sense of normalcy to create a sense of security during this time of uncertainty.
Get Moving! Have a back yard? Send the kids out for “recess”! No need to stop PE. Go for a lap around the neighborhood or a family walk/bike ride keeping those social distances! Just get some fresh air and get moving whenever the weather allows! Vitamin D does the body good and kids need the mental break throughout the day! They will be much more engaged when it is time to shift their focus back to learning.
How do I talk to my kids about this?
As a parent, we want our kids to be shielded from anything bad or that can bring fear. Unfortunately, depending on their age, they can start to pick up on our hesitancy which in turn can cause more anxiety. If your child is in school, they know things have changed. They likely have been hearing about it already at school, not to mention the fact that they can no longer see their friends or go to their sports activities or even the park. Their lives have been altered overnight.
They are likely already anxious or concerned and looking to you to help them understand. SO how do you talk to them?
- Ask them what they know or if they understand what is going on. It is good to be able to know everything they are filtering in their mind, so you can address it in an age appropriate way.
- Focus on what you can do as a family to help. How can we keep our family healthy and help others stay healthy? If we take time to do that, we will be back to school and able to see our friends again soon.
- Acknowledge their feelings and empathize with them. If you child is talking to you and expressing their feelings, you can help guide them through this time and minimize the stress and fear.
Talking through this will help address the fears and concerns and shift the focus back on the what you can control.
How do we work with our kids underfoot?
Prepare: Now that there will be interruptions and you will need to juggle at times. Prepare your home as well to create an office space where you can tuck away when you need privacy or if you need to keep an eye on the kids, set up where you can see them and monitor their activities as well. Just be sure you have a place to tuck away and can close a door to send a message that this is work time and not to interrupt.
Set expectations: Communicate with your employer all that you are juggling and home and work with them to establish a plan. Will your hours be more flex? Should you work more in the evening? Just be sure that any urgent tasks are top priority and you have identified those together. These are what you can focus on during any time the kids are occupied or during naptime for babies and toddlers.
Maximize quiet time: Schedule your work calls and anything that requires a quiet atmosphere around naps or quiet time for your young ones. If your kids are older, that should be the time they know not to interrupt or come into your office space. If you have an office with a door, keep it closed when you need uninterrupted time. If you are in an open space at home, set the timer to let the kids know when they can interrupt, aside from an emergency.
Tag team! If you and your spouse are both working from home, sit down and go through your schedules. So far, even with all four kids home, it has been working out well for my husband and me. Before you put a new call or meeting on the calendar, be sure to communicate and coordinate your schedules so that one can watch the kids while the other works.
Spend time with them! Yes, that is right. Even just 20-30 minutes being fully engaged with your kids goes a long way with them! It gives them confidence knowing that though their whole routine and world has shifted, as has yours, you are still there. They will likely be much happier playing independently and give you some solid hours to really focus on work.
If we first accept that our daily lifestyle has been altered, this will help ease frustration. Let’s shift that focus to “control what we can control” and make the best of this situation. As the parents, it is up to us to set the tone for our kids on what this new norm will bring. They will adapt if we adapt. Regardless of their age or whether they can even speak, our words and actions are powerful ways to bring confidence and reassurance.
This is a season. I still believe that every season, as hard as one may be, can also present opportunities. This time of quarantine and social distancing brings the opportunity to spend more time together with our families and our kids. Taking this time to slow down and be engaged as a family is something positive we can take from all of this.
Contributed by Laura Clavero, mother of 4 and Multi-Regional Processing Manager at American Pacific Mortgage