It’s been non-stop this past week. Full-time parenting and working from home have put some schedule uproar in my everyday routine. I know what it is like to be running on empty, like ‘being in the desert without water.’ I know what it is like to feel like no matter what, there is not enough time. And while it often seems that way, when I think about what I want to make possible for myself and my family, I realize that’s not happening.
During the pandemic, researchers say, “It is more important than ever to maintain daily routines. They create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time.” I agree to a degree. It is hard to have an 8-year-old who continually wants to play, eat, and play some more. Especially when homeschool is challenging to plan, and emotions are running wild.
We are now homeschooling our children, that means we are the teachers (also the gym, music and art specialist) while trying to put in working hours, meetings, and deadline, all in one. I don’t know about you, but that is strenuous.
Since this pandemic, I have tried to adapt to routine schedules THREE TIMES already. I did the classroom schedule, the stay at home mommy schedule, and half-time schedule (one hour for you and one hour for work). I am finding schedule routines are hard and frustrating for both my kid and me.
Maybe it’s the sense of the word routine that is frustrating. (Routine- commonplace tasks, chores, or duties that must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity: from Dictionary.com).
Living through this crisis, I seem to have a hard time with routine; plans have been interrupted and altered. We are all trying to adapt to something unfamiliar. And parenting during this stressful time is hard and atypical.
It could also be the word schedule. (noun-a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.)( verb- arrange or plan (a game or activity) to take place at a particular time: from Oxford Dictionary).
My work schedule has modified too. I am not in an office. I am on zoom more than before, and my eyes seemed to be glued to a computer screen and phone. Schedules are irregular, and the work environment has transformed into a home office.
I have read so many articles on how to parent during stressful times, and they all say the same thing. It is essential to have a daily routine. We have adjusted and reinvented our schedules, our daily routines, our expectations, our plans. Even our environment is uncomfortable, absolutely fright at worst, and most of the time somewhere in between.
So, how do I find the right routine or schedule to incorporate with my family? Routine and schedule are the topic for my writing. Why? Because we are all experiencing something distinctive. Our family life and work-life are different. Some people are divorced or separated; others have lost a loved one; others don’t have the necessity needed. You see, daily routine and schedules are not the same for everyone. Everyone is developing various methods to fit their needs. We are all experiencing new challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis. You may be concerned about the physical, emotional well-being, and safety of your children and how to maintain a daily school schedule while keeping up with the daily work plan or keeping kids engaged and not feeling bored. It is a new world out there with new challenges for everyone.
I haven’t seen yet a list, a set of shorts, doable, and pragmatic tips you could use as a reference. And so that’s going to be my contribution. For today. Here goes:
- REASSURE YOUR CHILD THAT YOUR FAMILY IS YOUR TOP PRIORITY
In all conversations with your child, stay as calm and comforting as possible. Explain to your child that they should tell you if they are feeling unwell. Make sure that your child knows — through your actions and your words — that it is part of your job as their parent to do everything within your power to keep them safe. For example, you can say, “I’m your parent, it’s my job to keep you safe, and we are doing everything we can.” Reassuring your child will help them feel safe. Children will understand why you must observe the restrictions being placed on all families by government authorities (e.g., not going to the local park and keeping them away from social gatherings with friends). It is tough for them, so be kind and gentle.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF THE BEST YOU CAN
It is entirely reasonable to feel anxious, distressed, confused, and angry at times during the current situation. Dealing with your own emotions means that you need to take time for yourself. In dealing effectively with your feelings, you are also setting an excellent example for your child. Some useful general strategies for dealing with big, uncomfortable emotions include:
- paying attention to your feelings and your thoughts
- taking a break from interacting with family members if you are not in control of your feelings. (e.g., you might say I’m feeling upset at the moment, and I can’t be as calm as I would like in this conversation. So, I’m going to sit in my bedroom and read for 10 minutes to give myself a chance to settle down or take 10 minutes to meditate)
- talking to supportive friends and family
- deep breathing
- practicing mindfulness
- take a walk(even if it means in your house, yard or basement)
There are many helpful and effective ways to manage uncomfortable emotions — singing, dancing, gardening, and drawing. Keep healthy and safe (good personal hygiene, exercise daily, eat well, get enough sleep, avoid using alcohol or drugs to lessen stress). Avoid behavior that might increase your anxiety (e.g., it is helpful to keep informed about COVID-19, but constant checking for updates can increase stress). If these strategies do not work, you may wish to think about seeking professional help. First, take care of yourself.
- MAKE SURE YOUR CHILDREN KNOW YOU ARE READY TO TALK
Most children won’t be as preoccupied with COVID-19 as adults. However, children must know they can talk to parents about their concerns and have their questions answered truthfully. Let your child know that when it comes to COVID-19 and this difficult time, you are there for them (e.g., If you have any worries or questions about what is going on at the moment with coronavirus, you can always come to find me, and we can talk it through). It is a good idea to follow their lead. With children who seek out a conversation, this involves providing only as much information as they have asked. Children who do not seek a conversation can be on the lookout for signs of distress or changes in behavior (e.g., a child who becomes more clingy or aggressive). Although there may be other reasons for these changes, keep in mind that they may be related to COVID-19.
When talking to your child about their feelings, stop what you are doing, and listen carefully. Avoid telling your child how they should feel (Don’t worry about that). Instead, let your child know it is OK to be worried, sad, angry, or disappointed. Talking or drawing can help children better understand their personal feelings and concerns. Children will feel frustration, sadness, and worry. They will worry about grandparents’ health and missing spending time with them or falling behind with schoolwork if they are not attending school, not being able to spend time with friends, or not being able to play sports with others. Reassure your child that people around the world (healthcare staff and scientists) are working to help each other and to develop medicines that will benefit everyone.
Talk to your child about what is going on around them concerning COVID-19. However, it is essential not to talk to them too much about it — this can increase children’s fear and distress. As adults, it can be hard to focus on anything other than the current situation. But we need to make sure this does not color our interactions with our children. Follow your child’s lead — this will help you to spend the right amount of time talking to them about COVID-19, while also helping you to think about other things. You need to be thinking too about the conversations you have in front of your child and limit your child’s media exposure around COVID-19. These tactics will help you and your child in the long run.
- BE TRUTHFUL IN ANSWERING CHILDREN’S QUESTIONS
General guidelines for answering children’s questions include:
- Find out what they think they know about the issue (e.g., through social media or their friends) before responding.
- Keep your answers simple and appropriate to your child’s developmental level.
- Get your information from reliable sources (e.g., UNICEF, the World Health Organisation websites).
- If you don’t know the answer, offer to try to find it out for them. If the child says, don’t bother, you can probably leave it. However, if the answer is important, you might say that’s an interesting question. I’m going to look up the answer because I’d be interested in knowing it.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep (e.g., Things will be back to normal by your birthday).
- HAVE A FAMILY PLAN
Plans are beneficial in times of anxiety and uncertainty. Each family needs to develop its list. The plan should include regular hand washing, keeping a distance between yourselves and others, and physically staying away from vulnerable family members and friends. Children have an essential part to play by following these rules. Where possible, include kindness to others in your plan (e.g., offer to pick up and leave groceries for an elderly neighbor or someone with special needs). In this way, you are also showing your children one of the qualities that you want to encourage. Where you can, involve your children in the creation of the plan. Given the rapidly changing nature of COVID-19 and government recommendations, this plan may need to be reviewed quite frequently. Keep your conversations around the project brief and matter-of-fact.
- HELP CHILDREN LEARN TO TOLERATE MORE UNCERTAINTY
The COVID-19 crisis is creating uncertainty for everyone. As parents, we need to find a way to accept this uncertainty ourselves. We need to demonstrate through our actions and words this acceptance to our children (e.g., We don’t know when this is going to be over. I know it’s hard not to know. We just have to remind ourselves that we are doing our best to stay well and safe and that the whole world is working together on this problem). Significant changes to children’s lives can be hard and often scary. Still, children can also create opportunities for learning new skills (e.g., different ways of communicating with friends and loved ones). If you have serious concerns about your child’s emotional health, seek professional support.
- REACH OUT AND CONNECT WITH LOVED ONES
Social/physical distancing does not have to mean that you, your children, or your extended family members feel alone or isolated. We are all in this crisis together. Make greater use of phones, online communication tools (group video conferencing), and social media to keep in touch with family, friends, and neighbors. Children love being experts — maybe they can draw on their knowledge of social media to teach other family members how to use these tools to stay in touch.
- PROBLEM-SOLVE PROACTIVELY
In the face of events that are scary and mostly out of our control, it’s essential to be proactive about what you can control. Making plans helps you visualize the near future. How can your kids have virtual playdates? What can your family do that would be fun outside? What are the favorite foods you can cook during this time? If your area is starting to reopen, you could come up with safe ideas for family activities, like getting take-out from your favorite restaurant or going on a socially distant bike ride with friends. Seeing you problem-solve in response to this crisis can be instructive and reassuring for kids.
Even better, assign kids tasks, for instance, picking the restaurant you’re going to order from, that will help them feel that they are part of the plan and make a valuable contribution to the family. Make projects together brings more unity in the relationship.
- BE CREATIVE ABOUT NEW ACTIVITIES AND EXERCISE
Incorporate new activities into your routine, like doing a puzzle or having family game time in the evening. For example, my family is baking our way through a favorite dessert cookbook together. Other times, we have picnics in the yard.
Build-in activities that help everyone get some exercise safely, especially now that some restrictions are being- Lifted. For example, going to the park without contact with other kids or things touched by other kids, like playground equipment. Take a daily family walk or bike ride or do yoga — a great way to let kids burn off energy and make sure everyone stays active. Or on beautiful days, play a game of tag in the yard or outside.
- ACTIVITIES WITH KIDS
We can go outside! As long as we keep a safe distance and practice good hygiene, a little fresh air could do us a lot of good. Here are some tips for safely being active outside: (note: To do this, we should avoid crowds, skip large events and keep a safe distance (about 6 feet) from people who are not family members.)
- Go for a family walk. Take a break from work, the news, or the online buzz by getting the whole family (including furry friends) out for a 30-minute walk. If you don’t have a half-hour, just do what you can.
- Shake the rust off your green thumb. Winter weather is beginning to thaw, so enlist the kids to help you in the yard or garden. Pulling weeds, digging holes, planting bulbs, and watering plants can get the heart pumping more than you think.
- Have a family field day. Set up for a water balloon toss, pass the baton, a three-legged race, a crab walk, relay races—the possibilities are endless. Bring a piece of the schoolyard home, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
- Get back to basics. Remember the days of chalk-scribbled hopscotch, duck-duck-goose, and hula hoop obstacle courses? Relive your favorite childhood games with your little (or not-so-little) ones.
We know you can’t spend the whole day outside—surely work, other responsibilities, or the weather will bring you indoors for long periods.
Indoor Activities with your kids:
- Create a scavenger hunt. Pick a theme, and give your kids cards with clues. For example, try a memory hunt! Hand out cards with clues describing a photo in your home. Have the kids match the memory to the picture, and talk about the memories as a family. (Bonus: Enlist older kids to help with clues.)
- Try kids’ yoga. If you have access, try a YouTube search for kids’ yoga. If not, give the kids five stretches and set a 20-second timer for each move. Repeat your “flow” 3 times for a few minutes of active calm. Check out Cosmic Kids on YouTube.
- Let them in on grown-up “fun.” Kids often love participating in the tasks we don’t enjoy doing as adults, such as doing the dishes, laundry, or cleaning. Ask them to help you with your chores list, taking special care to let them do the work. For littler ones, start a cleaning race. Set a timer and see who can pick up the most toys and put them back in their rightful place.
- Enlist your furry friends. Let the kids play hide and seek with your household pets. Tired kids and a worn-out pup? It’s a win-win.
- Pretend the floor is hot lava! Put pillows and blankets around a room. The kids must jump from pillow to pillow (or blanket) as they try to avoid the “hot lava floor.” Remember. Don’t fall in!
- Have a hula hoop contest. If you have supplies at home, see who can keep their hoop up the longest. We promise this will be fun for the whole family, and the laughs will keep you energized long after the fun.
- Go on an indoor adventure. Set up a pillow fort or indoor campsite where kids can escape to read, play, or learn. From finding supplies to setting up, they’re sure to burn some energy.
- Play Hide and Seek.
- Turn your living room into a theater. We close the windows and cover them with dark sheets. Make some popcorn and yummy treats. We also make our tickets and decorate the living room door—we then select a movie on Netflix or Google Play.
- Use online resources. Virtual resources like Go Noodle are full of games and activities to get kids’ bodies moving and brains working. And they just created a free resource to support families with kids at home due to COVID-19.
- When in Doubt. Dance it out! Have a music party.
AND AS FAR AS ROUTINE GOES-Go at your pace. Sometimes big life events occur that are so overwhelming that simply tucking the children into bed after reading a short bedtime story at a decent hour becomes an impossible feat of heroism. When illness, depression, life-changing decisions loom, other more mundane issues can easily fall.
The good news is that routines do not need to be rigid in their structure, nor is it necessary for methods to be a specific set of rules and regulations. When families have manageable routines in place, life can become simpler instead of adding complications.
Routines can be flexible and relaxed. If routines are regarded as a predictable rhythm and flow to the day, complete with consistent expectations and clearly defined roles, they can become more helpful than cumbersome. It is up to you to make routines and schedule a decisive role for your children. A child finds calmness, stability, and love through elements of the routine when we model positive habits.
Remember to stay sensitive and adaptable to the needs of each child (and adult). When a schedule becomes too regimented or strict, the benefits will be reduced, and children may feel controlled by it rather than freed by it (which is the ultimate goal).
“Be creative and be flexible,” “and try not to be hard on yourself. You have to find a balance that works for your family. The goal should be to stay sane and stay safe.” ~Diadel Kimberlee