The extended title: A Parent’s Guide to Having Kids at Home While Keeping Your Own Sanity, During COVID – 19
We’ve got kids at home. Let’s be real. Things can feel scary right now. Two weeks ago many students and families were preparing for spring break. For most of us, that can mean anything from a brief trip to get out of the winter doldrums; for others, it can mean the challenging work of trying to find care for our kids while our work continues. But either way- it is finite. You know when it starts, and most importantly when it ends. You can plan ahead, and in a pinch, you can take kids to the movies, to their grandparents, the park, or maybe even your own place of employment. None of us expected to have our kids at home – indefinitely.
The past few days have pushed us into a different reality with our kids at home now. Many families and kids across our country are facing weeks, or possibly months, at home, and it seemed to happen almost overnight. We love our kids. We just didn’t expect our kids at home for so long. This can feel overwhelming, maybe even impossible, as people balance jobs, limited childcare, and recommendations to keep kids away from all the things they most enjoy like birthday parties and playdates. This on top of the anxiety we are feeling as we worry about our loved ones, and attempting to figure out the “new normal”. This morning, my brother in law reminded me of the wise soul, Olaf, from Frozen 2: “We’re calling this controlling what you can when things feel out of control.”
So here is our best advice during the uncertain next few days and weeks:
Do your best to stay calm in front of kids.
With your kids at home it may feel like you are always in front of your kids. We all know our children can feel when we get worried. My own son heard me on the phone the other night and immediately sensed my stress, even while I was laughing and trying to make jokes. But kids look to us to give them an indication of how worried they should be.
- If you need to relieve your own stress, try to wait until after they go to bed and call a trusted friend or relative to talk through your feelings.
- Don’t spend all day scrolling through social media; it will only make you more anxious.
- Turn off the 24-hour news. Check-in twice a day, privately away from kids. Remember, if something super urgent happens, someone will text you.
Utilize all the resources already out there, especially the free ones, to help get through the next few weeks and months.
There are so many things out there for families to help get through the time at home, and many of them are currently free. Here is just a sample of what is out there:
- Want to give kids a chance to talk and play with grandparents or elderly people they are supposed to stay away from right now? Check out Caribu– currently being made free to all families during this crisis!
- Need access to wi-fi in your house? Comcast is offering ‘Internet Essentials’ for low-income customers for the next 60 days.
- Check out free online classes for kids- here is a list a friend is curating.
- Check out the PBS daily activities they are creating for families stuck at home.
When you can– make the most of it.
It is unlikely (we hope!) that any of us will ever face something like this again. Kids can sleep in and you can get a little extra work done (or some extra sleep yourself!). Let them. Kids can eat cereal for lunch and dinner so you can make that quick work call, or order grocery delivery for the 2nd time this week, since you don’t remember the last time your kids ate three meals a day, seven days a week, in your home. That is ok.
If your kids are old enough to stay home alone for a few minutes, go out and take a brisk walk around the block to get some fresh air. Are they too young? Pop them in the stroller and do the same. If you have a yard, run relay races with your kids to get your endorphins up. Steer clear of people and playgrounds, but take deep breaths of fresh air as often as you can.
Give yourself grace.
Online parenting blogs and social media can make us feel bad if we don’t have a color-coded schedule for our kids’ days while they are home. People talk about screen time or junk food as if that is what we really need to be worried about right now. Come on! Few, if any of us, are equipped to teach our kids full time in our homes, or ration sugar when we are dealing with long lines at the store. Let them watch the movie; let them eat the ice cream. Honestly, if you have the luxury, watch the movie and eat the ice cream with them. Be as patient as you can. That is obviously easier said than done, but give yourself grace on that one as well. Remember that we actually don’t live extended time with our families like this. You will lose your temper or cool once or twice. That is ok. Apologize and move on.
We don’t know how long we will need to live like this. Hopefully not long, but the experts say that actually prolonging the outbreak can help relieve strain on our medical community, so we may be here a while. Take it one day at a time. We are in this together.