So here we are, after weeks of watching Coronavirus make its way across the globe, it has finally landed itself in our backyard, and subsequently landed our children in our homes…all day…everyday…for we don’t know how long. The good news is that there is no pandemic requirement that you suddenly become the Pinterest Parent of the Year. With that said, you are going to need a few tricks up your sleeve to nail this kids and parents under one roof 24/7 situation. Below are five tips for flourishing as an Accidental Stay at Home Parent.
The good news is that there is no pandemic requirement that you suddenly become the Pinterest Parent of the Year.-Dr.Deanna Conley (Our hero)
Both children and adults alike thrive when there is a set routine and structure to our days.
Structure DOES NOT mean packing every minute of every day full of activities, that is neither sustainable or realistic.
Structure DOES mean developing a predictable flow and rhythm that you work towards following each day.
- Set a schedule that works for your family and be sure to reference it throughout the day in order for your children to become familiar with it.
Children feel most safe when immersed in routine, which is critical more so now than ever in this state of flux. You may even wish to enlist your child in helping you create a Visual Schedule where you draw pictures together of each activity you will do each day.
PRO TIP: Keep the activity vague, such as “Project Time” so that it can be applicable day in and day out.
If you are feeling fancy, put velcro on the back of the pictures and let your child move them as you complete each activity. (Yes we know not everyone has that laying around the house and NO we do not recommend running to your nearest Michaels at this moment in time. Here is a link to some velcro on Amazon.
A sample schedule may look something like this
depending on the age of your kiddos:
Rest Time or Nap Time
Bath, Book, Bed!
“Project Plan” Your Week
There has been a big push to use part of Sunday to Meal Plan for the week so we have grab and go meals throughout our busy days, and it is a game changer for busy parents.
Apply this same concept to your daily activities for the kids, Project Plan so you don’t have to scramble to find something for them to sink their mind into.
Keep it simple, such as setting aside the ingredients and some cookie cutters to make playdoh cookies, pull some favorite but forgotten board games out (if your kids are in that age range), gather a pile of books to read and act out.
Remember, your projects should not involve a million steps and materials, because, kids…
We have included some activity suggestions HERE
This will also make easy work of giving both parents a quick go to for things to do when it’s their turn with the tiny humans.
Then when you reach an activity time in your day, you have an activity prepped and ready to go. You would be surprised by how much accidental screen time comes in these moments when no one knows what to do. It is easy to fall back on the couch and turn the TV on, but this tends to happen less when there is a schedule being followed and a plan in place.
You’ll find that both you and your kids will be looking forward to whats next, and the guilt will not creep up on you.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Entering into this new [the faster we flatten the curve the more temporary it will be] world of social distancing will take some time to adjust. At first there’s a very good chance you will be frustrated as anything that your kids aren’t behaving for you the way you know they do at school. Dr.Jekyl and Mr.Hyde sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Allow for the discomfort that may come while you collectively downshift your gears and recalibrate to a much slower speed.
It is not realistic to think that you will be crafting and educating and playing all day long, or that you’ll have all new and original activities prepped each week, especially in the beginning. Your children may have more time than usual in front of the TV, and the world will not end. Try to build screen time into your schedule so they know when to expect it and minimize their badgering. This will also help you know there is time slotted in to take breaks from each other. We need those.
When you take time to plan for screen time two things will happen:
- Your children will be less inclined to beg you for it because they know it’s coming.
- You do not need to feel such parent guilt over it because you know it is part of your plan, it has a beginning and an end, and it’s balanced with all of the other fun activities you’ve got set aside.
Get Comfortable with Boredom
We are all so accustomed to operating at such a fast pace to the point where doing one thing at a time is no longer considered productive, and we must now be in a constant state of multi-tasking to be successful.
(Or so we think.)
We have the same tendency with our children when we book their days with music classes, art classes, sports, playdates, and school time.
As a result, many children do not know what to do when there is “nothing” to do; however, there is a magic moment in the midst of boredom where creativity is born.
“There is a magic moment in the midst of boredom where creativity is born.”
Repeat after me: “I am not a camp director!”
While having structure and routine is vital for children, it is not your responsibility to have every single moment of their day scheduled and planned for. Build some “Free Choice” activity times into the day where your children are given the space to self-select toys and games, to engage in pretend play, to CREATE or INVENT something new.
We didn’t all used to have imaginary friends because someone told us to sit down and muster up a tiny talking rabbit we paled around with for months. We met that chatty imaginary talking bunny in our downtime, in our boredom. (We owe it to our kids, to let them be so bored sometimes that they suddenly have a purple dragon friend named Gia who helps them with their puzzles.)
While it may feel foreign at first, restrain yourself from fixing or helping – let them problem solve on their own in the safety of your home, so that one day they will be able to think creatively and problem solve on their own in the real world. And, if they tell you they are “soooooo bored” be sure to reply with “GREAT!”.
EMBRACE THE CHAOS
I have often thought that cleaning a house with a toddler should be an Olympic event, because it’s a near impossible task. During these next few weeks, give yourself permission to lean into the chaos. It’s going to be okay if the laundry does not get folded until the next day, or if all of the breakfast dishes join the lunch dishes.
Pick up when you can and relax about it when you can’t. Wear your pajamas from dawn till dusk sometimes. Save your shower for mid day – because you can – for once!
Another social distancing perk, no one is showing up at your house for any “unexpected visits” or playdates any time soon. Being home for many days in a row with a house full of little and big humans is going to get loud, messy and my goodness… maybe even a little bit fun, but only if you let it!
At the end of the day, children are really craving only one thing from their parents, and that is attention. These tiny humans are quite skilled at getting it in both positive and negative forms.
More than toys, games, and a million activities, children just want us to be present and focused on them – there is no greater prize in their little worlds.
Perhaps we are in the midst of nature hitting its reset button, and I welcome us all to do the same.
So, let’s put our phones down and be okay with that work email getting a later than usual response.
For this beautiful brief moment in time, crawl into their worlds…
chase some bubbles,
listen to their stories with all your heart,
tumble on the floor,
have a dance party,
bake mud pies,
and most of all, love on these little creatures with all you have, because if we’ve learned anything from the past few weeks, its that life is uncertain and should be cherished in all of its messy forms.