There is no doubt that coronavirus has changed all of our lives. We’ve all been impacted in different ways and for many of us with children, it has redefined our daily routine into a new normal. The kids are home from school and daycare and that leaves parents and guardians with hours to fill.
In the beginning, I purchased paint, glue, and ordered special teaching tools because I was going to take homeschooling seriously. Of course, I had no idea yet that our country as a whole would be experiencing emotions and change that we hadn’t experienced in our lives. Many of us were mourning lost jobs, simple routine, and of course, loved ones affected by the virus. Through trial and error, I figured out that my oldest needed to connect with me in order to do any sort of work that his school sent home. I actually had to teach him which I know is a stupid thing to realize but most teachers were doing online teaching. He refused to watch the videos so I instead, I would watch them, tell him about them, then we’d do the activity. He’s only in kindergarten so it’s not like I was teaching him organic chemistry. My confidence only goes up to kindergarten.
In the time that we’ve been quarantined, I’ve been able to learn and practice a few tips that have helped me greatly in managing my own emotions while helping me connect with my 2 and 6-year-old.
First, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. If you worked in an office before and now you’re home 24 hours a day with small humans, you will probably find the dynamic similar but much much harder to cope with. While your tiny humans will also take your yogurt from the office fridge, will passive-aggressively see how long you’ll hold out in a disagreement, and will let you do all the work, at the end of the day they’re still there and you also have to cook for them and put them to bed. So even out the load with your other half or partner so that you don’t go insane. If you worked at home (this includes the job of a stay at home mom) remember you also need a break because your routine has been upended and instead of escaping to playgrounds, taking hikes, or even the not so appealing challenge of grocery shopping with children – now you have to stay put and manage entertainment for your live-in bosses.
When I say take care of yourself, I don’t mean to find an escape route but I do mean that some screen time right now will not be the end of the world. If you need a half-hour to drink coffee and enjoy a donut then plug those little monsters in! Enjoy your moment. You can also do other minor things like making sure you all get up and get dressed in the morning. This technique will help fend off the quarantine blues. You might not be going anywhere but you’re ready for the day.
Second, you’ve probably gotten to know your kids really well. You’re beginning to understand them in a way you never had before. You’re literally watching them grow in front of your eyes. For many of us, this can actually be scary. How do you connect with these tiny people that you really only saw for a max of 4-6 hours a day before the pandemic? Let’s break down connecting with just a few simple strategies.
Play with them. I know that the drudgery of play can be the worst. Find something you can play together that doesn’t bore you to the core. I found that I love building Legos with both of mine and I will build my own creation and while they will insist that it’s a space station, I know it’s an underground she shed equipped with plenty of White Claw and sushi. Here are a few things you can try that you might find you enjoy:
- art – make your own piece of art alongside them
- crafting – make your own
- build a cardboard city out of recyclables (in our case it was a snail city)
- play nail salon with stickers and washable paint (soak your feet for some self-care)
Think about what you liked to do as a kid. Try it out with your own kids and you’ll find that you’re suddenly connecting with your child and opening up channels to great verbal and emotional communication.
Again, not that much fun to listen to the ramblings of a kindergartner (sometimes I go cross-eyed) but listen to her play with siblings or on her own. You’ll discover a lot about them that you didn’t know. In the play, you’ll discover how they see relationships, how they compromise or don’t, and even if something is wrong. I once listened in on my 2-year-old and from his pretend play with action figures, he revealed that he understood what a best friend was, he told his action figure best friend that his brother, though means, was his true best friend. The action figures even fought out a sharing issue and resolved it! The inner workings of your kiddo are often revealed through play so listen up!
There are two adults to two kids in our household so the next helpful tip may need to be adjusted to the number of adults in the house. In our home, we have dates with our kids. We have movie nights and game nights but with only one kid at a time. Sometimes both I and my partner are there, sometimes only one of us is. Spending time with your kiddos and making it special provides so much relief of anxiety, fear, and reduces the overwhelming feeling of the unknown. It also gives them something to look forward to that is certain in a time when everything is uncertain. Last week we put the little one to bed, rented a movie, ordered pizza, and just hung out. We let the 6-year-old stay up way past his bedtime but it was so essential to feeling that connection with us.
Right now is the most opportune time for connection with your children so take it. That’s all I’ve got for now, other than – everything you are doing is exactly the right thing.