For all of us, life has changed drastically in the last two weeks in light of the government mandated orders narrowing our exposure to others in hopes of slowing the spread of Covid-19. Many parents are faced with the challenge of working from home with their children running around underfoot. Still others are now homeschooling their kids with only virtual help from their kids’ loving teachers. The brave few with essential service occupations (a round of applause!) are on the front lines of exposure, going to work away from their families to keep the rest of us safe and cared for. Many of us regularly stay home with our babies and preschoolers, but “stay home” is a loose translation, as we are accustomed to going out for play dates, appointments, trips to the zoo and museum, and grocery shopping with the whole crew! No matter who you are, your life has taken a turn into unprecedented and unexpected territory, leaving you scrambling for some sense of normalcy for you and for your kids.
Children have the ability to sense that things are different; they can feel our tension as well. Even as babies, they are probably now missing the stimulation of going to daycare or leaving the house. We can combat the anxiety they may be feeling by sticking to a routine. If you’re not a regimented person (I’m not!), you can think of this more as a daily rhythm; it doesn’t have to be a strict schedule. If your kids are old enough, get their input on what they’d like to achieve each day or in what order they’d like to accomplish their tasks. For kids of any age, it can be comforting to check tasks off as the day wears on.
A few tips for creating a daily rhythm:
1. Arrange learning activities to occur in the morning when kids have a more flexible mindset and more emotional investment to devote to them. Save free play and passive activities like screen time for the afternoon when everyone is nearer the end of their patience!
2. Narrow the scope of options for your kids. Too many choices can cause decision overload. A room full of toys can be overwhelming for children and they wind up complaining of being bored! Choosing only a handful of toys or activities to pull out each day or every few days can help your kids be more confident in making decisions in their free play.
3. We all need a change of scenery! Even if your house is in full lockdown, “no one in, no one out” mode, you can go outside to play, read, or eat a meal. Even spending time in different rooms of the house can help the time pass. Spend some time doing crafts at the kitchen table, play with a certain toy in each kid’s bedroom, take a bubble bath in the middle of the day!
4. Devise a plan for filling your day; don’t try to think on the fly when the kids are flying off the handle and you’ve been playing referee. Personally, my goal is to hit on these major domains every single day: numbers/counting/math, letters/reading, art, fine motor, gross motor, and building/constructing. I’ve made a list of activities to pull from and each night I can ready the materials we will need for the next day. I consider these to be the main academic realms in preschool and many of our activities cover at least two of these areas at the same time.
Above all, seize the gift of time you’ve been given. No matter your children’s ages, you can come out on the other side of this better connected as a family unit. Savor the chance to teach your kids something new, to be creative together, to start that chore chart you’ve been meaning to create or begin daily family devotion time. Dream with your kids and make plans for the future, work together toward a common goal. Take time to connect with friends and family through phone calls, written letters, or face time. As a final word, I want to urge you to embrace grace. This is a highly unusual situation for most of us and we are all figuring out a new way of living. Allow room for abundant grace for your kids, your spouse, your coworkers, and yourself. We’re all in this together. If today was hard, tomorrow can be better.
Author: Emily Denis is mother to 3 year old triplets, and a 5 year old. She serves FWMOM as our Vice President of Socials.