If your state is like mine, school has either been cancelled due to the coronavirus, or will be soon. Suddenly, we are facing the next few weeks of life spending copious amounts of time with our kids.
Friends, this is my life. My kids and I have been together 24/7 for the past fifteen years. I don’t say that to elevate myself to the status of perfect parent, martyr or saint. It’s just our reality. I love it…most of the time.
But if you’re like the millions of parents who either put their kids on the blessed yellow school bus or drop them off at a brick and mortar school each day, the immediate future might appear like some type of slow torture for everyone in your household.
Let’s change that. Let’s make the next few weeks filled with fun and memories, without losing our sanity or damaging relationships. Let’s come through this stronger together and better for what we’ve been through.
Here are a few ideas that have served me well over the years:
- Develop a flexible routine. Kids thrive on routine, and it can be especially helpful during unsettling times. Set a routine that will work for your family, but don’t be a drill sergeant! Leave room for life’s unpredictabilities, and throw in a few of your own, just to keep things fun, like backwards dinner (dessert first!), wear pajamas for a day, living room sleepovers, binge watching Dude Perfect, etc.
- Teach life skills. This is an amazing opportunity to teach kids life skills! Take turns making dinner, or allow your kids to come alongside you and learn some kitchen skills. Teach them how to do laundry (my kids have been doing their own laundry for years, and let me tell you – it’s a game changer!).
- Switch out the toys. This was a favorite strategy that I learned from my mom when my girls were little. Divide the toys in half. Leave half of them out, and put the other half away, out of sight. Switch them out every week. It keeps the clutter down and keeps kids from getting tired of their toys!
- Turn housework into games! We are a game-loving family – and not just board games, but turning life into games. Need to pick up the house? Do it for 15 minutes, and then take a 15 minute video game or reading break, and repeat the cycle until the house is clean. (Okay, I admit, this is the method I still use for myself as an adult!) Mop the kitchen floor wearing damp, old (clean!) socks! Pick up items with one hand behind your back. Work on cleaning up a room together, but you have to keep a balloon airborne at all times. Sure, rooms may not get cleaned to your usual standard, but hey – there’s always tomorrow…for real!
- And don’t forget the board games! This is a great opportunity to pull some classic games out of the closet. Sometimes I get so caught up in finding the latest and greatest games that I forget about the classics. Pull out chess, checkers, or my personal favorite – Scrabble! Don’t forget Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Rummikub, SkipBo, Uno…the list is endless. For more ideas of great games, check out one of my favorite lists here.
- Take lots of breaks. My kids have always needed frequent breaks – whether it is brain breaks or activity breaks. It clears their minds and helps them reset their focus for whatever task is next. Our breaks come in many forms – snack breaks, music breaks, breaks to go swing, breaks to do a little online shopping, breaks to play with pets, and breaks to snuggle with a parent.
- Above all, implement mandatory down time!!! I cannot stress this enough, as you’re going to be together…A LOT. My mother-in-law shared this nugget of wisdom with me early on in our parenting journey, and it has been the single, best element that we have consistently incorporated into our daily routine over the years. Every day, without fail, we have “rest time.” For an hour and a half, we hang out in our own rooms (I hang out in the living room, normally). During that hour and a half, my kids read for 45 minutes and then play their device for 45 minutes. And during that hour and a half…I REST. It sounds indulgent, maybe, but being with my kids 24/7, I needed (and still need) that daily break. Sometimes I read, sometimes I surf the internet, and sometimes I nap. I try my best, though, to consciously set that time aside for a reset and not use it to catch up on housework. Interestingly, even though my kids are now both teens, they still request this down time every day. They need it just as much as I do.
Friends, we’ll get through this. Let’s commit to making the next few weeks unforgettable for all the best reasons. Let’s be smart, not create an atmosphere of fear, and set our families up to thrive and make beautiful memories during an unpredictable season of life.