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Is there such a thing as normal life during a crisis? Our children are home and our lives have been turned upside down! What? No play dates?
- No sleepovers?
- No movies?
- No restaurants?
- No parks?
- No day care?
- No hanging with friends?
And that’s just us parents talking! The kids haven’t even started complaining yet!
Everyone around the world is affected. Most single moms, sole breadwinners, are faced with additional huge obstacles right now. If you are still working, who will care for your children? If your job was one that was affected, what about income for your family? How can you get through this time of crisis with your current resources? These are normal concerns and don’t speak of a lack of faith especially.
The good news is really good news. This crisis will have an end. Take a breath and exhale slowly as you realize this crisis will end. A sense of normalcy will return, even though it may not look like it used to. It will end.
Having said that, I believe it is wise to put mechanisms in place to meet any crisis so you are ready when the next one comes along. Life has peaks and valleys. Let’s be prepared for those times when life knocks the wind out of you.
Stating the obvious: kids are home; stores are pretty empty; people who can work from home have been sent home; those whose jobs are not flexible are home under questionable circumstances that can cause a certain amount of anxiety. Fear is commonplace these days.
If you home school – way to prepare for world crises! You totally rock!
Consistency Provides Comfort
The rest of our kids had a moment of joy when school was cancelled, but now they are bored. Beyond bored.
Teens may be working online; same thing with older elementary school children. The youngest children have found themselves on an instant vacation with new rules and experiences.
Of course, even those doing online schoolwork will be done at some point through the day. (This is where you will test your children’s ability to entertain themselves without constant input from you.)
Whatever guidelines you have in place for screen time will be challenged in a big way by bored kids. The way to be successful in doing the screen time dance with them is to be prepared.
Here is what I do. I hold a family meeting, which for us is just popcorn around the table while everyone shares their thoughts. Most recently, I had to rethink our normal agenda for these meetings. How did I do that? No sense in reinventing the wheel. You can peek over my shoulder at our family meetings and take away whatever might be helpful.
Your kids, like you, are in unfamiliar territory. They may have picked up on the fear swirling around the world like a dark tornado. They won’t share that normally unless they are given a safe forum to do so. Give them that opportunity and don’t let the other kids poo-poo on feelings as others share. (The teen word for that action is dis, as in disrespect. They can’t dis another child’s sharing.) Your part is to support and act as moderator, answer their questions and as much as possible, address their fears.
I recall on 9/11 I worked at an elementary school. The students tried to hold it together, but we adults all ended up in empty classrooms, sitting cross-legged on the floor with dozens of kids who were crying, worried about their families and their futures. Giving them that time to process made a huge difference for them.
When everyone has had a chance to say as little or as much as they choose, then tell them how you are feeling as you handle these changes. It’s okay to let them know that you may be experiencing some anxiety with all the changes. Little kids can identify with that kind of honesty. Older ones may appreciate your vulnerability.
Just a word of caution here: don’t overdo. They don’t need to know that your job may go away or that you have fleeting thoughts about losing the house. Touch on fears they may have or boredom or any other things you see cropping up.
Discussing your faith with your children is important too. End with the thought that God is in control and He is the One taking care of all of you. You have peace knowing that and they can too.
Freedoms and Boundaries Provide Security
You can talk about the schedule for each weekday that they are home. Even first graders will get this. Because we know that consistency brings comfort, explain the new freedoms and boundaries they will encounter.
sleeping in a bit later, and you may get to do that too, parents
taking their time to do their schoolwork without being rushed,
having lunch at home instead of worrying about being the last one in line for the cafeteria
having one whole school day go by without having to deal with that class bully
helping with the smaller children,
making sure the music lessons get practiced each night,
and the cat gets brushed every other day
and the dog gets walked every day
and reading actually happens 20 minutes each day.
With this new schedule, I present them with a new guidelines for screen time. I list the schedule for typical days and may increase screen time for them, being firm about boundaries. Consistency brings comfort, so put boundaries around their days. Making schedules that provide structure is even getting the thumbs up from the experts.
“To minimize disruption to children’s’ education, keep a strict schedule and a list of goals to meet “ says Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital. That alone will keep your expectations clear and prevent kids from spending endless hours video games or mindlessly trolling YouTube.
Older kids might enjoy making their own schedule out of the pieces you give them.
- Read each day 20 minutes
- Practice guitar 20 minutes
- Schoolwork done before 3pm
- Play one game with a younger sibling
- Screen time 1 hour
- Fix lunch
They can put the items together in whatever order they choose, just as long as everything is done by 3pm or when they would normally get home from school.
Restoring the Dinner Hour for Stability
It might be wise to meet over dinner each evening and continue a similar discussion if they bring it up. We don’t want their whole lives to be about processing COVID 19 or any other crisis. Let them lead the conversation. Again, consistency creates comfort. Someone might want to share something they didn’t think of the day before, and you are providing the space to do that.
And, look! All of a sudden, we have restored the family dinner hour! As a busy working parent, I occasionally lose sight of the value of dinner hour. However, right now, in this time of rampant fear and ever-increasing boredom, our faith and our dinner hour prove to be our anchor in the storm.
Normalize life for your children. Outside playtime with siblings is important to continue. Regular mealtimes are important. Regular bath night and/or shower nights provide more consistency and keep the air fresh in close quarters. Regular bedtimes, even if adjusted slightly, provide security.
Our picture above shows a tiny hand with flowers. Here is where it fits: Having your daughter go out and pick little spring flowers will normalize life for her. Normal activities provide security for our children. Let’s look for ways to keep this far-from-normal life as normal as possible.
I don’t know about you, but I am feeling pretty distant from my usual sources of camaraderie and community. Just when I really need to be around people who know what I am going through because they are going through the same things, I can’t get to them. That’s why I am so excited about our Inner Circle group of parents who meet on Wednesdays over the phone for an hour. I share a bit of parenting wisdom, and the parents then ask questions or make comments and let us know what is happening with them. We support each other on that call one time a week, and I feel connected again. Want to know more? Click HERE.