Spring 2020 is not what we expected!
Parents are working under a "new normal" right now. It is definitely a version of parenting we weren't prepared for and the stress can be overwhelming.
The spread of Covid 19 has certainly changed family life. Many parents are now working from home. Others have either lost their jobs or have been furloughed until further notice. Adding to the stress, schools have been closed for almost a month and most will not be reopening for the remainder of this school year. E-learning has become the "buzz word" in education and family life as well. Parents are home. Kids are home. Heck, even entire states are under "stay at home" orders. The stress is building and families are struggling. So, how can we make this work? I have a few tips on family life that may help us all survive this and we may even come out the other end of this as a closer family unit. 1. Acknowledge the struggle
Instead of brooding silently, talk about the strangeness of the situation as a family. Sometimes just talking about our feelings allows us to then shift into problem-solving mode. Other times, we just need to vent. Either way, open up times for talking about how this "new normal" has you feeling. You could start with, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm feeling .... about this whole thing. How about you? " It's important to acknowledge each other's feelings, whatever they may be. Feelings aren't right or wrong, they just are. 2. Work out a schedule
Parents who are working from home are having a hard time finding a balance that works. I suggest involving the kids in the process of working out a schedule. This is especially important for parents who are trying to support their children through their e-learning assignments while also taking care of their own "to-do" list for work. For some families, parents do their own work in the mornings while the kids work on their assignments. Afternoons are spent checking that assignments have been completed and answering questions or offering support. I recently suggested to a single mom that she and her daughter try the Pomodoro technique of setting a timer for 25 minutes with a 5-10 minute in between work sessions. During the 25 minutes, each of them tackled a work/school item without interruption. The break in between sessions allowed them to touch base and ask questions. The daughter knew if Mom was on a call during the work session, she'd soon be off and then they could reconnect and she could talk with her again. Kids do well if they know there is a set time for them to get their parent's full attention. Some kids are very independent, others need some guidance. There is not "one right way" to get through this, so do what works for your unique family dynamic. 3. Communicate your expectations
As with all things in parenting, when parents express their expectations it allows kids to choose appropriate behaviors and make good choices. While working from home, parents may need to participate in video conferencing or take phone calls. Tell your kids exactly what you need from them and for how long, then set them up for success. For younger kids: Set a timer and give them activities they normally don't do. The timer will allow them to see how much longer you'll need to be uninterrupted and the new activity preoccupies them. You may also want to keep yourself muted during meetings just in case there is a call out to you during the video conference! I'm sure many others in the meeting are also dreading their kids yelling, "Mom, mom, mom, mom" for everyone else to hear! lol For older children: Set the timer and tell them you need them to entertain themselves for the next 45 minutes. Be very clear about what they may and may not do! Setting your kids up for success is the key. DON'T FORGET: Acknowledging their great behavior afterward helps reinforce the positive behavior for next time.
4. Schedule in some fun Everyone looks forward to a break from work or school, this "lockdown" makes it even more critical to add some fun in the day. While your work schedule may not allow you to take the afternoon off, perhaps you can use your lunch hour for a picnic outside with the kids. In fact, the night before you can plan lunch as a family, write out a "to-do" list and while you're working, the kids can get lunch ready and set up. The kids may be tired of the e-learning situation as well. It might help to take some of that learning offline! Go for a nature walk and talk about what you're seeing, take an exercise break (or do their physical education unit with them), or do math or spelling outside on the driveway with sidewalk chalk (my daughter loved doing this!). 5. Brainstorm solutions together!
There are going to be times when everyone is getting on each other's nerves. It comes with the territory of being out of our normal routines and too much time together. This is the time to sit down and problem-solve together. If the kids are interrupting you too much while you're trying to get things done, ask yourself if they are actually looking for more quality time with you or perhaps they need more things to do. I helped one couple build a list of things around the house the kids could do, then had them have the kids add to it. It turned out, one of the boys really got excited when Dad told him he could use the scrap wood in the garage to build things. Their daughter wanted to learn how to knit, something Mom didn't know how to do either so they got supplies and found videos for beginners. Then when Mom and Dad had to be on their laptops for work, the kids had creative ways to spend their time. If the kids are getting on each other's nerves, then ask them what they need to make this work. Maybe they can create a "things we do together" list and "things I want to do alone" list and they pick one thing from the list each day that guarantees them alone time. 6 Give yourself space and grace We are parenting in unprecedented times! It's okay to be imperfect parents on a regular day. (Click here to see a quick video on what our kids learn from those moments!) We are not experiencing "regular" at this point! There may be times during the day you need some peace and quiet, find that time and don't feel guilty. Some parents are telling their kids, "I just need 10 minutes and then I'll help you." Good for you! I'll never forget after a long month of all 3 kids sharing the flu back and forth I was beyond exhausted. One day I actually told my kids, "Unless the house is on fire, one of you is bleeding or you have lost your head and can't find it, do NOT come knocking on the bathroom door during my shower." YEP, that was my brilliant parenting moment! (face palm). LOL Give yourself some space and the grace to forgive your less than stellar moments! As long as you are taking care of those kiddos and trying your best, that's what parenting in this "new normal" will be for a while! If you know someone who could use these tips, please forward this blog! New readers can sign up for easy-to-implement parenting tips and strategies here.