What can I say? The past month has been… I mean, WOW. Right?
Like most parents in the world, you’ve had to accommodate the fact that your kids are suddenly and unexpectedly given an EXTRA LONG summer vacation. And to top it all off, they’re unable to leave the house.
Now listen, I love my daughter to death. All the parents I know loves their kids more than anything in the world, but that doesn’t mean that having them at home all day, every day, for weeks and months at a time, is easy. It’s not.
So I think we can all agree that these are extraordinary times, and as such, they require some extraordinary measures to keep everyone sane and halfway functional. For some of us, that probably means some big adjustments to the usual routine.
This whole situation is, obviously, beyond crazy and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do here, I get that, but I just wanted to drop in here and give you some tips to keep your children feeling secure and rested, and to help you keep your sanity while you’re at it.
Here’s what I’ve learned that works best for us. Take what you want from it!
STICK TO THE ROUTINE (as best as you can)
Have you ever wondered why babies can engage in the same boring little pastime for hours on end? Why a game of peek-a-boo can make them squeal with delight as heartily on the hundredth time as it does on the first? It’s because their expectations are being met. They watch you put your hands over your face, then think to themselves, “Oh hey! I know what happens next! She’s going to move her hands away, and her face is going to be right there!” And sure enough, the hands drop, Mama gives her the familiar “Peek-a- boo!” and baby thinks to herself, “Oh, I knew it! I knew that was going to happen!”
Routines also give kids a sense of security. Knowing what’s on the schedule provides them with a road map for their day, and that knowledge makes them confident and puts their minds at ease, so even though we may need to make some serious concessions, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things predictable and consistent wherever possible.
LET’S JUST EMBRACE SCREEN TIME
In my case, and in the case of nearly every other parent I know, we’ve slightly upped screen time. Do we feel guilty about it? NOPE.
None of us are thrilled about it, but for those of us in the real world, extra screen time for the kids might just be the difference between a peaceful afternoon and a mutual meltdown.
Just one caveat tho; screens emit a lot of blue light which can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, so go ahead and let your kids indulge in a little extra screen time, but turn them off two hours before bedtime. (The screens, not your kids.)
KEEP RINGING THE DINNER BELL
When it comes to mealtimes, again, try to stay as consistent as possible. Few things affect our bodies’ sense of timing like when we eat, so allowing meal and snack times to fluctuate too much can effect your little one’s schedule. Sugary snacks will likely leave them with too much energy come bedtime and the occasional upset tummy, so keep an eye on how much junk food they’re getting into.
BRING OUT YOUR CREATIVITY
With everyone being housebound, your kids are likely going to have a ton of excess energy. With no playground or playdates you’re going to need to get creative to help them tire themselves out. Getting outside is a good idea. Sunlight will help maintain the circadian rhythm and a bike ride or even a brisk walk can help reduce feelings of confinement and keep you and your kids from going stir crazy.
We’ve been taking daily walks over here and it helps a lot!
EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE…
Now, since many of us are no longer under any obligation to get up for work and school, we might get to thinking that this is a good opportunity for everybody to catch up on some sleep by turning off the morning alarms. I’m tempted to do so myself, to be honest, but sticking to the usual bedtimes and wake up times is really important. Predictability and structure are again sources of comfort for our kids, so even though there’s no morning bell, it’s still a good idea to keep things on somewhat of a schedule.
Besides, things are eventually going to go back to normal, and trying to get them back onto their usual schedule is going to be a challenge. You’re better off just sticking to it now!
FOCUS ON THE GOOD STUFF
Make the best of it. Let’s face it, we’ve been living in a world where life is BUSY. Very busy.
Recently, during our daily walks I could not help to notice that everyone else is outside too. We keep our distance, but children are playing with toys, riding bikes, and drawing with sidewalk chalks.
Neighbors call to each other from their yards. It’s like living in another world! It’s actually a nice one to witness!
So go ahead, focus on the good stuff! There’s no shame in that!
Last but not least, try not to watch the news coverage with the kids around. My husband started this rule in our house.
Kids are always listening and hearing terms like, “death toll,” and “fatal disease” is going to increase their stress levels. Stress effects not only sleep but also their overall wellbeing. It’s important to stay informed, but do so after they’ve gone to bed.
I look forward to getting back to a time when we can discuss less serious things with each other again, and look back at this time as one where we all came together (even while we’re so far apart) and made the best of a really bad situation.
Until then, wash your hands, stay at home, and make the best of this quarantine. In the end we will probably be remembering this time with some affinity for the opportunity it’s given us to reconnect with our kids.
Stay safe! And sleep well!