What a crazy couple months we've had!
If you’re in the same boat as most parents in the world, you’ve had to accommodate to the fact that your kids were suddenly and unexpectedly given an extra two or three months of summer vacation. You have found yourself either out of work or working from home. And to top it all off, you’re unable to leave the house!
Now, as a long distance runner, I have had plenty experience with enduring something hard. But this feels different. To begin with, it’s not something I’ve chosen to take on. It has literally been forced upon us. Also (and this is the worst part for me), we don’t know when it will end! In a marathon, each mile is clearly marked and you know exactly how long you have to endure until it’s over. This is a test of endurance without a clear end in sight!
The good news in this is (and I believe there IS good news if we look around!), we’re all in it together. Especially as parents. We are struggling with a lot of the same things. Why not help each other out?
I have a few tips I want to share with you on how to keep your kids feeling secure and rested during this uncertain time as well as how to keep your sanity!
STICK TO THE SCRIPT
Routines are predictable and 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.
My oldest proves this point with a question I get almost every day..."Mommy, what's our plan for the day?" Oh how I wish our "plan" was something more exciting than another walk, another playdough session, watching the Cincinnati Zoo home safari and reading MORE books. (Don't get me wrong, all those things are good, just getting old!) For him, it's not about what we are doing. He finds security in knowing what lays ahead of him.
Obviously routines may look drastically different these days, and there may be days that you just need to blow it off. But, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things predictable and consistent wherever possible.
SCREEN TIME REALITY
If you are like me, screen time has increased (maybe significantly!) in the last month. It might not be something you’re happy to admit, but we are trying to survive here! My opinion is to give your previous standards some leeway and acknowledge that life is NOT normal. Use screen time to your advantage if you need to!
I do have one bit of advice about screen time. Screens emit blue light which can interfere with our body’s natural circadian rhythm. I recommend turning screens off 1-2 hours before bedtime.
KEEP RINGING THE DINNER BELL
When it comes to mealtimes, try to stay as consistent as possible. Few things affect our bodies’ sense of timing like when we eat. Allowing meal and snack times to fluctuate too much will cause a big shift to your little one’s schedule. Also, try to keep an eye on how much junk food your kids are getting! Sugary snacks will likely leave them with too much energy come bedtime and the occasional upset tummy.
EMBRACE YOUR INNER ARCHITECT
With everyone being housebound, your kids are likely going to have a ton of excess energy. With no playground to frolic in and no friends to chase around, you’re going to need to get creative to help them tire themselves out!
If you’ve got good weather, getting outside is a great 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.
If you are stuck in the house, try building a temporary indoor play area out of furniture and cushions. It can be a great project to keep your kids occupied and provide them with some stuff to climb on too!
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 to turn off the morning alarm. 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.
Thing ARE eventually going to go back to normal, and trying to get them back onto their usual schedule is going to be a challenge if you stray too far from their regular routine during quarantine.
DEEP BREATH IN, DEEP BREATH OUT
For older kids that are struggling with anxiety or stress, some deep breathing exercises during their bedtime routine can help settle them down at the end of the day. Deep breathing exercises can be a very simple but effective tool for our kids. Also, deep breathing games can actually be a lot of fun! Check out Coping Skills for Kids for some great ideas!
Outside of the sleep realm, there are a couple of other tips I’d like to offer you parent to parent.
I’m sure you know that kids are highly perceptive, and they probably know that there’s something serious happening at the moment. They might not bring it up too much, but there’s likely something pinging around in the back of their heads that has them a bit on edge. This can be magnified if they see that their parents are concerned and on edge as well.
Try your best to keep the atmosphere cheery and light. I know it’s not easy given the circumstances, but stressed out kids aren’t going to improve the situation. If they have questions, of course you should be honest and forthcoming, but your attitude toward things will work wonders in keeping their minds at ease!
FOCUS ON THE GOOD STUFF
Last but not least, try not to watch the news coverage with the kids around. They’re always listening and hearing terms like, “death toll,” and “fatal disease” can increase their stress levels (depending on their age of course). It’s important to stay informed, but you can do so after they’ve gone to bed!
Why not spend some of the extra time with your kids focusing on the good and positive things around you?
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!
Wishing you all the best.