Easy Tips for Surviving Quarantine with Kids
I don’t know about you, but when the helpful “Surviving Quarantine” tips I read make me feel like quarantine is one more way I’m failing my children, they are far from helpful. Is this one-woman shop really supposed to replace school, music lessons, dance rehearsals and sports practice all in one fell swoop? Seriously? Not to mention keeping the laundry flowing, and “healthy pantry staples” meals on the table, all while wearing my black and white striped referee jersey…I need a nap, just thinking about it! How about some simple survival tips, and a new way of looking at this quarantine respite?
Turn off TV. I said “easy,” but let’s not be lazy. There is no reason to let this time slide into continuously running Netflix marathons. We have been given this gift of time with our kids, and it’s a long time, so let’s make it productive, or at least memorable. For kids who might already be experiencing some anxiety around the wholesale changes in their small lives, there is no reason to subject them to endless news cycles, most of which are depressing. In fact, as adults, we don’t need it either. Turn it off.
Get outside. The best alternative to those Netflix marathons! This virus may not be a blessing, but I’ll tell you what is: the fact that it’s striking the United States at the break of spring, and not the depths of winter. (Can you imagine??) Take advantage of that blessing by heading outside and soaking up the sunshine and enjoying beautiful spring blossoms. Stepping out the door just instantly makes everyone feel better.
Limit screen-time. OK, so this is one of those ubiquitous comments that I’m all on board with—in fact, I love Rachel Simmon’s idea of making screen-time earnable: you want to play video games for 30 minutes? Let’s get in an equal amount of time vacuuming.
Keep them busy. When I realized that my graduate degree work was requiring a great deal more time than my kids’ online assignments, I proposed a solution: if you want dinner every night, you guys are going to have to rotate help with cooking. Since then, they have been selecting meals, choosing nights, and even assisting with shopping. Some more challenging meals have required my accessibility, but most nights I come downstairs to a very well-prepared meal. Granted, these are older children, but all ages can contribute to the household, and in this time of sacrifice for all of us, there is nothing that will make a child feel more important and worthy than contributing in a meaningful way.
Let them be bored. Yes, I know this seems diametrically opposed to my last statement, but follow me here: it is not our job to entertain our children. And yes, there have been whole articles written on entertaining your children during a quarantine. People, when did “parent” become equivalent to “Entertainer In-Chief?” How will they learn to entertain themselves if we are forever providing 60-point schedules so that every minute is captivating and stimulating? Is that reality? My every minute of life is in no way captivating and stimulating! We are setting our children up for a very disappointing future. This is why I love that my eldest son and his smart wife offer their baby “alone time.” That’s right, they put sweet 4-month-old Noah on the floor, and while they work just steps away, he is virtually on his own to find out for himself what is captivating and stimulating. How do you think children see shivery haunted houses in cardboard boxes, if we are forever telling them what they should do next?
Make new rhythms feel like a vacation. I know, I know, the popular thing is developing a Covid-19 Daily Schedule, with every hour accounted for, to make your child feel normalized and on target for graduating high school. Here’s the truth: your child knows he’s not in school, and he might even be happier at home. But, like Mom and Dad, he does have to get some things done every day. What a great opportunity to work on time management skills! Ask him in the morning what he needs to accomplish for school and home responsibilities, and how he plans on getting the work completed. What else does he want to accomplish today? If they’re old enough (or mature enough) they might be able to manage their time on their own. If that does not prove fruitful, help them out with basic parameters. But be sure to take this opportunity, with unfettered hours, to enjoy a no-schedule day. How often are we granted such a thing?
Focus on others. Because the title of this post begins with “easy,” we’re going to keep this simple, and encourage the kids to spearhead as much of the effort as possible. Creative mom Kirsten Wines tells about simple things their family of four have executed: “We’ve decorated sidewalks at night with headlamps for friends to wake up and see on their birthday morning, ordered our favorite book on Amazon to be delivered to friends, delivered stickers in neighbors’ mailboxes, surprised friends with a glow-in-the-dark egg hunt in their front yard… doing things for others is fun and good for our hearts and minds.” There is nothing better for our mental and emotional well-being than to take the focus off ourselves; and uplifting another in the process is a lovely bonus.
Be grateful together. There’s a tendency, in a trial such as we are navigating, to harp on the bad parts. I’m sure you could do that all day, with little eyes watching. Charles Spurgeon said: “We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand.” One of our greatest gifts to our children should be the ability to adapt to changing situations with grace. I believe the best way to cultivate that ability is by focusing on the blessings in any situation. If you’re having a tough time with that yourself, start simple: It’s a beautiful day. We’re alive. And we’re together.