Let’s just pause for a moment and breathe. Deep breath in, and out.
These past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions as a parent, employee, and as a person of society. It feels so surreal, yet so overwhelmingly real.
If you are like most parents, you are now having to accommodate to the fact that your kids are at home abruptly and unexpectedly for what feels like a long time, and yeah, it kind of is! And now keeping kids entertained, for what feels like forever, even harder- you cannot leave the house!
On top of dealing with all the stress that comes with being a parent in this time of crisis, we are now having to support our children’s emotional concerns about this crisis, help them with school, feed them, find time for ourselves, and a lot of parents still have to work!
This whole situation is beyond crazy. Our routines are out the window, and the new normal is being constructed. I wanted to give you some tips to keep your children feeling secure and rested, and to help you keep your sanity while you’re at it.
- Stick to the script
Most of us like routine. Before everything changed, I am sure you had a routine set. Some have more of a routine than others, but most have some sort of daily ritual. Whether it be take a shower every morning after waking up, or drop the kids off at school before going to work. This is something in your day you did not have to worry about because it almost always follows a script.
Babies and children are no different. They like the accountability of a schedule. 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.
Try to mimic your old routine, and change only what has to be changed. Whatever new script you write, stick to it!
- Let’s just embrace screen time
Naturally, with having the kids at home more, I am sure they are getting more screen time. THAT IS OKAY! Extra screen time for the kids might just be the difference between a peaceful afternoon and a mutual meltdown. That screen time gives you time to work, or catch up on that much needed “me time.”
Just one caveat; 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 extra screen time, but turn them off two hours before bedtime.
- 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 upend 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.
- Embrace the sun!
With being housebound comes lots of extra energy. Your children are not used to being stuck at home without friends, and recess, and playgrounds to help them tire themselves out. Getting outside is a really great idea! Finding outside activities will help tire them out as well as the Sunlight will help maintain the circadian rhythm. Getting fresh air and a little exercise will help everyone in the family!
- Early to bed, early to rise…
Now that we do not have to get up for work and school we may be tempted to stay up a little later or sleep in a little later, but sticking to the usual bedtimes and wake up times is really important. Predictability and structure are, again, sources of comfort for our kids. Things will eventually (phew) go back to normal, so sticking to what everyone is used to will save you from some tired and cranky kids down the road.
- Deep breath in, deep breath out
Staring, or continuing, a bedtime routine is really important to help settle down your children. Reading books is always a great way to settle down, and for older kids, some deep breathing exercises during their bedtime routine can help to relax them after a busy day.
And for you:
- Don’t Panic
Kids are very smart. They can pick up that their routine has changed, they can’t see their friends right now, and things are just different. Even if they do not bring it up much, there is a good chance they are worrying, even just a little bit, about what is going on. They also can pick up on our emotions well, so try to keep the atmosphere cheery and light. Everyone’s emotions are valid and real, but trying to save our emotions for a more appropriate time so we can help with our children’s emotions will help with our overall experience through this whole thing. 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 towards 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. Hearing things like “death toll” and the stress behind the reporter’s voices will stress our children out. We have to find different ways to stay informed, like online, or after the children go to bed. Instead, turn the TV on something more uplifting, or off, and just enjoy the time we have with our children. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it is that we are given the gift to press the pause button and enjoy the time with our children who are growing way too fast.
We will get through this. We will get back to the days where we can go to the playground, go out to eat, or get to have playdates, but for now, relish the moments we are given with our children and know that everything will be okay.