As virtually every school in the Denver metro area closed yesterday, parents around Colorado started to wonder the same thing as parents in other parts of the country have already been wondering: How am I going to get through the next few weeks or months (or until further notice), until life starts to go back to normal? There is no simple answer to this question, and no one knows how the situation will develop, but with a little intention, you (and your kids) can navigate through it.
Maintain a schedule.
Kids crave routines and predictability, so just because there isn’t school doesn’t mean that the best course of action is to ditch all routines and see where the day takes you. Try to enjoy healthy food as much as possible (or as much as your grocery supply allows). Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep. Brush teeth. Read stories at bedtime. Continue with family chores. During this time of ambiguity and irregularity, it’s important for children to feel some security, and sticking with a schedule can help provide that.
Talk with your kids and be present for them.
Children are incredibly perceptive and pick up on just about everything around them. They are curious and always wondering, and if we don’t give them the space to ask questions and get the information, they’ll gather information from their friends or snippets of adult conversations or the television. It’s really important during times like this that we are available to our kids to address their fears and make sure they feel safe. Check out this link from PBS Kids for more tips on talking with your kids and this piece from Psychology Today about parenting during this time.
Infuse learning however works for your family.
Some schools are using online platforms in order to continue student learning even when classes are met. If this is the case for you, make sure your child is familiar with the software and can navigate the different components. For some additional learning or for those who don’t have a distance program in place, many companies are offering free access to their services in order to help facilitate learning from home. Here is a spreadsheet that includes a good selection of them. PJ Library has created a bank of ideas here, and Jewish Interactive has a whole page for learning at home.
Just because kids aren’t at school doesn’t mean they can’t have recess. Encourage them to play in the backyard or go for a walk around the block or head to the mountains for a family hike (unless you are quarantined). It’s important not to be a part of any alrge gatherings during this time, but finding an empty trail could give you a few hours out of the house, some fresh air, and an adventure. Plus, research shows that going outside, regardless of the weather, makes us healthier because it can enhance our mood, boost our immune system, enhance memory and mindfulness, and help get us important vitamins that we lack when we spend all day inside.
Figure out a plan for yourself.
This is a hard time for all of us, not just our kids, so make sure to take care of yourself as well. Make sure you are eating and sleeping and talking with someone about how you are feeling (Exhausted from being home with kids all day? Nervous because your acquaintance with the gym may have tested positive? Stressed our because nothing is getting done?). Everything you are feeling is completely valid, and, while you might feel you need to be strong for your kids, it’s also okay to need support. Additionally, having your kids home all day everyday when they usually are not is a shift. It might mean laundry doesn’t get done or that meals are microwaved instead of cooked from scratch, so give yourself grace and just recognize that you are not alone (start a Facebook or WhatsApp group of parent friends of your to share tidbits, and then you’ll know you’re not alone). Additionally, here is a piece from the Harvard Business Review that nicely outlines steps for working parents.
Ultimately, this is a time of uncertainty for everyone. We’re all a little scared and a lot overwhelmed. We’re all unsure of what we’re supposed to be doing and how we’re supposed to actually do it, but we’ll figure it out together.