- Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus
Well, here we are. We, together, as a global society, are navigating uncharted waters together and trying to keep not only our own heads afloat, but those of our families and our communities. This post is as much for me as it is for all of you. As the reality of the situation continues to set in for me, and as I adjust to the ever-present danger in this ever-changing situation, I find myself both relying on old strategies and having to invent new ones.
This time is especially difficult for me and families like mine, as I have a child with extra needs. My oldest has speech and motor delays and has been in co-op preschool, developmental preschool through the public school system, and receiving outside speech and occupational therapy appointments. These services have been vital in helping him surmount the challenges that have made it difficult for him to communicate his wants and needs to us. They've provided a space for him to learn and grow at his own pace. The routines and expectations these schools and services have provided have been absolutely instrumental in him communicating more, engaging more with his environment, and showing us more of his wonderful personality.
It's hard out here for everyone. Each family is facing their own unique challenges, but for some of us, this disruption is even more, well, disruptive. Thus, I've been doing my best to plan for how we're going to cope for the next six (possibly more!!) weeks, drawing on my years of working with children and teaching preschool. Hopefully you find something in here that can work for your family, or at lesat spark an idea to help you deal with these challenging times. This post is geared toward those of us with littler littles, but I'm sure you can adopt and adapt these strategies for different age groups.
- Schedules and Routines
week one weekly spread in my bullet journal
- Set a Routine: Children crave routine. Kids like mine thrive in routine (and I know I do, too). Having a routine brings a sense of normalcy and sets expectations for the day. When life is as disrupted as it is now, especially for us in Seattle, it's more important than ever to try to replicate some of the routines they'd be doing at preschool or day care.
- Be Flexible: This may seem contradictory given my previous point, but you may find that the schedule you set up isn't working for your little as well as you thought it would. Change it up. This is a big reason I love my bullet journal: I can set up schedules in it and track what is working and what isn't. Maybe we'll need to make outdoor time a morning activity rather than an afternoon one. We might need more time for crafts and less outdoor time as time goes on. I can check in with my schedule and revise each week as needed.
- Make a Plan: Drawing on my time as a preschool teacher, I'm setting up a different arts and crafts project for each day. This week's schedule has us setting up our routine by making weather bottles (little pom-poms in mason jars to simulate the weather) for circle time and an Irish flag made out of construction paper for St. Patrick's Day. I also have a mental list of other activities we can do that will be enriching and also kill a lot of time, like threading beads on pipe cleaners (a fantastic fine motor activity). Having a plan and a list makes it easier to keep them occupied and engaged.
- Make Easy to Prep Snacks: One thing I've started doing over the past year is cutting up fruit as soon as I get it home and putting it in containers. My children go through literally pounds and pounds of fresh fruit every week and having it pre-cut makes snack assembly a much easier task. I also have our crunchy snacks in clear containers in the pantry for the same reason: less sorting through chip-clipped bags of things and easier to show my children the snack in question and ask if they want it. Having this system in place has saved my ass on more than one occasion when there was a mutiny brewing if snacks/meals were not delivered immediately.
- Coping Emotionally
your moment of zen
- Contingency Plans: One of my favourite charts from grad school was a hexagon of tasks like "papers graded on time" and "reading done" that said "pick one and expect to fail at it." I take this same approach to parenting. I don't expect that everything will go as planned, and especially not every single day. This goes back to being flexible, but I always have to have a contingency plan in place. Sometimes that contingency plan means a little more outdoor time, or sometimes it means I throw my hands in the air, turn on Daniel Tiger, and hide in my kitchen while I take a few deep breaths. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that, but seriously, have a little grace with yourself and take each day as it comes.
- Modeling Emotions: You're your kids' first and most prominent emotion coach. They're little sponges soaking up every single thing you teach them, from basic math to how to handle and process their emotions. This doesn't mean you always have to put on a happy face. Sometimes you'll lose it, especially when things are as topsy-turvy as they are right now. One of the best lessons we can teach kids is how to recover from these moments, how to process them, and how to do better next time. We can show them how to deal with those feelings of uncertainty and doubt, and help them dig deeper into the reasons behind certain behaviours. Now is an especially difficult time for everyone and it's vital we allow ourselves to feel our feelings and, again, just get through it as it comes.
- Tune Out: I am Extremely Online. I spend far too much time on the internet, and especially on the bird hellsite. Most days I get a few laughs and keep up with friends; other days, I'm a sentinent floating orb of anxiety. Having my schedules and keeping myself occupied is a way to help me put down my ding dang phone and not get caught up in the feedback loop of being too informed and scared out of my mind. You can always catch up on the important things later.
- Establish (Digital) Connections: We don't know when these social distancing measures will ease and we can start to see each other again. That's hard to deal with. I'm an ambivert -- I love people as much as I love my time alone, and I also love leaving my house and engaging in things outside, from going to shops or museums to exploring the outdoors. None of those are really available now. So I, like so many others, are taking this time to text and video chat more with, well, pretty much everyone.
- Get Through It: On my hardest days, i always remind myself that if everyone is fed and no one is dead, I have done my job. I don't always have to provide enriching activities. Sometimes one or all of us is/are gonna have a bad day, and we just have to get through them. This is another reason I love my schedules: if I just have to go through the motions through each activity, I know what each activity is and how long I have until I can just completely check out. We all have those days, and we've gotten through all of them. And if we all do our part to take care of each other, from social distancing to supporting each other how we may need, we'll get through these ones. Good luck out there.