With massive numbers of school closures beginning across the county, it’s important to have a plan. Most kids and their parents are not accustomed to 24/7 exposure for weeks on end. Here are some ways to get through with your sanity and even how to enjoy it.
Do School for set limited hours. Most children attend school for seven hours a day, but it really doesn’t take that long to learn the material. When working with children one-on-one they can learn much faster. Plan a few hours (2-3 for young kids, 3-4 for teens) a day to work on schoolwork and schedule it into the day. Have that time remain consistent and don’t negotiate this. If you have a non-negotiable time kids might fuss at first but eventually, when they realize there is nothing else happening until the work is done, they will get going.
Don’t recreate the wheel. There are millions of useful resources available online right now. You don’t have to have a lesson plan or become a teacher yourself. Most likely schools will offer guidance. But if not, there is Khan academy, Common Sense Media and loads of resources available by simply googling.
Be creative in how school gets done. School at home isn’t just about homework. Show documentaries, read books aloud, discuss news articles, download some audible books related to what your kids are learning in school. Whatever you do, think about how to make this enjoyable for your children and for you.
Break the rules. Living together, under one roof, in sometimes small areas, can be stressful. Be willing to change some of the rules to help everyone get along and find something to do. Have a picnic or a camp out. Make a fort and don’t bother cleaning it up. Have dinner with a movie (even every night). Bake a ridiculous amount of sweets and eat them. Play games for hours. Binge watch a show (but do it together). Sometimes keeping order is about breaking the rules in favor of fun and survival.
Don’t break all the rules. Chaos ensues pretty quickly when all rules are thrown out the window. Keep some semblance of order by having some rules that cannot be negotiated or changed. For example, keep up with bedtimes and wake times. Don’t allow phones and computers at all hours in the bedrooms. Limit screen time reasonably. Have mealtimes rather than everyone takes food whenever and wherever. Find what works for your family and stick to it.
Ignore It!. One of a parent’s best defenses against poor behavior is to ignore it. Yes, sometimes things get better when we do nothing. It’s amazing, very freeing and it works. I wrote a whole book about this. But here’s the primer: Not every behavior has to be disciplined and sometimes giving it attention only makes it happen more often. Life at home in a quarantine is hard enough. Be willing to look the other way, let some small stuff go and ignore anything annoying. There’s no benefit to discussing every behavior and there is a gigantic one to avoiding it. Trust me on this. You can read all about Ignore It! here and here.
Separate. Too much together time is just, well, too much. Have breaks in the day when everyone goes to their own corner. Consider it rest hour. Read. Try to break a Guinness Book of World Records. Write letters. Paint. Sew. Make a movie. Work. Build LEGO. It doesn’t matter what people are doing during that time, just do it alone.
Disconnect, a little. There will be the temptation to check Facebook and email continuously to stay connected. That will be important. But too much of that will have diminishing returns. Have time in the day when devices are banned, for everyone (parents, I’m looking at you).
Find the fun and funny. There will be a lot of ridiculous moments when so much time is spent together at home. You will have to laugh or you will scream. Find the funny. Write it down. Share it with friends. Be silly in ways you aren’t normally. It will make this time more memorable and so much more tolerable.
Share the load. Being homebound means finding ways to share to chores. Assign every member of the house a workload. This isn’t permanent but everyone needs to pitch in. Here are some ideas to get you started. If there is another adult in the house, have a meeting to divvy up the work what children cannot do. This will help with resentment and also not burdening one family member.
Say thank you. Sometimes we forget our manners. This isn’t the time for that. Thank your kids for helping out and doing their homework. Thank your neighbors for leaving food at your door. Thank your partner for supporting you. Thank your employer for letting you work from home. You get the idea. Thank you goes a very very long way in keeping the peace and making everyone feel appreciated.