by Vivek Gulati
So my son’s school is closed for 2 weeks and then there’s a two week break after that. When I first heard that he was going to be home for 4 weeks — with potentially no camp or after school activities — I freaked out. What am I going to do?
I work from home. So I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to work. The very first thing I did was to take a few breaths and come to terms with the situation. Once I did that, my mind settled down a bit, and I could start seeing the bright side. It is going to be an interesting time ahead for us. These are my top tips on how to navigate this time as a parent.
1. Keep a Schedule
Sure, there is no school. Sure, there may not be any sports or classes to go to, but still keep a schedule. It doesn’t need to be waking up at 6:30am. It could be waking up at 8:30am. It doesn’t have to be bed time at 7:30pm, it could be at 9pm.
Our bodies have a certain rhythm. We wake up at a certain time. We sleep at a certain time. The more we can stay consistent in our routines, the healthier our body and mind are. This is even more important for kids. Kids thrive on the consistency of routine. It doesn’t need to be a regimented schedule.
At the very least, keep the waking, sleeping and meal times consistent.
2. Time to Rejuvenate
We live in busy times. Most of us don’t get enough sleep. The kids are no less busy. School, soccer practice, piano lessons, … the list goes on and on. Even most kids are sleep deprived. Given that most kids activities are not going to happen for the next few weeks, let this be a time to rejuvenate. We can make sure the kids (and hopefully us parents) get enough sleep. A well rested child is a happy child.
I like to think of this time as a way for nature to force us to slow down.
3. Manage Their Energy
We know that the kids have much more energy than us. During a regular day, they get outlets to spend that energy. During these times of staying at home, if we don’t manage their energy, it can be a problem. If a child does not get enough exercise, they tend to get irritable and angry easily. If they are over tired, then they also throw tantrums.
Do you remember the time when we were growing up? If we played enough, we’d be hungry and we’d eat whatever mom gave us. If the kids are not hungry enough, they’re going to be fussy about their food too. Inherently, we know this.
Have some time where they play freely. And if that’s not sufficient, put in some structured exercise — yoga with online videos, Fitbit Coach, made up running/jumping/obstacle course competitions, long bike rides — whatever works for you.
4. Manage Your Energy
Have you noticed that we get irritated when we’re tired? That’s when we want the kids to go play video games or watch tv — so we don’t have to deal with them. If you’re working from home or not working during this time, take this time to manage your energy. Get good rest, explore things like yoga and meditation.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be hooked to meditating. Or you’ll fall in love with sun salutations.
Indulge in some extra self care so you can care for the kids better.
5. Discover Your Child
It is said that in a child’s personality, one third of the influence comes from the home. One third of it is from the peers. And one third of it the child is born with and cannot be changed.
During this time when there is no rushing to school, no commute, take the time to consciously discover and influence your child’s personality.
You can discover your child’s (and your own) love language. And plan activities accordingly.
My son’s love language is quality time. So we’re planning on playing a lot of board games together or biking together. Discover what they like, what they don’t.
It is said that aimless time together is what creates deep bonds. This is the perfect time to do just that!
6. Learn Something New Together
Being cooped up at home doesn’t have to be boring. Nor do you need to get on each other’s nerves. It could very well be a time to learn something new together. Pull out a cookbook. Or dust off the telescope. Or use YouTube videos to learn sketching. Especially with the Internet, the choices are endless.
You never know, maybe your kids will discover something they love so much that they’ll choose that over video games.
7. Instill New Habits and Daily Practices
Maybe your child learned some breathing techniques but never got into the habit of practicing it. Maybe you’ve always wanted your child to learn the way you pray in your tradition. Maybe your child always wanted you to read stories to them but you never had the time or the energy. Or, maybe you know that giving your child a daily oil massage would be great for them but you didn’t have the time. Whatever it is for you, take this opportunity.
Now when there isn’t so much of a rush, this might be a perfect time to instill those new habits or establish those daily practices.
Finally, this: how we handle these times is how our children will handle tough times in their life. If we get stressed, panicked, then that will impact them. If we handle things calmly and make the best of the situation we’re in, then that is what will stay with them.