Due to social distancing requirements, we have seen schools close across the nation and family homes become the core of our everyday lives, as they turn into classrooms, daycares and workplaces. For many parents, spending an increased amount of time with their children in constant close quarters has led to an uptick in stress and conflict.
According to a recent study, 25 percent of parents reported more conflict with their children since quarantine. Taking advantage of this time and setting some clear rules and boundaries can help ease this stress and conflict, and make this time at home more enjoyable for the whole family.
Set a Daily Schedule
Ensuring a proper routine for yourself and your kids can help make your day more productive while keeping your kids busy and on the right track. Talk with your children about why they are staying home right now and have them help create a family daily schedule. Make sure to post the schedule somewhere where the whole family can see it, whether it’s on the fridge or on the household bulletin board.
Having a set time to wake up, eat breakfast and work on school will help maintain structure in your kids life during this time. When creating the schedule, remember to include breaks from work and schoolwork to relax and connect as a family. Schedule time for breaks throughout the day and fill them with physical activity, preferably outside with some fresh air and sunshine, if you can do so while still practicing social distancing. Plan for mealtimes with healthy and nutritious lunches and end the day with normal bedtime routines.
If you are working from home, it may also be a good idea to have a discussion with your children and spouse about the times you are unavailable. Set aside a separate workstation and make it known that this area is solely for this purpose.
Communicate with Your Children
Most kids don’t understand the dangers and extent of the pandemic and are probably confused about why the whole world is closing down around them. They may be bored with the same routine at home and not being able to play with their friends. Have a discussion with your children and answer any questions they may have to help ease their mind. Remember, while this may be a daunting time as an adult, not knowing fully about what is going on can be scary to children.
Avoid having the news play all day. If your children do listen to the news, talk about what they are hearing and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear. If you are unsure about what current headlines are accurate, visit the CDC website to fact check information. Also use this time to discuss positive stories in the news and answer any questions they may have.
One in five parents reported an increase in yelling at their kids since the pandemic was declared and 52 percent said financial concerns have affected their parenting. If you lose your cool and snap at your kid, which may likely happen with increased stress, apologize to them. Parents can say, “I am sorry I was mean to you. It didn’t have anything to do with you, and I apologize.” By communicating with your children like mature equals, you are helping them learn how to repair relationships and communicate clearly.
The screen time limits that you may have had in place prior to the pandemic most likely need adjusting. While limits are still important, it is crucial to understand that circumstances are different now. Use this time to help your child make the most of technology through homeschooling and other educational opportunities online.
If your child doesn’t already have at-home-schooling materials provided by their institution, contact teachers about educational activities they can do online and offline. There are also online resources like Storyline Online, where children can stream videos featuring actors reading children’s books, and Busy Toddler, which provides simple, educational activities to do with your child, that are a great way to turn screen time into learning time. Common Sense Media is another great outlet for at-home learning opportunities and offers engaging apps, websites and video games.
While your children can’t connect with their classmates and family members face-to-face, they can use their screen time to socialize. Set up a virtual playdate for your child or a FaceTime call with grandparents so they can stay in touch and interact with someone outside of the household.
Technology can be greatly beneficial during this time period in helping children learn and stay connected, but it is still important to set limits and allow time for sleep, family connections, reading, learning and physical activity. Sit down with your kids and make a family media plan to establish how much time they can play online and where their devices will charge at night.
Schedule Time for Yourself
It is atypical to spend so much time as a family together in the same shared space. As a parent, it is important to schedule time for self-care. Whether that involves finding a quiet spot in the house to have a cup of coffee each morning, locking yourself in the bathroom for ten minutes or going for a run before the family is up, take a step back to give yourself a break from the stress.
While following your daily routine may seem of the utmost importance right now, remain flexible and don’t be too hard on yourself. Your children may be having more screen time and you may be feeling increasingly overwhelmed, but remember you don’t have to be the perfect parent right now, these times are unprecedented and everyone, including yourself, is working to do the best they can with the situation at hand.
Overall, the well-being as a provider and caregiver should sit at the top of your priority list during this isolation period. Give yourself some grace if you are feeling down and try to exercise self-compassion. Be grateful and work to acknowledge the positives of your situation, like getting to spend more time with your family, but also don’t dismiss how you’re feeling, as these times are hard and stressful.
While stay-at-home orders may be leading to an increase in family time and stress, remember to take each day on its own and remain positive. This won’t last forever and your children are likely feeling the same range of emotions and confusion during this time. Properly planning a flexible, daily schedule, communicating with your children, making adjustments to prior rules and taking care of yourself will help ensure the sanity of your whole family while you work through these tough times.
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