How can parents get through the summer, and possibly the rest of 2020, with kids at home during Covid19? Child Counselor Allie Spomer adds her insights to this week’s article, How to Get through the Rest of the Year with Kids at Home.
How to Get through the Rest of the Year with Kids at Home
If you feel burned out from having your kids at home 24/7 and having to play the role of parent, friend and teacher, you aren’t alone. Parents across the country have reached the end of their ropes with our “new normal.”
So how can you get through the summer, and possibly the rest of 2020 with your kids at home? It might be tough, but it’s possible if you’re willing to be flexible.
Start by understanding your family’s unique challenges and coming up with plans to deal with those specific issues.
There’s plenty of great information out there to help parents and families through the COVID-19 safe-at-home orders, but not all of what you find will apply to your family. There’s no sense in overwhelming yourself and wasting time on tips that don’t benefit you.
Many parents have found their greatest challenge is being a full-time parent while also being a full-time employee from home. Others aren’t sure how they’ll handle things re-opening, which means having to return to work when childcare options are limited. Still others are faced with a lack of summertime activities and are struggling to keep kids busy when there’s very little to do outside of the home.
Keeping kids active and content isn’t the only challenge.
Families have been stretched thin in this new environment we’re all navigating. There might be issues with financial matters if one or both parents have been furloughed or are facing more permanent changes in income. There are also emotional issues. Things might be more settled than they were a month or two ago, but people are still scared and unsure of what the future holds. That’s stressful and it can be difficult to manage emotions when you also have parental responsibilities.
Once you’ve identified your primary challenges, try to come up with a game plan for dealing with the rest of the year.
First, try to take things day-by-day. Start each day by checking in with yourself and then checking in with your children. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings we’re having and deal with those feelings and how they change each day.
Also acknowledge that those difficult emotions might interfere. If you or your kids are having a rough day emotionally, it’s a good opportunity to change direction in the plans for the day. It’s important to know that routines and goals are important, but we’re in uncharted territory. It’s okay to reroute the day and do something that’s fun or soothing without sacrificing learning or your child’s wellbeing.
Determine what’s essential. If you can identify three to five goals your child needs to meet by the end of the year, you’re already ahead of the game. Focus on meeting those goals and you’ll stay on track.
Two Big Dont’s
According to Alicia Spomer, “The biggest dont’s parents can avoid when motivating their child this summer would be not to make negative comments about their motivation level. Children thrive on positive reinforcement, so starting with a positive compliment about something they did would be a great encouragement for them to be able to get motivated for things they need to do. Also, reward systems work great for kids in general, so if they do their tasks they can earn a trip to somewhere they choose (like an ice cream place) or a new toy from the store, etc. Punishment does not go far in these circumstances. If a parent must address a lack of motivation, the most welcome way is to sit and ask them questions about why they are feeling certain ways, instead of jumping to traditional discipline tactics.”
Things Parents Can Do to Help
Do keep your child excited about learning. There’s no denying this is difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Helping your child develop a love of learning not only makes it easier to get through this challenging period, it also means your child will be better prepared to return to school. A lot of kids haven’t learned how much fun learning can be up to this point, so this can be a great time to teach them.
This is also a chance to help your child learn in a customized environment. If your kid has a love of a certain topic, take advantage of that and use it to teach many things. For example, if you have a child obsessed with robots or dinosaurs, there’s no reason why history, math, reading, and art lessons can’t all be robot or dinosaur themed.
Alicia Spomer, “For teens who want to stay in and do art or have screen time, I would suggest creating an outdoor activity for the teen, possibly a challenge of some sort. Typically teens want to be alone in their independent spaces to chat with their friends via text or snapchat, be on their phones for tik-tok or other social media, so incorporating some of their interests in the outdoor challenge would be engaging to them. For example, if a teen is interested in art or other creative activities, maybe the parent and the teen could create chalk artwork in two different areas of the house and have the rest of the family vote on it.”
The biggest things with teens is feeling heard by their parents. The biggest complaint I hear with my teens in session is that they don’t feel like anyone listens to them, especially their parents, which is why they would rather be in their room and on the phone. Showing that extra effort in wanting to spend time in creative ways with them can boost their level of interest in and encourage more time spent with parents in the future.”
Dealing with Emotional Issues When There is So Much Going On
Even if you’re able to mostly conquer the homeschooling challenges of lockdown, that doesn’t mean every day will be easy. Kids and parents both are dealing with tough emotions right now. People everywhere are frustrated, confused, isolated, scared, and all of the other negative emotions that come to mind. It’s important for parents to help kids find ways to express those emotions productively and also learn to do that themselves.
It can help to blend homeschool activities with managing difficult emotions. Consider starting the day with journaling time where you take 15 or 20 minutes, or more if needed, to write out your thoughts and feelings about everything going on. Parents and kids can do this together because it helps people of all ages. It’s okay to talk about what’s written after or to keep it private. The important thing is acknowledging those emotions and finding ways to express them in healthy ways.
Physical activity is also important for coping during this time. Just as kids would have PE or recess in school, make sure your children are getting plenty of active time. Most locations have outdoor spaces open at this point, so consider going for a hike or playing in an open park space. If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space at home, try setting up an obstacle course in the yard or incorporating water play into outdoor time. If neither of these is an option, you can do similar activities indoors.
Alicia Spomer, “Children under eight can thrive with parents as their social partner; role play activities such as puppet shows, dress up, or any child directed activity they want the parent to do. Children under eight typically just want someone to play a game with them and engage with what they choose and they can thrive off of that.”
There are plenty of ways to make the best of what the world is going through right now, but it will take some creativity and planning. If you use this time to focus on nurturing your relationship with your children, even if you also have other concerns and responsibilities and even if you don’t stick exactly to the plan, your family will make it through this difficult period.