There seems to be so many different reactions to being in isolation. You have the people who are super positive and see this as an opportunity, the people who were bored the first day and any number of reactions in between. Then there are some people that thrive on being creative, others need to learn new things and for others predictable routine works. There are many facets to recharging who we are. The truth is, we will probably swing between all of these. As I keep saying in my blogs, kids will be the same as us. One minute kids will be happy that they don’t go to school, the next they are an emotional mess because they want to go to school. All of this is normal, but none of it is easy. So how do we get through this with our sanity?
What Recharges Us?
We need to work out what are the things that help us to be us. For someone who is highly extroverted, it will be talking to people and being involved in social activities. This is obviously really difficult at the moment and if being around others recharges you, then you are probably climbing the walls by now.
But what about introverted people? Surely they are loving this, well not necessarily. Introverted people recharge in quiet spaces, alone. There is nothing quiet about home-schooling and working from home. There is now no break from the people they live with. This doesn’t mean that they don’t love their family or being with them, it just means that their “people tank” is sucked dry and they need time alone to feel normal again.
Kids have their own personalities too. Some will be annoying everyone by constantly touching and talking. Others will want to sit in their room, under a home-made fort, building Lego. Some will be loving the new way of doing school online and learning things a new way, others will just want things to go back to the way they were; with a teacher at the front of the classroom, not on a computer screen. These are our clues for what our kids need. Trying to coordinate all these needs in a family can be difficult, especially if they are all so different.
For The Highly Social Adventurer
If you read my Blogs you will know that I am cautious when it comes to screen time with kids. But I also know that kids who thrive on social interaction will be struggling in isolation, and for their mental health, we need to meet that need. You can get them on the phone or Skype to talk to friends and family. Applications like Zoom, allow you to enjoy online video calls with multiple people. This is particularly helpful if their birthday happens during isolation.
Another way to share time with friends is to watch movies and videos with them virtually. For example, Google Chrome offers an extension called Netflix Party, which allows people to watch movies or TV shows simultaneously and remotely. A chat feature enables viewers to share their comments in real time. There are other applications out there that allow all levels of sharing virtual spaces, personal videos, and even music with friends, and this might be a good time to explore some of them.
To add a little adventure, some of the greatest museums around the world have online tours. Why not travel to France with a virtual tour of some of the Louvre’s most popular exhibits. You can visit the Vatican Museums, and many, many more museums throughout the world. Zoos and animal parks are doing live streams and even NASA is offering virtual tours.
To help with the need for connection, you could do letterbox drops to people in the neighbourhood. If you are lucky enough to have other children or willing adults on your street, you could have your child write letters, make crafts etc and drop them off to other people. Hopefully they will join in and drop things off to your child too.
For The Quiet Creator
The most important thing for these kids is recognising that they need this space and taking the lead from them. Let them have time away from siblings and even parents. It doesn’t mean they are depressed, they just need space to regroup. Make sure to allow this time. Let them have a sign on their door so nobody bothers them at this time. If they share a room, then have a space for them that means they need a break if they go there and everyone has to leave them alone.
They will probably already have hobbies they like but perhaps they can build on it. There are many free drawing lessons online, Lego challenges, craft and so many other resources. However these kids are not anti-social, they probably just don’t enjoy having lots of people all the time. They may need more one-on-one time. Now with working from home and having to deal with everyone else in the family, this may be hard for a parent. While we may not be able to have grandparents involved physically, they can help out here. Grandma can still read them a story on a video call, or watch them build something, we just have to be a bit more creative about how we do this.
As The Parent
Now in trying to work out what your children need and in supporting them, don’t forget yourself and your partner need to recognise these needs in yourselves too. We all know that we are not the best parents when we are on edge and stressed. What do you need to recharge? What helps you feel refreshed? Making times for these things is just as important for you as it is your kids. They need you to be okay. If you are climbing the walls from not enough social interaction, or if you are drained and exhausted from too much “people time”, then you are not okay.
Have the conversation with your family. Let everyone have their say on what they need. By parents saying “sometimes I need time alone”, you are making this normal and okay. Children and partners won’t see it as you avoiding them if you need some space, if you explain that this is something that is important for you to feel refreshed. In a similar way, if someone in the family needs more social attention, you can all brainstorm how to do this. Having the conversation means that everyone will feel more comfortable explaining their needs and for children (and adults really), this means they will be less likely to let it build up to the point of emotional outburst.