A smaller world…
As we were snuggled in her bed, my daughter said to me, “Mom, I feel like my world has become really small. We used to be able to go to the hiking trail, but now, we can’t even go there. My world is my house, my neighborhood, and my family. That’s it. It is weird. I wish we can go to Yosemite.”
This week, we were looking forward to rock climbing in Yosemite for spring break. The last time we were in Yosemite was when the kids were a lot younger, and we wanted to share this majestic place with them again. We had been excited about this trip.
However, that plan has changed. In solidarity with many Americans and many in the world who are sacrificing to manage this new virus, we are spending our spring break at home. We believe that this act is critical to saving lives.
We don’t have the grand view of El Capitain to enjoy, but at least we still have the view of the mountains near us and a yard to roam around in.
This social distancing, quarantine, self-isolation, whatever you want to call it, it is going to take some time before we get to enjoy the ways of life as in the past. My daughter is right in some ways. Our world has gotten smaller, and we need to learn to live with it for a bit or for a while, depending on your perspective.
Tips for Safer At Home with Kids
If you are enjoying this slower pace of rhythm, enjoy it with no guilt. It is a gift. However, if you find this change challenging, that is okay too. It is a significant shift for many of us, so you are not alone.
If your kids are finding this time challenging, know that they are not alone. Their world has changed. Initially, they might have thought it was for the better, but for some, the honeymoon phase will eventually come to an end. Be kind to yourself and to your kids. Here are some things that have been helpful for me in helping our kids adjust.
- Offer perspective without minimizing your kids’ complaints, struggles, and feelings. It would have been wonderful to go to Yosemite. We are disappointed too. However, I am so thankful that we have a yard, a trampoline, a quiet street to ride our bikes, and space. The truth is that we are very, very fortunate. Gratitude cannot be missed during this time. We can teach and model gratitude even in our disappointments.
- Create a regular routine for your kids and keep them. It makes a big difference. Try to minimize disruptions in your routine. Even if they act like they don’t want structure, they need it. Each family is different, and you know the right amount of structure, flexibility, and scheduling that work for your family. It’s okay if you’re still figuring out what works. Make small tweaks as you figure it out, but don’t redo your routine each time it doesn’t work as well as you had planned. Routines take time to take root. They will create a sense of stability, security, and comfort for kids.
- Limit your news coverage about COVID-19. In our family, we do not watch the news on television. My husband and I mostly read the news. We are intentional about when we talk about them rather than spewing out data and headlines in front of the kids. Each child has a different capacity to hear, process, and regulate their feelings about what they hear. Some kids will feel anxious, and they might not be able to articulate except through behaviors that seek your attention in a negative way. I would encourage limiting television coverage of COVID-19.
- Be conscientious about what you share. I know that sometimes I want to process what I read, and I have had my kids ask me a few times why I am crying. I try my best to share without the sensationalism and panic that some news like to use to get viewership. Share with your kids what you think is most useful for them. We are their filters, and they are still making their sense of their world through us.
- Answer your kids’ questions honestly. The truth is that there are a lot of things we do know about COVID-19, but there are still a lot of things we don’t know. While this might feel unsettling, this is the truth. Be honest about what you do know, and about what you don’t know. Help them to understand the purpose behind our stay at home social distancing.
- Get your kids involved in thinking about how they want to spend their “free” time. We made a list of things to do during spring break at home, things to bake, and things to watch. We can always choose to not follow the plan, but having a plan helps when kids are whining, “I’m bored, mom.” We wanted Spring Break to feel a little different from their regular school day routine so we said “one movie every day!” They were thrilled. “Mom, what’s gotten into you?” I think a thank you would have been fine, but I’ll take it as a big vote of approval. My rating has gone up. 🙂 We all need from time to time something to lighten up our days. (No judgment or guilt for those of us who let your kids watch a movie every day anyway!)
- Give some extra snuggles. Our kids seem to appreciate the extra snuggles, back scratches, and time spent together before going to bed. Usually, during the bedtime, their questions about COVID-19, their thoughts and insights about this unusual time, and any angst from the day get aired. It feels like a big sacrifice as I make the rounds from one room to the next because I am wiped out at the end of the day. But, I leave feeling connected, and they drift to sleep feeling loved, connected, and more at ease. Their world might have shrunk, but our connection does not need to shrink.
- Be attentive to your kids. Keep an eye on their energy level. Listen to their complaints, as annoying as they are. They are trying to let us know that something is going on internally. I have noticed that their energy level is pretty low on Thursdays. So, I make a mental note to be extra flexible, and to be more understanding when they seem more emotional on Thursdays.
- Post a lot of helpful tips, words, and beautiful works on your walls in the house. I am finding that as each day progresses, more and more things are starting to get taped on the wall. Our living room is becoming more like a classroom as we continue practicing being safer at home.
- Expand their world through prayer. We share some specific information about what is happening in different parts of the country and in the world as we pray together. Praying for our friends and family members dispersed across the globe helps us to know that this pandemic is impacting not just us, but everyone.
- Acknowledge the losses and grieve together. Their losses may seem small to us in comparison to what is happening in the world, but they are not insignificant to them. Let them know that you empathize with their losses, that you genuinely care about them, and what is important to them.
We are in it together. We will grow stronger through this crisis.