It is April 15th and we are smack dab in the middle of a nationwide pandemic. This is something that we are all trying to navigate the best we can. We have offically been quarantined for one month and I’ve been reflecting over the last few days. It’s interesting to take a step back and view from afar how we handle stressful situations.
The first few days were strange. Rumors were going around and I wasn’t sure if I would be going work the next day since some schools were closing while others were not. The moment we heard the announcement that our children would be home from school for 3 weeks (at the beginning, it was only 3 weeks, now they will not return to school until the Fall) I immediately went into problem solving mode. What will being at home look like when we can’t be outside all the time like in the summer? How can we make the most of this time together?
I have always loved to travel and I constantly crave a sense of adventure. At the time, it was recommended to stay at home but I didn’t see the difference of being home or being in a cottage up north. So I booked a cottage that was $25 a night in a quiet town three and a half hours away (mind you, when this started, our county had the highest number of cases and getting out of here felt like a way of solving the problem for my family.) So we packed up after the first week of being home and getting into a “home school” routine and headed up north. It was quiet and simple and allowed me time to process it all and work through some tricky emotions I was experiencing myself. While up north, our governor announced a “Shelter in Place” order and we soon returned home after that.
Dave and I were honest with them from the start. But we made sure to share FACTS with the kids and not the HYSTERIA that was happening all around us. I know I had to remove myself from the drama to protect myself. I limited my social media and found that the news was not something I needed to tune into. I am an avoider and my husband likes ALL THE INFORMATION. And after several days of arguing that first week about this difference in our coping strategies, we realized it’s okay for us to process a pandemic differently. I spent the day focusing on our new routine with the kids and at night, Dave would update me on the news I needed to know. Back to the kids, we kept life as normal as we could. We asked them about how they were feeling. We answered questions honestly. But we didn’t talk about our own anxieties in front of them. They still made their beds every morning, got dressed and brushed their teeth before we started our learning. We still ate meals together and went to bed at a reasonable time. Life went on as close to normal as we could keep it for the kids.
Avoiding going out was the goal from the very beginning. Planning 10-12 days of meals helped. We never went crazy with canned goods and paper goods (although looking back, we should have since others are hoarding toilet paper and paper towel!) We didn’t order from our normal routine of using Click List because the system was overloaded. We made a list, wore a mask and went early in the morning to shop.
We quickly realized that with all five of us home, we were eating more food than normal. A snack at school for the kids is one or two things. At home, it seemed like snack time was from 10am to lunch time! Again, we had to work out all of these little things in those first few weeks. I actually limited the snacks for my kids because it was so distracting for them. I kept thinking of how it is for them at school–one snack in the morning is what they get! I am noticing that I am becoming better at serving leftovers and using everything in our pantry.
One thing was for sure, I enjoyed providing healthy meals those first days. It was a way of controlling what was in my hands.
Honestly, it took a good week to ten days to get boundaries and expectations in place so that the routine ran smoothly (and by smoothly I do NOT mean perfect. Let’s be real here!) We make sure beds are made, the kids are dressed and teeth are brushed. Jammie days are awesome but if we are in this for a long time (which it looks like we are since schools are closed until the fall) we need to FEEL normal and staying in pajamas all day is not what our old normal looked like. Once they are at that point, we go over the lessons for the day. Our 5th grader is mostly independent here but our 2nd grader and kindergartner still need help. We set the Alexa timer for 30 minutes and they each work in a different area. 30 minutes for math, reading and writing. 90 minutes total. Next we send them out to play and they eat lunch. After lunch they have an hour of creative time, which is when they can work on the assignments from their Media, Art or Gym teachers. We also have an hour of Quiet Time where they are all in their rooms playing by themselves. After that it’s around 3pm and they play outside again. We normally save screen time outside of their school work for the evening where we relax and watch a show as a family. Remember not to compare your day with ours in a self sabotaging way if your children are not at similar stages. We all live in a different “season” of parenting. But what we do have in common is navigating this uncharted territory of homeschooling, working from home, etc. etc. etc!
It’s interesting when something like this happens and you see your coping strategies come out shining their true colors. I call myself an avoider but that doesn’t really do justice. I like to know some facts. I am a rule follower but at the same time, I do not have any interest in participating in the hysteria around a crisis. Funny memes to make us chuckle when we’ve been inside for weeks, yes please! Unnecessary worry and fear? No thank you. Since my hysterectomy over a year ago I have put in the time to work on mindset and I know that the human race can do great harm to their anxieties but participating in the stories that start to circulate online.
Not only is our mindset important during this time but so is getting movement for our bodies. More challenging now that gyms are closed? YES IT IS! But NATURE is OPEN for business all day long. If that won’t work, several fitness companies are now offering fantastic virtual options. I must say, High Fitness has become a favorite of mine. I have also found going on walks with my kids has been a way to get movement in. We ride bikes during the day and I try and get out alone before our morning routine begins if weather permits.
Those first few weeks were difficult not only trying to navigate our new family normal but I run a publishing company that I needed to switch into crisis mode. You see, March is my busiest time of year for work. It’s a time that I travel to multiple speaking events, it’s a time when I released my new parenting book, Sunny Side Upbringing: A month-by-month guide to raising kind and caring kids. All of which got canceled. I know families are losing so much more than finances so I am mindful to keep my complaints to a minimum. But I sure did have to grieve the significant I experienced in my income as well as many disappointments. There was this strange stigma where you had all this disappointment but you didn’t feel like you could be sad about it because so many people had bigger losses.
Last but not least, when dealing with all of this from my own perspective, I noticed I was drinking wine every. single. night. Those first 10 days. I don’t sit here and judge others for their drinking habits but I know what feels normal to me is a glass of wine on the weekends. Rachel Hollis started a free 90 day challenge on March 30th so I jumped on the bandwagon to participate. It is a great way to help you focus on the (what she calls) Five to Thrive. Five key ways to feel good each day. One of which she recommends you give up a food that doesn’t make you feel good like sugar or carbs or alcohol. I chose to give up alcohol during this. I think there is power in feeling your feelings during a crisis instead of drinking to ease those feelings. Again, this is judgement free and only speaking to how I am choosing to handle myself during this lockdown to make the experience better for me. Back to her free challenge, each week she sends out a motivational talk on a specific topic. So far we have heard about perspective and choosing joy. They have been excellent and I recommend you join at anytime.
Dave likes to get alllll the facts. It’s the complete opposite as me but what is the old saying? Opposites attract! Our first week home involved a lot of disagreeing on how we should be handling the lockdown. It took us some long conversations to see that while he liked to consume the news, I prefered to focus on the kids, our day to day and hear the Cliff Notes version of what I needed to do to keep our family safe.
I have found how important it has been for me to put in the extra effort to keep our kids in communication with their friends. The girls are in 2nd and 5th grade and they have been getting on Zoom calls with their friends each week. I see it’s even more important for our 5th grader because as children get older, more focus goes on their friendships and they have seem to have stronger bonds. I have also noticed a significant change in their MOODS when they have connected online with their friends.
Our school has done a wonderful job of staying in communication with families. They have set up Google Classrooms with suggested daily assignments for each grade level. As helpful as this is, this also added to that first two weeks anxiety. Trying to manage each of the three kids lessons, the routine, my work, my health, the husband being home working, etc. It was a lot!!! So what I found is that doing most of the work but not stressing about getting it all done is what works for us. Some families are very active in posting comments in the digital classrooms and that also overwhelmed me. The pressure of not doing “enough” was too much. I know my kids are doing the work, I don’t need to be sharing this news every step of the way. The work is not being counted as credit, I see how important it is for my kids to do the work, but we don’t need to be taking pictures of every assignment and posting it. Something’s got to give while Dave and I are also working from home. Give yourself GRACE and do what’s best for YOUR FAMILY!
I knew I liked our church, a Sunday home to us for 9 years now. But now I LOVE our church as they have taken their services online so we can stay connected during the quarantine. We have gotten calls from our children’s leaders to check in and see how they were doing. We had a woman call and pray with me which came during that first 10 days when I could use the extra prayers as we tried to figure it all out.
Five Tips to Helping Your Children During Quarantine
- Create a “new normal” routine that works for YOUR FAMILY (stop comparing yourself to others 🙂 )
- Keep them connected to their friends (Zoom or Facetime calls weekly)
- Ask them how they are feeling. Give them space to talk about it.
- Fuel their bodies-hydration, clean foods and plenty of movement.
- Use this time to bond as a family. This is a unique opportunity that should not be wasted.
Five Ways to Help Yourself During Lockdown
- Move your body each day.
- Tune in to how YOU are feeling. Think about what you CAN control.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Use this time to do something around the house that you “never have time for”
- Stay connected to your family and friends as much as possible (be sure to follow the stay home, stay safe rules)
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