How I Manage to (Mostly) Like My Kids During COVID-19 Isolation
Over the past few months, my family has shared some precious, priceless moments of laughter and fun.
And we’ve also fought like a mob of wet emus.
Being caged together 24 hours a day hasn’t helped much. Of course, I love each one of my children (ages 9-16) dearly ... but sometimes those little beasts make me crazy! It’s like we’re all bouncing on a trampoline these days: one moment we’re soaring through the air, then plummeting down and bounding back up again. Our moods fluctuate in an instant — all of us. Experiencing a global pandemic that tips your life upside-down seemingly overnight will do that.
But it is what it is. And we need to make the best of it, because who knows how long it will last. Slowly, we’ve found a peaceful rhythm to this COVID isolation. And it’s become kind of awesome. My husband and I have noticed a few things we try to keep in mind that are helping make our forced togetherness go a little smoother.
1. Get on the Same Ride
Most days, I feel like I’m at Six Flags — there are headaches and junk food, someone pees their pants (usually me on the trampoline), and sometimes there’s barf. Home isolation is a rollercoaster, but it helps if you can get your family on the same ride. Find simple things you enjoy doing together — cooking, baking, family walks, dancing, movie-nights, games or music — and designate nights for those activities. It’s hard to find similar interests, especially when teenagers are in the mix. In the beginning we sometimes had to force family togetherness. But then we’d lay off a few days and give the kids license to do their own things. My husband and I needed some time that we could spend alone together, too. Sometimes you feel like hanging out together and sometimes you don’t, and that’s okay. But syncing those feelings so that you’re all on the same track is key. Come together, hang-out and enjoy each other, and then have some time to yourselves. Now that we’ve settled into a new pace, we find that the kids often seek out our company and ask to do stuff as a family. It’s a miracle!
2. Give Them Some Little Victories
I’ve never had to put a lot of screen limits on my 14-year-old son. He plays two sports and usually hates sitting still. Baseball is his obsession, and this was his last year in Little League. He was the team captain, and so excited to help lead them to victory. And then it all just ... stopped. No practices. No games. No friends to throw the ball with. Just school at home and time with his family — every teenager’s version of hell. Now he’s finding himself with something he doesn’t usually have: time on his hands. He’s getting all of his schoolwork and chores done, practicing baseball on his own for several hours a day, and still has hours to fill. So he’s turned to the solace of video games. Especially because he can meet up with his friends within those games and play together. He’s at it five or six hours a day. He also likes to get on when his siblings go to bed and play into the wee hours with his buddies. Of course, all that screen time isn’t good for him. But I had to pick my battles. The kid needs a win. He needs to rebel a little and to feel like he has some control. If playing video games too late helps him cope with what he’s lost this year, then I’m willing to look the other way for now. Ever since we stopped nagging and gave him a little freedom to break the rules, he has been so much easier to live with and we’ve enjoyed our time together more. I’m not suggesting anyone throw out the rule book all together ... just maybe selectively ignore a few parts every now and then.
3. Embrace the Grump
This pandemic has hit us all in different ways. Many families have been devastated by a loss of life and health, and others are experiencing economic ruin. Others of us have only had to endure the inconvenience of staying home, and we should remember how lucky we are. But just by living through these times, we have all experienced some kind of loss — especially our kids. Childhood is finite. There are only so many years of youth, and young people should be allowed some grief. Although it’s important to try to be positive, it’s also good to know that it’s okay to feel bad sometimes or have an off day. And, when we invariably show our humanness and lash out, we should apologize, and try to do better. But we all have days where we just want to pull the covers over our heads and enjoy a good wallow in our misery. So I’m giving the kids a little freedom to embrace the doldrums every now and then. Because, as Scarlett O’Hara once said, tomorrow is another day.
Who knows how much more time we’ll need to spend in isolation until this virus runs its course. All we can do is try to get through it. So strap in, hang on, and find ways to enjoy the ride.