3 Tips for Keeping Kids Sane During the Pandemic
By Julie Bogart, Homeschool Expert
Whether you’re a home-school kid or a “suddenly-at-home” school kid, COVID-19 has altered all of our busy lives. Soccer practices in masks, piano lessons over Zoom, children parked in front of computers for hours at a time to learn about fractions and adverbs. No trips to the zoo or park days with friends. Kids are staring at the same four walls each day with little relief.
This COVID season is especially challenging for “working from home” parents, too. Suddenly you need to provide an education while earning a living, under the anxiety of getting sick. I know a little something about that. I raised five kids — home-schooled them and ran a business at the same time. Even so, I didn’t have a global pandemic haunting my every decision.
All of us look for ways to foster learning and play for our families. We don’t want to simply pacify our children while we hover over our computers. I hated it when my kids fell into the dreaded “wandering nomad syndrome” — kids who glaze over and complain that there is still nothing to do. I wanted them to be meaningfully engaged, and I wanted to get my work done, too, without feeling resentful of their reasonable interruptions or guilty for not being more attentive.
"I raised five kids — home-schooled them and ran a business at the same time. Even so, I didn’t have a global pandemic haunting my every decision."
It's time to flip the script of what home can be. What’s next for our homes is a refresh that can help each family member thrive!
I have three tips to help you help your kids to experience this season as a gift, rather than a punishment.
1. Ask Your Kids to Help You Make a Plan
Include your kids! In the morning, over cereal, brainstorm ideas of what your children would like to do while you work. Ask them how they’d like to resolve a conflict without involving you. Ask them what kinds of foods you all can prepare ahead of time for them to eat that won’t require you to open boxes or pour drinks. Save the most engaging activity or online game or Netflix show for the two hours of the day you need to concentrate without interruption. That way, the kids look forward to the time they have the least access to you.
Consider using a timer to let them know how many minutes straight you will work before they can interrupt (barring injury). When it rings, take a break with your kids. Touch base, see what they built or read or watched while you were working. Then re-up for the next chunk of time.
Kids asleep in bed are the least likely to derail you. If you have flexible working hours, consider getting up early or staying up past their bedtime. If you have a partner, work when that partner is on duty. If you are both working from home, swap who will be supervising the kids (try not to do your most engaged work at the same time). Nap time is difficult to enforce with older kids but may be essential to your ability to work. Try audiobooks, music, and a box of books to page through that only comes out during that quiet time.
2. Keep It Special
When national tragedy hits or a family member is stricken with an unusual illness, we remember that experience for the rest of our lives. Adults often feel the stress and anxiety at a more profound level than children. Our kids count on us to create for them a life of peace and meaning. We want them to remember this time as good, even if it was uncertain and odd.
Working at home and providing their education is a challenge and can mean high levels of stress. Set aside specific toys, crafts, games, or television shows for your work times. Instead of all the toys being available, save some just for the working hours. Help them look forward to that time as a time of good stuff, not a time of taking you away from them.
For instance, is there a LEGO set that they can work on only when you are working? Are there coloring books or tangrams or modeling clay that come out only when you need them to be happily occupied? Save certain television shows or video games for your work time. Or, if your kids are old enough, a lengthy board game is a perfect way to help kids stay immersed in an experience while you work.
3. Fold Academics into Play and Parties
If you are worried that you are now responsible for their education on top of everything else, don’t panic! You may be able to fold learning into many of those meaningful activities. Now’s the time to play all the board, video, and card games. Reinforce math skills with dice, cards, Monopoly money, and Battleship coordinates. Trust that you are helping your kids think about strategy and calculations, predictions, and percentages.
If you worry about your child losing precious time to grow as a writer, consider the timeless art of free writing! Create a little writing support group as a family. Set a timer for three to five minutes, pick a word out of a hat or pull a quote from a book, or write about any topic under the sun — everyone, parent and child together. Let yourself go, writing as fast as possible, without worrying about punctuation and spelling. For now, enjoy the catharsis of self-expression. In Brave Writer, we have a 7-Day Writing Blitz you can download for free to help you play with words and grow your young writers. You don’t need a lot of writing in order to grow as a writer.
Read to your children; ask them to read to you. Throw a poetry teatime! Set the table for tea and treats (even cinnamon toast works) and read poems to one another. If you don’t have any poetry books, print poems from the online poetry anthology called the Poetry Foundation.
Learning at home is different than school, and it’s especially challenging if you are working from home. Our lives wrap themselves around the learning. It comes from a more organic (and often more memorable) place. Everything can teach anything, and anything can teach everything — if you have the heart to see it.
Keep going. Keep learning. Keep working. I’m rooting for you.
Julie Bogart is the popular voice of common sense and compassion in the homeschool community. She's the creator of the innovative writing program called Brave Writer and the founder of a homeschool coaching community called the Brave Learner Home. She home educated her five children for 17 years, who are now globe-trotting adults. Her writing program includes award-winning online writing classes and paradigm-shifting writing manuals that allow parents and kids to become allies in the writing process. Bogart is also the author of the best-selling book The Brave Learner and host of the popular podcast A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
CircleAround is partnering with NAWBO (the National Association of Women Business Owners) in a series of posts exploring the following prompt: "What comes next?" Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States.