This is a rough time for everyone. Our routines are all jacked up, we miss friends and family, and we are all adjusting to staying home. Sometimes my kids are confused, and they ask questions. More importantly though, sometimes I am confused and I don’t know how to answer. At first I thought I was failing them, but now I realize it’s okay to not know all the answers. This is real life, and it’s a time where we can prepare our kids for the future by setting a good example. During my internship I once had a doctor tell me, “It’s okay not to know all the answers. The important part is knowing how to FIND the correct answers.” You are only human, so be honest. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’ when it’s the truth. Learn together, stay calm together, and grow together.
My Tips for Mama:
Girl, this is not what you signed up for. It’s frustrating to multi-task working at home and keep up with the kids’ “distance learning.” We never imagined a time that we couldn’t escape to Target, and wander the aisles with our mocha frappuccino. This is intense. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we have no end date. This is an especially important time to take care of YOURSELF and ask for help when you need it.
What’s my favorite phrase, Mama? Let’s say it together: YOU CAN’T POUR FROM AN EMPTY CUP. You’ve got to be a functioning human to care for your kids. It’s okay to put your kids in a safe place (Like a crib, playroom, or under the care of others) and take a moment for yourself. Sometimes when I’m anxious I have to put Lucy in her bassinet and let her cry for a minute. I step out to the kitchen, get a sip of water, relax, and come back with more patience and less anxiety. She is safe to be left alone there. It’s okay to take a break.
If you need to step out, consider a moment outside where you can get some fresh air and vitamin D. Personally, I have a huge fear of accidentally locking myself outside, so I often just open the door and stand in the doorway. It’s enough to breathe and reconnect with the outside world. Remember that you also have to eat, sleep, and shower. Prioritize fitting those things into your day. It’s going to keep that cup of yours topped off.
Be realistic about the changes at home. You aren’t a teacher by trade, and you haven’t chosen to be put in this situation. Homeschooling will change your routine and the household dynamic. Working from home will be confusing with the distractions of home. The days blend together, and you don’t know if it’s day or night. The house might get a little messy. Maybe the kids miss a bath night or two. Roll with the changes and try to stay calm. You ARE a supermom, even if you can’t get everything done. Maybe even ESPECIALLY if you can’t get everything done. It means you’re putting your time into the correct priorities, and letting go of the little things.
Most importantly ask for help when you need it. Of course, as always, this means reaching out to a therapist or friend if you’re overwhelmed, but there are a ton of situations where you can get help. If you’re confused by homeschooling, email the teacher. Trust me, they will be happy to help. If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, call the school psychologist and touch base. They can give you tips to cope, and red flags to watch out for. If there’s too much on your to-do list, talk to your partner. Now more than ever communication is key. Don’t shut down and expect them to read your mind. The last thing you want is to run on high tension and irritability when we are in such close quarters. It’s also a great time to introduce older kids to new chores. There is extra time for one-on-one teaching, and for them to practice their new skill. Kids can sense our frustration. They fear our irritability too, and learning a new chore will give them a sense of helpfulness. We want the people we love to have an easier time. Even if they complain at first, deep down they will feel productive. Voice to them how helpful they are, and how much you appreciate the help.
My advice on the COVID-19 questions:
There’s two kinds of anxiety. The first is the one we try to reduce; the overwhelming, unproductive, irrational worry. The second is helpful anxiety. Anxiety is a natural, important emotion. It keeps us alert to danger. It causes fear that produces a rational response to keep us safe. For example, if you see a hungry shark you SHOULD be anxious. The anxiety should tell your brain “run away!”
Working on the bad anxiety, most professionals are suggesting to limit exposure to news sources. The media produces information with adult viewers as the target audience. Kids need to be informed in child-sized doses to avoid being overwhelmed. Stick to what’s relevant, but be honest. Lying always makes things worse. If the truth is uncovered, it takes a toll on the trust your child has for you. Avoid the “what if’s” and focus on relevant steps we can take to be healthy.
That good anxiety will trigger rational worry too. Our body is telling us to be a little scared, take this seriously, but don’t panic. I’ve found the best way to handle this situation is with validation and a plan. “Yes, the virus will make you sick. Yes, it can be serious for some people. We can avoid getting sick by washing our hands and following the social distancing rule.” Knowledge is power, so education about stopping the spread of the virus is our strongest tool.
My advice for “oh my God, there are so many hours in a day. What do I do with these freaking kids?”
Give them the opportunity to take the lead by asking if there are any new hobbies they would like to take up. Learn together. Youtube has lessons for just about everything.This can also be a chance to learn researching skills and how to identify valid information on the internet (yeah, I’m looking at you, Wikipedia- our kids won’t be falling for your shenanigans.)
Involve the kids in positive socializing. Bring back the art of a handwritten letter. Use email, facetime, or even produce some window art for the Heart Hunters Project. (HHP is the decorating of windows and doors to spread a little love and positivity in your neighborhood.) Count blessings together, share life skills like cooking or learning a new chore. Do an art project. Play outside. Exercise. Talk- allow them to vent about their feelings and frustrations.
“Wrap it up, Catherine. This post is getting annoyingly long”:
Okay, okay- I’ll try to make this as short as I can. This is uncharted territory for all of us, children and parents alike. It’s frustrating and confusing, but channel your inner kindergartener and ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ Try your best to be patient and calm. Validate their fears and feelings, but let them know you’re doing your best to keep them safe. Try to find silver linings and small moments of happiness. Most of all, just show them affection. I know a good hug always makes me feel better!
I’m obviously not a professional. By no means do I have my life together. My house is a mess, I undercooked my pasta for dinner (and tried to pass it off as fancy by calling it ‘al dente’) and I’m on day four of dry shampoo- but I’m doing my best. I’ve got some happy and healthy kids. This is what I’m doing in my home, and I hope it helps in yours.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
Stay calm. Stay healthy.
-Kate and the Kids.
. “Distance Learning” is a joy for everyone.