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Ready or not—here comes the 4th of July! But what if this year you really connected with your family, not just got the grill out and some sparklers? Holidays are a great opportunity to connect, strengthen family bonds, build your family identity, maintain or start new traditions, and even learn some history in a fun way! Oh, and eat good food!

1. Eat Together. (And Let The Kids Plan And Cook The Meal!)

If you are anything like the average American family, it is getting rarer and rarer to eat together as a family. This a great opportunity! Whether you go the traditional burgers and hot dogs route or the kids pick some crazy stuff—make sure everyone eats together. (And that they put their phones away after they snap a couple of pics of the family and yummy food.) There is just something special about sharing a meal together that strengthens family bonds. Don’t let your teenager make a plate and disappear to watch television or play video games. This is family time!

2. Cultivate Conversations!

Just like the charcoal grill needs some time to warm up, conversations often need a little time to get cooking. While you are eating, have some conversation starters ready—What are you looking forward to this summer? Whats your favorite family memory & why? What 4th of July stands out in your memory? Is there anything that we (parents) DON’T let you (kids) do that you wish you had the FREEDOM to do? ★ Retell “those” stories that tend to come up when everyone is together and laugh at them. If you have multiple generations of your family represented or extended family, encourage them to tell stories from “back in their day” or how their families celebrated holidays. Don’t rush off—let the conversations ebb and flow.

3. Have Fun!

Card games, board games, get the Heads Up app on someone’s phone. (It’s a blast for the whole family!) Depending on how old the kids are and the weather, don’t be afraid to get wet. Get that sprinkler out, the kiddie pool, water balloons, squirt guns, or just start spraying kids with the hose! (They’ll scream and run away—and then run back for more.) The internet is full of Fourth of July craft ideas. For a twist, let the kids pick the crafts and games or even let them make up a game that everyone plays. Go for a walk after dinner around the neighborhood or ride some bikes. Stop and say “Hi” to your neighbors.

4. Learn A Little History Together!

Reenactments, movies, and virtual tours are great fun ways to learn a little about what Independence Day actually means (or just some American history in general). These can be fun for everyone, plus they can add a little depth to your Fourth of July. (Don’t make it like school—school’s out!) For reenactments, you don’t need elaborate costumes or props. They’ll be more fun (and funny) with what’s laying around the house. The midnight ride of Paul Revere, Washington crossing the Delaware, battling the British, cracking the Liberty Bell, the family forming the Statue of Liberty. Whatever!

Check your television or streaming service for specials, documentaries, biopics, or age-appropriate war movies to learn about the lives and sacrifices that built America. Gather the family around for some edutainment!

Virtual Tours are awesome! Maybe try the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Museum of Flight, National Women’s History Museum, NASA, The American Battlefield Trust Virtual Battlefield Tours, or any number of others. What better time to learn about the country than on the Fourth! Can’t decide? Try one of these 15 virtual tours of American landmarks. (If possible, connect it to your television!) Lots of virtual tours have games built into them like scavenger hunts.

Be intentional about this (and all holidays).

Sometimes we get so busy with food, crafts, and decorations that we forget about family. (Your kids won’t remember the perfectly matched plates, napkins, and cups. They will remember the family fun and conversation!) ★ If you are one of the many people who feel conflicted celebrating this Fourth of July given our current events, remember, this country affords us the freedom to talk with our families about the ideals upon which this country was founded—”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”—and what we have seen happening across our country. It’s a great conversation with our children to learn the responsibility that all of us carry to live out those ideals. Seize this moment with your family! This is the perfect day to examine our country and ourselves. 

This Fourth of July doesn’t have to just be an excuse to get the grill out—it can be a meaningful and profound way to connect as a family!

This is totally workable. It may not feel this way now, but this situation is a great opportunity—to learn about yourself, to learn about your family, and even possibly grow closer than ever before! The fact that you are asking “why” is a great indication that you want to have a relationship with your family. You haven’t given up or become spiteful and started ignoring them—even though you feel ignored by family. 

It starts with you!

We feel “stuff” all the time that we never stop to question, explore, or investigate. That doesn’t diminish the hurt feelings, but it gives us a place to start. Here are some things to be thinking through:

  • Is it possible they aren’t intentionally ignoring you, but you just feel left out? 
  • Are you taking into consideration three months of COVID-19 quarantine?
  • Is it possible that you’ve said or done something that offended some family members and you haven’t realized it?
  • Have you been trying to communicate with these family members? (Seriously, could they be wondering why you are ignoring them?)
  • Does your family do a lot of their communicating and planning get-togethers on social media and you just are not active in that particular arena?
  • Is it possible that “feeling ignored by your family” is masking the real, deeper issue?

Why you can’t let this go unresolved.

In 2018, a Pew Research Center survey asked, “Where do you find meaning in life?” The clear, number one answer was, “family” at 69%. This was more than double the next highest answer, which was “career.” In other words, family is at the core of where most people find meaning in life, so if there is static in that particular part of your life, there’s a good chance that your whole life feels off-kilter. 

You can’t sit on this. You can’t camp out here. And you can’t wonder. You are going to have to seek out some resolution. 

There is really only one way to resolve this…

If you’ve thought through the above scenarios or possible explanations without any peace of mind or clarity, or if you think there is even a chance that you might have said or done something that offended some family members, there is only one place to go for answers—your family.

With questions like this, a direct approach is probably best. Either there is nothing there and you’re worrying over nothing or there is something there. One word of advice: Use “I” statements like, “I feel like I’m being ignored by family. Did I do something? I really want to make it right,” as opposed to “You” statements like, “Why are you ignoring me? Why won’t you reach out to me? Why are you leaving me out?” The difference is between opening a productive dialogue and making an accusation.

So now that you have a plan—when are you going to ask? You can sit and wonder, or you can take a deeper dive into some relationships in your family. Don’t let it go another day!

Children are funny—at least mine are. I love them to death, but if I had to explain why they do, say or think many of the things they do, I’d be up the creek. Sometimes there is no rationale or logic. Kids are weird sometimes. 

And it’s very possible that, if your experience is anything like mine, they are doing just fine in quarantine during this COVID-19 pandemic situation. I asked my youngest (she’s 11) the other day if there was anything she liked about being in quarantine. She muttered, “Eh, I guess so. Maybe.”

Typical. 

Then she proceeded to play outside for three hours, baked some cookies, and watched a movie with the family. I think she’s doing alright. 

So this article is for all you parents out there whose kids seem happier being in quarantine and have thought, what do I do with that? And I’d like to suggest that exploring why our kids are happier during quarantine can make us a better parent. 

The Two Sides of Why Kids Are Happier 

So, just why are the kids happier during quarantine? There could be two sides to that answer— a healthy side and a not-so-healthy side. We can learn from both. 

Maybe you’ve seen the not-so-healthy side of happier-quarantined kids. You see the signs:

  • The video game console burns more electricity than the refrigerator
  • Their bedroom door is always shut, all day, and you’re starting to wonder what your kid looks like. 
  • The pantry is now a free-for-all, and you’re beginning to miss those sweet school lunch ladies who you had never met before. 

Granted, this doesn’t necessarily reflect every happy kid’s quarantine experience. But if it does, these are signs you might not have noticed before in the normal humdrum of life. Now that you are together more often, you notice the patterns and the red flags go up. 

But there’s possibly a healthier side to why children might be happier in quarantine. 

Kids are happier when families do stuff together. They love being around each other. Even teens, who typically need time away from parents as a normal part of their development, find comfort, belonging, connection and a more solidified identity when the family is more available. (But don’t expect them to tell you that!)

True, many kids miss seeing their friends (as do many adults). But consider the idea that the last few years of technology have possibly conditioned kids for quarantine. They, especially teens, are already accustomed to hanging out with friends and family electronically. 

Another explanation for quarantine-induced happiness in your kids: During the quarantine, have you noticed how much you are jumping from activity to activity, grabbing dinner on the go, not enough room for good family conversation, just like in pre-quarantine times? No? That’s because you probably aren’t. 

With the cancellation of baseball, dance lessons, band practice and other extracurriculars that devoured the family calendar, the pressure of jumping from activity to activity with little downtime has disappeared. Consequently, so has the pressure to do everything well. And kids really like this. 

One more possible reason kids are just happier in this crazy situation: They can focus on schoolwork better, and for shorter periods of time during the day. 

Schools are wonderful places, and the hardworking educators and administrators who devote their lives to kids are invaluable. But I also know that schools inherently contain distractions that, frankly, aren’t present at home. Rowdy peers, bullies, loud environments, busy hallways, busy lunchrooms, busy work—these can easily interfere with an otherwise productive day at school. At home during quarantine, kids can do what we all like to do—get in there, get their work finished and move on to more exciting things in the day. 

Ask ‘Em About Happiness

So how do we go about exploring these ideas with your children and gaining some parenting perspective? One simple answer to this is, ask them

  • What have you liked about being in quarantine? 
  • Is there anything you have not liked? If so, what is it?
  • What has made you happy being in quarantine? 
  • How has school been different for you in good ways? In bad ways? 
  • Are there things we’ve done in quarantine that we normally didn’t do before as a family? Are there things you would like to do as a family that we’ve not done before? 
  • Is there anything we did in pre-quarantine that we haven’t been able to do now, and you don’t miss it?

I believe knocking around these questions with your kids can make a big difference in how we parent and what we can look forward to in the future. It’s going to take intentional conversations, and depending on the number, age and personalities of your children, you may need to choose your strategy carefully. 

Younger kids may need help to articulate answers to these questions without putting your words in their mouths. With preteens and teens, you might have to wait for the “the right time,” the “teachable moment,” to bring up the subject. Some kids like to know these questions ahead of time before giving answers so they have time to think about it; others love spontaneous conversation. You know your children well and can figure out (sometimes through trial and error) how best to approach these questions with them. 

How It Will Be After The New Norm

The big question here is, how will what you learn from your kids about being happier in quarantine affect how you parent after the quarantine? 

What will your family focus on more? Less? And how do you want to direct your parenting based on what you discover during quarantine?  

These are the kinds of questions that simply take time and ongoing conversation in order to draw solid conclusions. But keep this one big idea in mind: The experience of going through quarantine will impact our kids for the future, but not nearly as much as how we parent during the quarantine. 

The ways in which your family has shifted during the pandemic—spending more time together, eating more meals together, slowing down, enjoying the outdoors more, having more intentional conversations, making time for more play and fun (in other words, all the reasons my funny, weird kids say they’re happier)—these are all touchstones to be cultivated by us, the parents, for the future. 

What we do now helps kids navigate transitions, deal with change and stress, develop resilience, foster positive values, make tough decisions in the face of the crowd. Because, hey—that’s life, right? 

Talk to your kids about what’s making them happy right now. Lean into what they say (or what they do after they mutter I don’t know). We can learn a lot from what’s making our kids happy.

Businesses are opening. Restaurants, gyms, retail, places of worship—all opening or communicating plans to open. You can feel the shift in the air. Are you ready for life after quarantine?

Family and friends are politely gauging my interest in social gatherings. 

Updates from little league coaches are hitting my notifications. 

People are having discussions about going back to the office. 

Lots of people are tentatively planning birthday parties. 

The kid’s scout troop is considering one last event.

My small group is toying with the idea of moving from virtual meetings to in-person.

It’s not official yet, but just realizing “life” is looking to restart is making my head spin. 

This quarantine has some advantages. We’re not eating out so much since we’re not going from work to whatever activity is on the schedule next. My wife and I are not having to “divide and conquer” to get everyone to their respective destinations. Instead of saying, “Everybody out of the car, get a snack, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas and go to bed!after we get home from another late night engagement, our evening and bedtime routines are more peaceful. I actually know my kids better now, and I’ve taken the time to connect more deeply with my wife. 

I am genuinely afraid of losing all that positive momentum we’ve gained. I’m afraid that we’ll become too busy again. Is not entering the rat race an option? Why do we do it year after year? Do we have to?

We do this for noble reasons:

  • Wanting to make significant contributions to our community.
  • Wanting our children to be well-rounded and wanting to expose them to individuals who were set up to succeed in anything they chose. 
  • Sitting at home is not as fun or engaging as going to event after event. 
  • It seems to be the right thing to do for ourselves, our marriage and our kids.

But, I like the nighttime pillow talk with my wife that I’m not too tired to have anymore, the spontaneous fun with my kids, and the extended conversations with my mom who lives by herself. I’ve had more meaningful conversations with some of my closest friends than I’ve had in years. I’m afraid of losing all that.

As you prepare for your world to open back up, intentionally reflect on how the quarantine affected your life.

Instead of busting out of your home as soon as you can, consider any lessons you’ve learned about yourself, your spouse, and your family. What did you learn during quarantine? Bring the growth you’ve experienced into your post-quarantined life. As afraid as we may be of becoming too busy again, we should be more afraid of wasting this moment in time. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Prior to this time in history, I would not have believed that it could be possible for my husband and I to spend too much time together. Life was more like, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder…” because of all the work and social engagements that filled my calendar. We are now living in a new reality. Today, we are living in a world of quarantine over-familiarity, which often breeds contempt

You may be feeling like a good long vacation away from your spouse is just what the doctor ordered and feeling guilty about even entertaining the idea. I mean, can anybody relate? Now, it’s like your spouse can’t do anything right. Just the way they say, “Good morning!” or “What’s on your agenda today?” In your mind, all you are thinking is, “Please, Please, PLEASE, stop TALKING to me. Your voice is IRRITATING.” 

OMG! Why is this happening? We’re not like this! Now I am asking myself…

Did I marry the wrong person?

Did we fall out of love with each other?

Is THIS the “new normal?”

There have been several articles referring to increased divorce filings as a result of COVID-19, specifically in China where there were over 300 divorce filings in three weeks. Other media outlets have sought to provide AWARENESS of the conditions that may create “impulsive divorce requests.”

So, the answer to the question is YES. It is possible for couples to spend too much time together. But, it isn’t necessarily a concern or cause for divorce. If you’re feeling this way,  here are a few things to think about:

You Are Not Alone. I know that sounds cliché. Many of us are going through the same things (too much togetherness, irritating behaviors from our spouse, being overwhelmed with work, home, family). We are ALL stressed or even traumatized by how radically our lives have changed. Be aware that stress has an impact on us physically as well as emotionally. 

Double-Check Your Perspective. Be careful what you look for, because you’ll find it. Fear and stress can make you focus on every little thing that is wrong. And remember the little things are being magnified. The differences that you and your spouse have are being exacerbated. It has been easy for me to take my feelings (anger, guilt, frustration, worry, fear) out on my spouse. 

Pre-COVID-19, we were accustomed to having a balance in our lives between our time together and our alone time. This lack of balance and the fact that it is all time together can make you notice the worst in each other.

Reach Out To Your Tribe. Talk to people in your circle that are for your marriage and who you can trust. Share your struggles. Ask them about what’s happening in their world. Ask, “How are you really doing?” How are other couples you know managing their day-to-day? Be careful—sometimes other people’s problems are contagious and suddenly become our problems.

It’s okay to take time out to have a ZOOM call with your friends or coordinate a FaceTime Tea Time or Google Hangouts Happy Hour. Talk to them about your stress, your concerns, or your fears. Now is when we need our good friends the most. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m struggling.” REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

Change Is Possible And Probable.

Some people may be thinking, once this quarantining is over, I am getting the heck out of this marriage. People harboring those feelings may mistakenly believe that it will be more of the same after quarantine. Proceed with extreme caution when it comes to making BIG, LIFE-ALTERING DECISIONS during or right after this experience. Give yourself and your spouse time to recalibrate your relationship. 

Make sure you are controlling your emotions and not letting your emotions control you. For some, it can be especially helpful, after a trauma such as this, to involve a counselor or therapist to assist you in your efforts to process what has happened and create a plan for moving forward. Here’s a great resource to help you figure out how to find a counselor that works for you and your spouse.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What are the words to describe this season of social isolation and self-quarantine during COVID-19? I can think of a few:

Frustrating. Stressful. 

Extremely inconvenient. 

Full of anxiety. 

Ruined my plans. 

What day is it again? 

(I could go on…) 

As I was talking with friends (six feet from my computer screen, of course) about how normal life has been turned upside down by this Global Pandemic, I was struck with an interesting thought: Social distancing has taken away all the excuses for not doing the things I’ve said I’m too busy to do. 

For those who are self-quarantined, it has removed a great deal of busyness. Sure, many of us still have to work or do school from home. But chances are we haven’t been fighting traffic to get home, rushing kids to ball games, or struggling to get dinner prepared at a decent hour. This weird point in our current history has created at least some margin in our daily lives. And where there’s margin, there’s an opportunity

I realize this calls for an intentional change in our outlook on our situation. You almost have to unnaturally choose to see the opportunities before you. But I really do think they are there. 

Below are five ways – opportunities, if you will – that social distancing can increase happiness in the home. 

  1. The opportunity to slow down. Social isolation has given us the margin of time. Even if you are working from home, or if your kids are doing school remotely, chances are you can dictate and shape your schedule more than you’ve been used to. 
    • Use that to your advantage. Ask yourself, what are the important things I’ve put off because I said I was too busy? Exercise. Taking a daily walk. Reading. Meaningful conversations with your spouse. Playing in the yard with your kids. Reconnecting with that old school friend. Yoga. Eating at the dinner table each night. Meditation. And don’t forget time to just sit on the front porch… and breathe. 
    • Make a list. Schedule it. Do it! 
  2. The opportunity to clean the clutter. There are two sides to this. Yes, now we have some time to fix that leaky pipe, clean out the garage, and weed the garden (how convenient for the pandemic to happen during Spring cleaning!). 
    • But there’s also the side of cleaning up the clutter that has built up in our relationships with the people we love in our home. Maybe the busyness of your previous life has caused some disconnection between you and your family members. Now is the opportunity to engage in good, healthy, deeper conversations and times of connection. 
    • Our family decided to open up the box of conversation-starter questions that’s been sitting on our kitchen table unused. Every evening at dinner, we’ve had some of the funniest and most interesting talks around these questions. However you decide to clear that space, make it an intentional and daily routine. 
    • One word of caution: Cleaning the clutter may also mean visiting some of the issues that have been lingering between you and your spouse or your kids. This may be a good time to work things out. However, be very aware of stress levels and be strategic as to when the best times are to talk things out. It’s not a good idea to work on old issues when the anxiety is particularly high. 
  3. The opportunity to focus on others in need. Obviously you are not alone in feeling the stress and anxiety. There are those in our neighborhoods and communities who are hurting right now. This is a great opportunity for you and your family to help ease the fears and uncertainties of others. 
    • One charitable neighbor of ours set out a tub full of hand-sanitizers on the sidewalk in front of their yard for anyone who had need. My daughter (on her own) created cheerful cards to give to the neighbors. Someone else in our neighborhood organized a “bear hunt” through social media – our neighbors were invited to display teddy bears and other stuffed animals in our windows so that when kids walked by, they could “hunt” for as many bears as they could. 
    • Anything you can do to bring a smile and sense of cheer to those around you will most certainly bring happiness to your own home. 
  4. The opportunity to be appreciative. When we are super-busy, it’s easy to forget to stop and remember what we should be thankful for. Practicing gratitude increases a sense of happiness and well-being in the home. No matter how much or little one has, there are always reasons to be thankful – for food on the table, the air you breathe, a roof over your heads, the people you love in your home. 
    • Acknowledge what you appreciate. Make it a practice at mealtime to share with each other what you are thankful for. Make a daily “gratitude list.” Thankfulness is a strong tool to temper anxiety and to boost happiness. 
  5. The opportunity to play and be creative. At no other time in our recent history has it been so vital to inject some fun, laughter, and play into our daily lives. Now is the time for family Monopoly games, Nerf wars, movie nights, making breakfast for dinner, camping in the backyard, playing in the rain, and family dance-offs. These activities cut through the stress and provide the glue that bonds family members more closely together. Don’t let the tension of quarantine compromise the opportunity to make memories. Laugh and have some fun!

Opportunities don’t take themselves. You have to be intentional about using the margin you’ve been given. However, the pay-off for you and your family is tremendous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGbqNCkE6to&t=1s

It’s that time of year. The flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. Your kids are excited about Spring Break. For many, Spring Break is a rite of passage where families travel, spend time together and reconnect. It has been a time to explore your hometown with a Staycation, join the extended family at the beach or family cabin, or take your kids to tour colleges (that’s what we do in my house). 

However, this year is much different than those in the recent past. Now, we are social distancing, dealing with Shelter in Place orders and the nature of self-quarantine. We finally have a routine and good rhythm around our work and homeschooling. Instead, now it is interrupted by Spring Break.

The purpose of Spring Break is for us to reconnect and spend time together.  We have had more togetherness in the past 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I can handle any more family togetherness. Plus, I have the added pressure that I am not off. I still have to work.  

What am I going to do? I have to keep them occupied but I also have to keep up my work productivity. Are you asking yourself, “Do they even need Spring Break?”  Or does it fill you with anxiety: “What am I going to do with them? I still have to work.” It’s Spring Break, but no camps, no vacations, no nothing.

Create a plan It’s important to understand that nothing is normal now, including school. But our children have been thinking about Spring Break since Winter Break. Have a conversation with your family. If you have plans to travel, keep your days off and create a Virtual Staycation. If the beach was your destination, bring the beach to you. Get creative. On the other hand, if you have to work, tell your children that you as a family will have to keep some semblance of a routine, but you will create intentional moments of fun.

Have Fun There is a plethora of ideas and activities for families. For my family, we plan to take virtual college tours for my rising senior. If your family likes art, several famous museums are conducting virtual tours. Have dinner and a movie where dinner is themed around the movie that you watch. An added bonus is to allow the kids to help set the menu and/or cook the meal. If work is still on the agenda, make time in the evenings to have some fun. If the evenings are still full, Spring Break it out on the weekends.

Stick with a Schedule Working or not, Spring Breaking or not, it’s important for our children to have a schedule – for them to wake up, go to bed, have meals at a similar time. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but it will help you get back to the new normal of homeschooling and working from home after Spring Break.

This year Spring Break may not be filled with cruises, princesses or well-loved rodents (Mickey). I encourage you to find ways to bring Princesses and Mickey to your home. It doesn’t matter that things are different. Yes, they are. Our children will only be children for a small amount of time. Yes, the days are long, but the years fly by. We should enjoy the time that we have with them. Betcha some toilet paper that this will be the Spring Break they are still talking about years from now. Appraise, Adapt, Achieve.

I see you, mama, sitting in a messy house, filled with dishes from last night’s dinner and laundry piled high. You are trapped in a house during a quarantine and it’s taking everything to not go stir crazy. I see the exhaustion and the exasperation that comes with toddlers running around. Demanding snacks, begging for attention, needing to have what they want, when they want it. I see you trying, trying to juggle their needs and your work’s needs, and maybe, sometimes, even your own needs. I know that feeling of being stretched so thin that you’re barely keeping it together. The seams beginning to unravel, slowly then all of a sudden… you’re hanging on by one tiny thread. 

I see the frustration of an interrupted Zoom meeting, the agitation from a plea for yet another snack, the expectation to be completely focused on that work project and completely focused on caring for your kids. It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s unrealistic to think that anyone could handle the balancing act that all of a sudden we are called to perform. 

So why do you feel like a failure? You know it’s impossible. You know you’re only human. But what about them? What about society? And employers? And family and friends? Yeah… what about them? Everyone needs to adjust their expectations. Including yourself. You are doing the best you can. You are facing the unknown and taking on more than anyone should be expected to. Give yourself grace. 

In fact, give yourself permission to let the dishes sit in the sink a little longer. Make friends with the dust bunnies who have joined your space. Let your kids jump in the piles of clean laundry that still need to be folded. Go outside and take a second to breathe. Feel the fresh air fill your lungs and be grateful for all the things that are going right in your world. And for anything that’s got you stressed or worried or on edge, add “but” onto the end. 

“We’re stuck at home… BUT… we’re SAFE.”

“The house is a mess… BUT… I have a roof over my head.”

“The kids are driving me nuts… BUT… I get to be their mom.”

“Working from home with kids is so hard… BUT… I’m grateful for the flexibility and that I STILL have a job.” 

So, take it one day at a time, mama. This is just a season that you WILL get through. Be mindful. Tell yourself a different story. One of resilience and patience and overcoming obstacles against all odds. You are NOT a failure. You are capable. You are strong. You are amazing, in PJs and all.

In light of our current events and the chaos and disruptions they have brought, I felt the need to call a good, old fashioned family meeting! It had been a while, but we had a lot of new important things to talk about- new work situations, school cancellations, health concerns, and how our family was going to navigate these unique circumstances.

Once everyone was gathered around in the living room, several things were part of this particular meeting:

  • I asked how everyone was doing. How was everyone feeling- physically and emotionally? My colleague wrote a great blog about taking your family’s “temperature.”
  • I shared information from the CDC about the coronavirus, how it is transmitted, risks of exposure, symptoms of infection, and recommended precautions to take. I kept a calm tone and stuck to the facts. I allowed room for them to share what they had already heard and where they heard it. We talked about what information sources were trustworthy. (I have teens and up. Adjust accordingly for your children.)
  • I went over some new family routines and rules that would be in place for a while. No friends over right now. Who was responsible for sanitizing door knobs, appliance handles, remotes, light switches, etc. and on what days. What the schoolwork schedule would look like. We talked about how we would be having more Family Movie and Game Nights!
  • I allowed space for questions and encouraged everyone to be real about their reactions and suggestions. They had some ideas way better than mine!
  • I emphasized that this was going to pass and we would seize the opportunity these new obstacles provided- to spend more time together as a family, to learn new things, and to invest time in the things we always say we wish we had the time to do. We are a team and a fun team!
  • We talked about how “this” was not all about us and how we needed to keep our eyes open for creative opportunities to help other people.
  • Remember: This is opening a dialogue to what will be an ongoing conversation.

Sure, this meeting was necessary because of a set of new, unique circumstances, but family meetings should be a regular part of your family culture. Keep them going!

General Family Meeting Tips:

  1. Keep them positive and fun.
  2. Keep everyone involved.
  3. Keep them relevant. (Nothing worse than a meeting that feels unnecessary.)
  4. Keep them a brief but consistent part of your family life.

Every family is different so be sensitive to your specific family needs as you consider these suggestions and be prepared to make adjustments as needed.

  • Start them with something fun that gets everyone talking like a silly question like, “What superpower would you want and why?” or “What vegetable would you like to disappear forever?” Talking people are more likely to keep talking.
  • Use them to keep everyone on the same page. What was the best part of last week for you? What are you looking forward to this week?
  • Meetings emphasize family interdependence. They help the family to understand each individual member and help each individual to understand their connection to the family. Let family members put things on the agenda. Let them lead.
  • This is the time to address issues, schedules, current events, and even finances in an appropriate way. This is the time to celebrate grades, sport wins, recitals, and character growth you are witnessing as a parent. NOT a time to embarrass anyone or point out individual mistakes or problems. 
  • Be creative! Family meetings can be held at a pizza place (just not during social distancing, of course!), during a board or card game, or throughout a car ride. No matter what – end with some fun!

Since the family was all together in one place, we capitalized on this opportunity to transition from serious real-world problems into an incredibly competitive, very fun, homemade three-point shooting contest using a pot from the kitchen, a chair, and some paper wads. Walkout music was blasted for each player. Meeting adjourned!

Breakfast. Check. Son’s Math. Check. Respond to emails. Check. Help daughter with Reading assignment… Lunch… Complete project for work… Dinner. Check. Check. Check. Check. Whew. This was a good day. We got it all done!

Hold on! Wait a minute! You’re missing something. In fact, if you keep up this schedule, the morale in your home is going to drop, the productivity is going to drop and the opportunity before you will be missed. How do I know you’re missing something?

You’re missing something BIG! You’re missing out on an opportunity to increase your kids’ academic, social and emotional skills, their ability to deal with stressful situations and anxiety. You’re missing out on an opportunity to learn about your kids or your spouse, develop deeper connections and create lasting memories. Still don’t know what you’re missing?

SCHEDULED PLAYTIME. Yes. That’s the thing. SCHEDULED PLAYTIME.

Unfortunately, you may also be missing out on a way to make your life easier while you’re home with the family for the foreseeable future. Who doesn’t want that?

This is a MUST. We can’t leave play to chance and hope someone says something funny while we eat lunch or while they’re working on Math. We can’t just hope that the adventurous person in the family brings some excitement. And we sure can’t minimize its importance. 

We must add play to our checklist. Why?

  1. Let’s start with all the reasons I mentioned earlier. No need to rehash those.
  2. Brings positive energy, creating a more conducive environment for the work that follows.
  3. We’re a family. We do life together. We laugh together. We cry together. We play together. We feel each other’s stress and we feel each other’s joy. (I can feel it in my home when someone is really stressed out about something.)
  4. When we play and laugh, our brain releases dopamine, a chemical that lets us know that we like what we’re doing. We connect that joy and pleasure with the people we are doing it with, making us want to repeat it. 
  5. We’re living in stressful times. Laughter truly is the best medicine. 
  6. Play strengthens our relationships.
  7. Strengthens children’s academic skills. (I know I said it earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again.)

I get it. You’re the adult. You have to be the responsible one to make sure that everyone gets all their work done. That everything stays orderly and structured. And if we get everything completed, then we’ll play. Because play is the reward for finishing everything, right? Besides, how will it look if it’s 10:30 AM and we’re playing a game and they haven’t read their English homework yet or you haven’t quite finished that project? You don’t want to be that parent.

Think of the other side of being the responsible parent. The responsible parent who helps to increase their child’s ability to achieve academically and improve communication skills. The parent who builds their kid’s confidence and their immune system. The parent who’s reducing the stress level in the home and creating a positive, energetic homework environment. That’s what you’re doing when you schedule time to play. You’re scheduling all those benefits, which might make it a little easier to get through each day.

There are tons of lists of ways to play. Keep it simple. It can be just a few minutes as a study/work break or a designated 30 or 45 minute recess. Whatever you do, don’t not schedule time to play while you’re home. One could say, you’re not being responsible.

Ideas for Play at Home:

  • Ball up some paper, get a trash can and start close, seeing who can make the shot. Keep inching your way back. Add some flair. Celebrate creativity in shooting styles whether you make it or not.
  • Turn on an upbeat song and dance. Use a hat and whoever is wearing the hat, dances for about 20-30 seconds and then puts the hat onto someone else who then begins to dance. Profusely cheer on the person dancing with the hat on.
  • Draw designs on the driveway using sidewalk chalk.
  • Do impersonations of one another, other people in your life, or famous people.
  • Build a fort in the house using couch cushions, pillows, and bedsheets. Then let someone do their school/job work inside the fort.
  • Start making up a story. Speak for 30 seconds and then have the next person pick up the story from there for 30 seconds and then someone else for 30 seconds and keep going around as long as you can. The story may become outlandish, but who cares? 

Look at all the smiles, laughter, and imagination taking place. Check. Check. Check.