When I asked last week on Facebook and Instagram where you are struggling with the most with this unique life we’re living, the biggest challenge mentioned was managing home responsibilities with work responsibilities and overseeing your child’s online education.
Many of you said, “Please help me handle all of this!”
Today I want to share with you some tools and some wisdom that I hope will be helpful for you. My goal is to equip you to lead and then to be your cheerleader along the way. First let’s start with some important perspective.
Your kids need leadership.
Of course, they do their best to get their way, but they are actually craving leadership from you. Your leadership provides them stability in this crazy coronavirus world. At school, the teachers are in charge. At home, you need to be in charge. However, this works best if you think ahead of them and you are leading proactively rather than reactively. Right now much of the stress is because you are on the defensive, responding to their every want and need. It’s time for you to be on the offensive, thinking ahead and calling the shots on the new routine that your family will follow.
Think ahead to their needs.
You know they’ll ask for a snack everyday. Probably mid-morning and mid-afternoon at the very least. When they ask, you have to think of something quickly in the moment and it just adds to your decision fatigue. If you decide ahead of time when they can have a snack and what it will be, you’ll be in control and leading. Same with meals, and e-learning, and ideas for keeping them busy.
Get your expectations closer to reality.
Our biggest challenge with parenting is our expectations. Every time we have an expectation and reality doesn’t look that way, we experience frustration. Expect your house to get messy. Expect to feel like the kitchen is never closed. Expect interruptions. Expect meltdowns (this is as hard for the kids as it is for you). Expect sibling spats. These are all a normal part of being under the same roof.
Respond, don’t react.
When things get chaotic, it’s easy to blow up (yell, get angry) just to bring some form of control to the situation. It’s best to respond, not react, however. This keeps home an emotionally safe place for everyone to be. If you do lose it, clean up your relational mess. Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Call for a family check-in.
Gather the fam and ask, “What’s one word that describes how you’re feeling today?” Listen and feel along with each family member. Don’t try to fix. Be compassionate with each other. You can also ask, “What’s one thing you’d like to happen this week within our shelter-in limits?” Listen to understand, not to disagree. If you need to do a “reset” on how your family is handling e-learning, meals, responsibilities, or anything else, communicate upcoming changes that will be taking place. Then make sure you’re consistent and follow thru. (Expect some push back. That’s a part of change management whether it’s in a business or in a family. Stay steady through the push back.)
Follow a plan for the day (with flexibility, of course)
When kids and even teens know there’s a plan, they experience a sense of security. Mom and Dad are in charge and it feels good to know that they’ve got things covered. Here’s a sample “shelter in” routine with some reasoning behind it:
Rise and Shine–what time do you want them to get started with their day? If you’re working at home and have flexible hours you might want to leverage early morning hours like 6 am-8 am for work by telling grade school kids they can’t leave their rooms in the morning until 8 am. If they wake up, they can read or play in their room until 8 am. At 8 you’ll get them some breakfast.
Breakfast and a daily chore–Will you make them breakfast or do they serve themselves? Do they have a daily chore they are responsible for? If their chore changes everyday, put that in writing. (i.e. empty the dishwasher, empty the trash throughout the house, run the vacuum, feed the dog, straighten the shoes, put away your clean clothes, etc). If they do the same chore everyday, make sure it’s clear what they are to do right after breakfast.
Morning routine–Just like when school is in session, they still need to do the morning routine tasks: shower, get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth. If you’re working from home, you might be able to get another hour of work in while they do their morning routine.
School work–Tackle school work right off the bat, before they get started playing. Before they become distracted by screens. Before you have to break them away from some other activity. If they routinely need help with school work, expect that and give them your full attention (if possible) until it’s done.
Snack–You’re about halfway through the morning now and their tummies may be rumbling. Plan ahead what you’ll provide. A snack is a great celebration of getting their school work done. Try to do a healthy snack as often as possible.
Play/Free Time–Now they’ve got a couple of hours to play together or use however they want. This is when you can use some of the ideas I share in the daily Today’s Opportunity Plan. (NOTE: Expect to be interrupted during playtime. It’s the nature of having children around.)
Lunch–Use this as a connection time, if possible, eating around the table together. Make a meal plan each week so you have a plan.
Everyone helps clean up the kitchen from lunch— Everyone ate so everyone helps clean up. You might even post a list of tasks (I have a sample list you can request below) that need to be done before everyone leaves the kitchen after they eat. This teaches kids responsibility and teamwork.
Nap time/Rest time/Room time— This is VERY IMPORTANT. You need your space (and another hour to work if you’re working from home) and they need their space. They need a break from their siblings too. If your kids share a room, make sure they have their own space for room time. Equip them with books to read, or Legos to play with, or crayons and coloring books to draw with, or cars to play with. Set a timer for an hour and let them know that everyone gets their own space until the timer goes off. It may take some training if they’re not used to it, but if you’re consistent, they’ll begin to value it and understand it’s a part of your daily routine. If you’re working from home, this is another hour of work for you–you’re up to five hours now.
Snack–Yep again. Make sure you have a plan. They could have a snack after rest time or you could let them play for an hour and then make that snack time. Either way, you call the snack shots. You’re in charge and they know it and begin to trust it!
Play/Free Time–Now they’ve got a couple of hours to play together or use however they want. This is when you can also use some of the ideas I share in the daily Today’s Opportunity Plan. If you’re working from home, you’ve got a couple more hours of work. You should be close to seven hours. (NOTE: Expect to be interrupted during playtime. It’s the nature of having children around.)
Dinner–Turn off the television, put phones and screens away, and eat around the table as a family. Do you know that research has been done on the importance of family dinners? Research has show that the benefits of family mealtimes around the table include:
- Better academic performance.
- Higher self-esteem.
- Greater sense of resilience.
- Lower risk of substance abuse.
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy.
- Lower risk of depression.
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders.
- Lower rates of obesity.
Everyone helps clean up the kitchen from dinner— Everyone ate so everyone helps clean up. A list can serve as a reminder of the things that need to be done before everyone leaves the kitchen. This teaches kids responsibility and teamwork.
Playtime/Free time/Family Time–How do you want the time after dinner to be used? You might go on a walk as a family and then give everyone some play time before bed. Once or twice a week you might want to establish family night where you play games together, watch a movie, have a Nerf gun fight, or do a puzzle together. Again, you are the leader–think ahead and lead your family well!
Ten minute house pick up–With everyone home, the clutter and messes increase. But just ten to fifteen minutes a night can make a huge difference if everyone works together. Throw on some fun music and tidy up!
Bedtime routine–Kids thrive on routine and while every family’s routine is different, most include a bath/shower (if not taken in the morning), teeth brushed, reading together or independently, prayers, and lights out. Kids need to have a bedtime–for their sake and for yours.
Couple time–You’re all under one roof and dealing with logistics together, but not necessarily connecting and tuning into each other’s heart. After the kids head to bed, you likely need some “you” time and some couple time. Whether you alternate nights or take 30 minutes for yourself before you snuggle on the couch together to talk, watch your favorite show, or even play a game (Bananagrams anyone?), make sure you keep your marriage on the front burner.
Would you like an editable Word Doc of the above schedule as well as the kitchen clean-up task list? I’d love to send them to you! Both documents can be edited to work for your family’s priorities and activities. You can post it to be referred to or make multiple copies and use it to plan meals, snacks, and activities daily. You can request them here!