The kids are trapped inside, you and your spouse are working from home, and the toilet paper is running out. The rage is building inside of you. But, if you want to keep your sanity, you’re going to have to keep your cool. Here are some ideas to help you create a calming environment in your home.
1. Establish a routine
Most children are used to following a daily schedule, even if most of that structure happens at school. Now that your kids are home all day, it can seem like a good idea to just let them “relax.” But, providing the stability and consistency of a daily routine will help them to know what’s coming next in a time that is very uncertain.
If you have older children who are now completing school work online or through packets, you can create a basic schedule, or follow one of these from Khan Academy, that gives students, parents and teachers a free resource for learning tools.
If you have younger children, you might want to try a less rigid schedule, dividing up the day by activity.
2. Make expectations clear
Before you post your new daily routine/schedule, it might be helpful to talk to your kids about what you expect of them during the day. Go through the list and let them know what will happen at what times of the day, and that they won’t be allowed to just sit on the couch all day glued to a screen. And if you hope to give them daily chores, it would be a good idea to make that apparent as well.
3. Be positive
If you are moping around the house morning the days when you had the house to yourself all day, then your children will pick up on your sullen vibes. Instead, practice positivity. Talk about all the good things that have come from being home all day together – playing family games, more time together, less distractions. You can even have your kids make a list of things they are thankful for and post them on the fridge. The visual reminder will help to keep everyone focusing on the bright side.
4. Go out in nature
Not only is fresh air good for your immune system, but it is also beneficial to your mental health. Just being in nature, listening to the wind and the birds chirp will help to ground you and give you a sense of freedom. It can be easy to feel trapped when you are inside the house all day with your family. But when you go outside in your yard or take a walk down the street, you can escape the binds of the same four walls and lift your mood. You can even check your local parks (local and national) and see if there are any hiking trails open during this time.
5. Don’t stay in your pajamas
It can be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day when one day flows into the next. But getting up and getting dressed and ready like you did before the quarantine will help you feel more “normal.” Some schools are even instituting virtual “spirit days” (superhero day, hat day, school colors day, etc.) so kids feel more connected to their teachers and friends from afar.
6. Practice self-care
We are all feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and leery of the days to come. So, taking care of ourselves in the moment can be very helpful. Try as best you can to eat healthy foods (produce sections aren’t as picked over in the grocery stores) and drink plenty of fluids. And when you or your children are feeling stressed, take turns taking a relaxing bath. Add bath salts, essential oils, bubbles, whatever it takes.
7. Take a moment to breathe
If the stress of homeschooling, working from home and keeping everyone sane is getting to you and you feel like you’re about to explode, take a moment to step away from the chaos. Take your (now cold) cup of coffee to the porch or put a movie on for the kids so you can have a moment of peace. It’s okay to take time for you. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher.
8. Know when to bend the rules
While sticking to a routine can be helpful for keeping consistency, it’s also a good idea to know when to bend the rules. Let the kids stay up a few minutes late to watch a new movie. Let them have a bedtime snack. Let them use their tablet or gaming device a little longer. We’re all just trying to survive, and sometimes that means 15 more minutes of screen time so mom and dad can get some quiet.
9. Try yoga
Yoga can be a great way to not only keep your children moving while they’re stuck inside, but it can also be a great way to unwind and calm down after a long day of quarantined life. You can use yoga for practicing breathing techniques or for a fun activity to break up the monotony.
10. Avoid discussions about the virus
Most children are more perceptive than we give them credit for, so do your best not to discuss COVID-19 or anything else that might add to their anxiety or stress. You can answer their questions and make them aware without inciting irrational fears.
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Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.