20 survival habits for families in Covid19 lockdown
Whether you’re following the #coronacode or you’re#staythefuckhome ing, — families are looking at a few weeks at home. Here are some hacks we’ve compiled from traveling with kids, home-schooling and our own isolation that has started almost 2 weeks ago*.
First of all: Don‘t Panic.
We’re in this together. This family, this household is now a unit, a collective and since we sure as shoveling won’t be sitting at home for days and weeks without cuddles or touches: If Corona hits us, we will all get it and get through it together.
The following guidelines will help you to stay calm and loving, reduce stress instead of increasing it and maybe even give you a chance at enjoying (parts of) these very weird times.
Much of what follows has to do with structure and routine. Of course, chaos and freedom is also healthy and needed. I just don’t advocate for it because chaos needs no advocacy in the daily life of a locked down family ;-)
Structure and ground rules
1. Everyday life needs structure. When daycare and commuting to work are gone, we need to create new routines instead. Specifically: Create daily schedules and daily flows together as a family and put it up somewhere in your home so everyone can see it. Also: stick to it.
2. Adult time off: Every adult needs and gets at least 1–2 hours of me-time per day. With no assignments. For our own mental health. Keep the evenings free though, that’s for couple time if you are one. Protect couple time, especially when you have more than one child and find yourself splitting up the team more often than not.
3. Stuff gets cancelled. Don’t accept that and do the stuff at home. We had kids’ music class Thursdays at 15.00. That’s now happening at home, with a lot of laughter and patience and fun.
4. 5 minutes of clean-up together 2–3x per day. You won’t believe what you get done.
5. Rest time at the middle of the day. We put the baby down for a nap and the rest of us reads, draws, rests or sleeps in the living room. 30–45 minutes of family rest and being quiet together. And yes, sometimes we watch TV together. Because sometimes that’s what we need.
6. We engage in a shared activity every day. Whatever happens, one thing per day is created together. Sometimes that’s a room cleaned, a piece of furniture built or a flower bed made beautiful. Sometimes it’s a dance rehearsed and sometimes it’s even a 20 piece pirate puzzle completed.
7. Morning and evening routines. Beginning, planning and closing the day together. Share wants, needs and ideas in the morning and reflect on what went well and what didn’t in the evenings.
8. Talk to the kids about what is happening and why we are at home.
9. We are outdoors as much as we can. Garden, parks, in the fields, … there are plenty of opportunities to get 2–3hours of fresh air while keeping a responsible distance to others.
Running the household
1. Involve the kids. Give them age appropriate tasks, share responsibility and offer support and praise. Their natural instinct to contribute wants space when their roles in daycare or else fall away. Our tallest really missed “toothbrushing duty” that had her in charge of putting tooth paste on all the kids brushes twice a day. She has that job at home now and feels needed again.
2. Revisit cleaning and chores. Everyone at home 24/7 creates so much more dirt and things to tend to.
Enable social contact outside of the family unit
1. Everyone needs private connections and conversations outside the household. Individual contact. Mom needs to talk to her friends, so does dad. Make space and time for those and be specific about the possibility and value.
2. Enable these conversations for the kids as well. Call grandma or friends (via phone or WhatsApp video or whatever) and give them some privacy. The 3 year old has some secrets to share with grandma, and that’s important.
Learning and Homeschooling
1. Set a fixed time in the day for homeschooling, we do 09:30–11:00 and 3 x 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks in between. Older kids will have books or assignments from school. For daycare age that can be creative projects, singing songs, drawing — whatever they enjoy.
2. One parent is homeschooling, the other one is free (or works or does chores)!
Working at home
1. Define a designated place to work.
2. Make rules together with the kids about how and when to interact with Mum or Dad when they are working. We’re now stable with “when the big hand is on the 6, you can go visit in the home office”. And even my co-workers are looking forward for the hourly kiddo check in at half an hour to.
3. Clear communication with colleagues and clients: We are working from home, and that is less sterile (and kids free) than the office, and that’s a good thing!
Tech and news — #corona and #panicmongering
1. As tempting and important as it may seem: you don’t have to be up to date with news in realtime. Pick your favorite news cast and set an alarm 3 times a day to get your updates. Disable all other tickers and notifications before you lose your mind.
2. Make agreements and talk about them: what are triggers in our family? What is important to us? Example from our family is smart phone use at the dining table: some family members (me) enjoy it and are super unconscious about getting the phone out and then getting lost in it, others (the rest of the family) don’t appreciate that at all!
Lessons we had to learn:
· we now have to discuss, coordinate and plan a lot more at home as a family than we did before.
· we have to take good care of ourselves and each other. That can also mean that we give our partner space that they won’t take themselves.
· Children are and will be amongst the most resilient. Talk to them, listen to them and you’ll be alright.
Good luck and enjoy! I look forward to your suggestions, ideas and experiences to add to this article.
*Co-author: Nina Nisar