We’re all trying to do our part and “just stay home,” but let’s be honest; it’s not as easy as it sounds when you have kids! If the hourly chiming of “I’m bored” doesn’t get to you, the panic over how we’ll keep these kids educated surely will! I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy to survive staying at home with kids. I can, however, give you some tips that will help you keep your sanity while we navigate through this “no end in sight” self-isolation period.
Staying at home with your kids by choice vs. by mandate: there’s a difference!
We parents love our kids more than life itself. Many of us became stay-at-home or work-at-home moms just so we could spend more time with them. We cheer with glee right alongside them when schools announce weather-related closings. We count the days left to summer break because we’re looking forward to taking them on family outings and beach vacations without worrying about them keeping up with their homework.
Let’s be honest, though. There’s a big difference between being a stay-at-home parent and being a ” you cannot leave your home unless it’s a dire emergency parent.” A difference between reveling in the joys of a two-day weather cancellation and navigating the challenge of a “we have no clue when you’ll be seeing your friends again” cancellation.
There’s definitely a difference between spending a worry-free afternoon playing with your kids and spending distraction-filled weeks trying to keep them busy while worrying about how you’ll pay your bills now that your store is shut down, or whether you’ll be able to find basic necessities before you run out, or whether there will actually be food at all in your grocery store let alone organic food. I could go on, but I don’t think I have to because we’re all in the same boat.
So, no, I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. Nor am I going to try to minimize your fears with cliche platitudes like “this too shall pass,” or “just Netflix and chill, it’ll all be okay!” Instead, we’ll focus on some of the little things you can do to survive staying at home with your kids with your sanity intact.
How to Survive Staying at Home with Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind
From navigating your new role as a teacher to figuring out how you can relax the rules without creating little anarchists in the future, these tips will help you survive all aspect of staying at home with your kids until the self-isolation period ends. Whenever that is!
Don’t stress over school
I think the biggest worry on every parent’s mind (after worrying about the virus, of course) is how self-isolation will affect our children’s education. It’s a valid concern, but let’s put it into perspective. Yes, our kids may miss up to the last 2.5 months of school. However, only around 35 of those days are actual “instruction” days. Spring breaks, holidays, weekends, state testing, field days, and other random “lesson-free” days make up the rest of the time. So, they’re actually missing just over a month. That’s not great, true, but it’s also not catastrophic. I had friends who missed more than that just because of mono, and they still graduated on time.
Second, just because kids aren’t sitting in a classroom listening to lectures or writing on worksheets doesn’t mean they’re not learning. Kids learn just as much through everyday life experiences as they do in school. If you’re really worried, go ahead and set up your own homeschool classroom. Just make sure you remind yourself that your child’s teachers went to school for years to learn how to get information into those tiny heads. Don’t be too hard on yourself if reality doesn’t fit your visions of a perfect little one-room schoolhouse, a la Little House on the Prairie style.
Ease up on the rules a little
This one is tough because we’ve spent years learning that kids need consistency, and now we’re hearing “it’s okay to relax the rules.” We have a very real concern that once things go back to “normal,” our kids will use “quarantine rules” as an argument for why they should have more screen time or be allowed to miss school.
Kids are pretty adaptable, though. A lot more so than we adults give them credit for! If you tell them upfront, “These new relaxed rules only apply to this situation and will go back to normal when it’s over,” they’ll get it. After all, we relax the rules for certain situations all of the time! Kids get to stay up a little later during summer break or eat foods we don’t usually serve when we’re on vacation, and so on.
So, go ahead and relax certain rules. Let them have an extra hour (or ten, hey, who’s counting these days) of screen time. Give your teens their phones back “after hours” so they can keep in touch with their friends. Let them get away with watching funny (yet age-appropriate) YouTube videos when they’re supposed to be doing math worksheets. Remember, your kids are just as stressed out and freaked out as you are, even if they’re not saying it. In fact, especially if they’re not saying it.
Just keep the life-sustaining rules, Things like bedtimes, what they can eat for dinner, and basic hygiene rules, etc. Give yourself permission to adapt the rest. I promise, they won’t become little anarchists when this is all over. Well, not anymore than they already are, at least!
Go outside at least once a day
Stay at home doesn’t mean stay IN your home 24/7. Get outdoors, rain or shine, at least once a day for a little while. It sounds inanely over-simplified and borders on one of those platitudes I promised to avoid, but a little fresh air really does do you a lot of good. Staying in the house all day every day can make even the most easy-going of us feel claustrophobic, like the walls are closing in.
Even the mayor of Los Angeles– a city currently on lockdown- says it’s okay to take walks, hikes, or bike rides with your kids. Just follow the social-distancing guidelines and remind your kids to follow them. Try a new “off the beaten path” park or beach that doesn’t get much foot traffic. You may even discover a favorite new spot to spend time after this is all over.
Just let good enough be good enough
I want you to repeat to yourself over and over until you believe it: good enough is good enough. No one is demanding perfection of you, so stop demanding it of yourself. You don’t have to try to be Super Mom (or dad) because you already are a super mom. I saw a funny meme that said something along the lines of, “if you manage to keep your kids alive today, call it a success.” It’s really true. If we manage to get our kids through this with our sanity (and theirs) intact, call it a win!
I think the most important piece of advice that I can give (and take myself) is to remember that we’re ALL going through the same thing. I don’t say that in a “you’re not alone” cliche way, but rather to remind you that your kids aren’t falling behind because there’s currently nothing being taught to fall behind on. Does that make sense? I promised no platitudes, so I won’t tell you that it’s all going to be okay. I will tell you that this will end eventually and we’ll get back to some semblance of normal. No, that’s not a cliche, it’s a historical fact. We’ve survived before, we’ll survive again. Until “normal” returns, just keep doing your best because it really is good enough!