On Day 1 of our family's quarantine, my 4-year-old daughter never got dressed. She wore her pajamas all day, which is fine, I guess, for one day.
Day 2, we set a schedule.
- 6:30-8:30 a.m. Get dressed/breakfast/iPad
- 8:30-9:30 a.m. Learning
- 9:30-10:30 a.m. Outdoors/walk
- 10:30-11:30 a.m. Arts and crafts
- 11:30 Lunch
- Noon-1 p.m. Quiet time
- 1-2 p.m. Reading and writing
- 2-3 p.m. Science
- 3-4 p.m. Baking in the kitchen
- 4-8 p.m. ?????
The thing is, my husband and I both work full time. Plus, there's a baby to take care of, too. So here I am, writing this column on Day 2 in my living room. It's 10:43 a.m. The baby is napping. My 4-year-old is streaming "Peter Pan." No, wait. She just changed her mind. We're on to "My Little Pony."
So much for arts and crafts, I guess. Things fell apart about 30 minutes ago during our walk around the neighborhood when one of the girls fell and scraped up her knee. Maybe we'll right our course after lunch.
Anyway, all this is just to say that family schedules during the coronavirus crisis are helpful, essential even, but need to be inherently flexible. I'm giving myself plenty of grace. You should, too.
I'm listing here a few things that I hope will help keep me and my family sane for the foreseeable future. You may have already picked some of them up on social media. They're not groundbreaking, but they're working for us — so far.
If you have other ideas that seems to be working for your family, please email me (please!) at email@example.com.
Scholastic Learn at Home
The editors of Scholastic Classroom Magazines have made available free online day-by-day lesson plans for students of all ages. This morning, we completed a pre-K lesson about rabbits, which included a few e-books and a jumping exercise that involved tape and measuring. It easily kept my oldest daughter engaged for 45 minutes. Here's the website (bit.ly/2wad28p) where you can access all the lessons. The programs for older kids cover a variety of topics ranging from the chemistry of candy to the Loch Ness monster.
Take a walk
Get out of the house. The weather is amazing this time of year and walking is both beneficial for your body and for your mental health. I promise you you'll feel better afterward (unless you fall and scrape your knee, of course).
I downloaded the Calm app about nine months ago and I love it. It's pricey as far as apps go, almost $70 for a yearly subscription, but the company announced a few days ago it is releasing a bunch of free resources to help people manage their anxiety during these scary times. My 4-year-old loves the "sleep stories," which are designed to help kids and adults unwind at the end of the day. I've found myself using the app's breathing exercise feature a lot lately. Basically, it allows you to set a timer — for one, two or more minutes — and it guides you through a deep breathing exercise.
Limit alcohol consumption
Nothing seems more natural to me than pouring a glass of wine at 5 p.m. to unwind, especially when I'm surrounded by two cranky children. But I've found that I need every reserve of energy at my disposal to get me through these very long days and the truth is I just don't sleep as well after drinking alcohol. I'm not cutting it out of my life completely. I'm just cutting back. This is also a time when we're establishing new family habits and this seems like a healthy one to adopt.
Limit news consumption
Have you ever had a news hangover? There's a lot to keep track of right now, and part of that's my job. But it's not beneficial for me to binge on Twitter as I lie in bed late at night. On social media especially, the most extreme voices rise to the top. In our house, we watch TV news in the morning and in the evening, but we don't keep cable news running as background noise all day. Cumulatively, I think it creates an atmosphere of panic that I don't want my children exposed to.
Find some alone time
My husband said he plans on going surfing for exercise now that his gym is closed. Sometimes I need to take a nap when the baby naps. It is so important now that we're all living under the same roof — all day long — to find some time apart from each other and the kids.
Read a book
I have a tall stack of books on my nightstand that I'm resolved to conquer before this outbreak is over. I keep track of what I've read and what I want to read with the Goodreads app. It's also a great way to keep tabs on what your friends are reading, what books they've liked and disliked. I tend to be impartial about reading printed books or books on my Kindle, but these days, there's something about picking up a physical book that feels so therapeutic. Who among us doesn't need to unplug? And just because we're all social distancing doesn't mean you can't still shop local. Buxton Books on King Street offers free shipping over $35.
Last but not least, try be kind
Be kind to your spouse. Be kind to your children. Even when you don't feel like it. Especially when you don't feel like it. I feel your pain. I know what it's like when your children refuse to eat dinner. When they resist bedtime. When the schedule implodes. When you're so depleted you want to hide in the dark pantry. But this will pass.
My children won't remember much about the coronavirus when they're older. They're too young. But I read something on Instagram the other day that really hit home: "Most young kids will remember how their family home felt during the coronavirus panic more than anything specific about the virus. Our kids are watching us and learning about how to respond to stress and uncertainty. Let's wire our kids for resilience, not panic."
In closing, a few more suggestions I'm trying to follow myself: Stay healthy. Wash your hands. Try to smile. Take a deep breath, and then another one.