Schools have been canceled, more and more cities are moving to a shelter in place orders, and Americans are staying home to flatten the curve. More than ever before, families are getting the forced opporutnity to spend more time together. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my family and the idea of slowing down, staying safe, and being together is appealing for sure. But sometimes, too much, is …. well too much!
You’ve dreamed of spending more time together as a family for years. Life always seems so hectic and chaotic and you get tired of feeling like a taxi driver taking kids to one activity after another.
Well, now you have it – government mandated order to stay at home!
Even with the fears of the stock market, job uncertainty, and fears of getting sick you are enjoying the slower pace of life. You love that your family is together for every meal, no made dashing to clubs. You actually play board games and make time to read books cuddled up on the couch.
But….. the days wear on an suddenly this togetherness might just be too much!
Depending on how much time your family is acustomed to spending together this may be really hard or mild. It is an adjustment. Don’t worry, feeling smothered or needing space doesn’t make you a bad parent! I promise!
It may just take some time to get a new normal; a balance of family time and me time. Taking time to yourself to be in silence, to read a book without rhymes – it’s OK.
We have been a homeschooling family before it became “popular” with the school clores (LOL). So spending time with my 6 kids is normal. We have a routine, the kids and I have our patterns and know when to give each other space. But having Daddy with us 24/7 has been a harder adjustment than we anticipated. Now don’t get me wrong – we LOVE Daddy! He has spent his evenings sheltering at home making us homemade pizza – YUM! Daddy can be super funny and playful, and is always willing to do the dishes. He rocks! But…. Daddy is an introvert and he is not getting the space he needs to recharge. Without that time…. he is (ahem) getting grumpier and grumpier. Time for some changes!
Make Time for Me
Everybody needs some time to themselves that is truly theirs to control. It doesn’t have to be a whole day or afternoon, but uninterupted time to just be themselves and not have to be in charge or on point.
Here are some practical suggestions to help you give everyone the space they need even in isolation!
You may be tempted to toss bedtimes out the window because your schedules just became more flexible, but don’t!
- You all need to be well rested to keep your bodies strong in case you get a virus
- When people are better rested, they are better behaved…..need I say more?!
- By having all the kids in bed at night, that gives you and your spouse some couple time together every night.
So when should your kids go to bed? That is really up to you. It depends largly on the age of your children, how early you and your spouse go to bed, and what time your kids are use to going to bed. If they have always had a 9pm bedtime they will baulk at 8pm, but you may be able to move it to 8:30pm. Younger kids can realistically be in bed by 7 or 7:30. In our home, all kids are in bed (and allowed to read a book in bed) by 8:30pm, the younger kids go to bed earlier. That way my husband and I have time to tidy up the house and get about an hour of uninterupted time before we fall asleep. We get up early so we are asleep by 10pm.
Institute Quiet Time
Remember way back when your babies and toddlers took afternoon naps from lunch until early afternoon (12-3pm or so). Well in our house, we never got rid of them. No, I don’t make my 8th grader take 3 hour naps every day =)… but we morphed nap time into quiet time.
In our home, quiet time is a time when the house is literally QUIET! My little people who still take afternoon naps, nap. My older children do their school work independently (if they haven’t finished before lunch), play with their toys, or read – all in their rooms! They know they cannot come out and talk until 3pm. This is good for 2 reasons:
- Kids need space too! They need to learn to be by themselves, self entertain, and have time to puruse their own interests.
- This not only gives me the quiet in the house that I crave, but it gives me some uninterupted me time. Some days I work, others I clean the kitchen or menu plan, and some days….. I sneak in a bath or watch my favorite tv program. Really it doesn’t matter what I do – but I get to CHOOSE what I do.
Are there times we break quiet time? Sure. Some days we meet with friends or I spend time giving one of my kids extra 1:1 time with school work or just spending quality time together. But most days of the week it is “free time for Mom” and every day it is QUIET!
Trade off Evening Duties
So our afternoon quiet time is great for me, but it doesn’t help my introverted husband get his me time because when I get my time…. he is working from home. Try alternating evenings of watching the kids. Give your partner the night off at least once (if not more) a week. But basically, from the time they finish working until bedtime, the family needs to go about life pretending they are not there.
- Eat dinner on your own in a man cave (office, basement, garage, bedroom)
- Watch a movie that you can’t watch with the family
- Exercise (great for stress relief) – jog around the block, shoot hoops in the driveway, use your treadmill, do a workout video, squeeze in some push-ups / sit ups / squats / burpees
- Play Games on your own like darts, pool, ping pong, video game, or something on your cell phone
- Take a long shower or bath…. or sit in a spa or sauna if you have one
- Do Lawn Work ONLY if that relaxes you (some guys like that, my husband does not!)
- Hobby – have a hobby like wood working, painting, photography, etc. Spend time doing what you love
- Read a Book – spend time reading a book you enjoy
- Endulge in a sweet treat – have your spouse sneak you a bowl of ice cream, slice of pie, or a handful of jelly beans to eat all by yourself without hearing “can I have some too”
- Finish A Project – if you are like my husband you have a million projects started at once and finishing something never seems to happen. Take some time and actually organize your workshop, clean your car, etc.
- Chat with a friend – with social distancing you can’t catch a movie, meet a buddy for golf, etc., but you may still want to talk with another adult who isn’t your partner. That’s ok. Call, facetime, or message with a friend.
- Watch Funny Videos on You Tube – my husband likes just scrolling through youtube and watching how to videos and dreaming about making better pizza, wood working, etc.
If you are lucky enough to be in social isolation with a spouse, use them! If you have a child throwing a tantrum or find yourself getting frustrated helping your son with his school work, ask your spouse to tag in. Then after 30 min or so ask if they need to swap. Then neither of you gets “too” frustrated and you both get a needed break.
Having everyone home all the time will undoubtedly mean MORE MESS! But that shouldn’t mean you have to clean it all! Having kids help with household chores is good for them! It helps them take responsibility, build character. So even if your kids have never helped around the house before – now is the time!
Sit down as a family with a list of daily chores and go around the circle with each of you picking one. Repeat until all the chores are assigned to someone. You can trade off chores every week. Another idea is to draw chores at random from a hat. Here are some common household chores kids can help with include:
- making beds
- doing laundry / folding / putting away clothes
- doing dishes
- wiping down table / counters after meals
- setting table / filling cups with water
- feeding the dog
- walking the dog
- changing sheets / linens and bathroom towels weekly
- cleaning bathroom: toilet, shower, sink
- vacuuming the house
- disinfecting surfaces you touch frequently like light switches, door handles, counters, bathrooms, etc.
- light police – make sure lights not in use get turned off
- clean up toys
- water the flowers / garden
Giving out chores may create some resistance at the beginning, but it is worth it. Kids tend to make less mess when they realize they will have to clean it up! I suggest holding them accountable with a checklist or limiting rewards if they haven’t finished their chores. At our house, you have to finish your list before you get dessert, play game, or watch a movie. If anyone is truly stubborn, they have to go to bed at the same time as the littles – 7pm! I’ve only ever had to threaten that one….. it seems to do the trick in our house.
Deal Swiftly with Behaviors
Nothing can grate on your time at home together quicker than naughty children! Now is not the time to be lax with discipline. I’m not saying you run your own branch of the army or make them line up like they did in Sound of Music, though sometimes it is tempting. But more if you say something – follow through! If not, they will stop obeying and that spins out of control really quickly! Yikes! Don’t tolerate disrecpect towards other members of your family (talking back, name calling, stealing toys, shoving, etc). You are all stuck in your house – it needs to be a safe space. At our house, we send people to their room if they can’t be polite until they are willing to apologize and behave better. You may also need to take away privledges like staying up late, dessert, electronics, etc.
If you are consistent with your expectations, kids will know how to behave and everyone will be happier!
Practice Selfless Love
Kids are great imitators. If they have an annoying habit, I challenge you to ask your spouse if they can see where they get it from. We’ve found most of the things the kids do that annoy us, they learned from one of us in some way shape or form. So watch, evaluate, and make changes as needed.
Because kids are great at imitating, if you start setting an example of putting others first. They will follow your example. New to this concept…. try:
- let everyone else pick their slice of food first
- pick chores last
- allow someone else to go first in the line for the bathroom
- when picking a movie or game, let others choose first
- have a disagreement, be quick to admit you may be wrong or agree to disagree and move on
- ask your spouse what they want to do or what they need
Give Hugs & Praise Freely
When people feel loved and cared for they are move loving and easy to live with. And unlike toilet paper that is in short supply, hugs and encouraging words are FREE! So make sure you hug everyone who lives in your house 3 times a day. Praise others in your house for concrete things (we are not talking about blanket, empty words). For example:
- Great job getting your chores done without being asked
- I love how you stopped to help your brother get water
- Thanks for doing such a great job wiping the table after dinner tonight
- I am so proud of how hard you are working at your school work
- I love you. (No explanation needed! These can be scary weeks for kids and they NEED to hear you love them and that things will be ok…. repeatedly!)
- Your smile always brightens my day.
- I always like when you wear that blue shirt; it brings out your pretty eyes.
One of the quickest ways to pull yourself out of a funk is to start having FUN! Take a peak at 101 Fun Things to Do in Isolation or pick something you like, but do something together. Create memories! When you are laughing together you wont have time to be annoyed!
Looking for more fun ideas with your family? Try our 40+ April Activies for Kids or these fun April Crafts for Kids. Spend time reading together as a family with our April Stories for Kids, Childrens Books to Read, or our Bookcase Reading Logs to have a friendly family reading contest.
Plus don’t miss our other great articles on surviving the pandemic:
- 15 Ways to Avoid Social Isolation as you Shelter at Home
- 101 FUN Things to do in Isolation
- Conversation Starters – Stay Connected with Grandparents During Social Isolation
- Sorry, you are NOT Homeschooling – debunking the homeschooling is too hard myth
- 10 Things Parents MUST do in Social Isolation
- School Closure Guide for Parents – lots of practical tips for parents!
- Brain Breaks for kids – studies show that taking a 3-5 minutes brain break increases productivity for the next 45 minutes! Plus, kids need to get the wiggles out and not sit in front of a screen all day as they school at home!
- Keep encouraging kids to wash their hands to fight germs with these 40+ FREE Printable Wash Your Hands Posters
- 1 million FREE Worksheets, Games, and Activities for Prek-8th grade
- Learn about other countries in the news: Spain Coloring Pages, Italy Coloring Pages, China Coloring Pages
- 40 Virtual Fieldtrips for Families practining Social Distancing
Stay home, stay safe, and love each other!