If you’re like most families, the “new normal” is taking shape. Work from home and Zoom meetings don’t feel quite as foreign. School and child care have a semblance of a schedule. However, just when it looks like you’ve established a routine, there’s another unplanned event – the loss of a job, a reduction in hours, or a change in your childcare arrangements. How can you provide stability in the midst of so much change? Having a defined (and updatable) schedule can help.
Randi Silverman, author, filmmaker, mental health advocate and founder of the Youth Mental Health Project notes the importance of routine and support for children in this uncertain time. Maintaining as many familiar routines as possible helps children feel safe, and provides calm in this unsettled time.
Here are a few simple steps you and your family can take to rethink your child’s schedule, establish a new home routine and minimize impact on your productivity:
Take time to sit with your family and talk about how to divide the day and responsibilities. Allow each member to share their ideas and take ownership for their schedule. Discussing rather than dictating makes everyone feel part of the plan, too. Allow time for work, school, chores, and play.
Get creative with play time, too. “Sheltering in place” doesn’t have to be limiting. This could be the time to try a new musical instrument with YouTube instructions. Or nature journal and sketch the birds and other wildlife outside your door. Better yet, encourage your kids to talk about what they’ve always wanted to try and plan that for play.
Don’t overlook quiet time either, allowing unstructured time for your child to relax is just as important as planned activities. The Child Mind Institute has a few good ideas in planning your day.
If your household has two parents or guardians now working from home, or unfortunately, there’s been job loss and time is now needed to find new employment, it’s essential to partner in sharing the schedule. Consider splitting child care in segments to allow one person to completely focus on work and the other to be prepared to answer or assist with the kids’ schoolwork or activities. Then rotate where possible.
Tag Teaming a schedule can reduce the stress of both of you trying to respond and impacting both your productivity. Defining how you will share the plan and then communicating to the kids makes it clear to everyone “who’s in charge” throughout the day.
Don’t forget to take time to mindfully support each other or yourself. There are a number or resources to help.
Writing it down and putting it up go a long way to keeping a successful schedule. As circumstances change, be prepared to change the schedule, too. Consider a weekly family meeting time to discuss how things are going, what needs to change and updating with a new schedule for the refrigerator, bathroom, or other visible location. If it helps, consider using the back of the schedule each week for journaling or to record other thoughts and keep as a record of how you and your family navigated this extraordinary experience.
Here’s a template for a day to print.
With the increased amount of time you’re spending with your child, you may be discovering a new side to them as well! Enjoy this opportunity to relate to them through this new routine. This could be a defining moment in your connection with your child.
As we all contend with the emphasis on protecting your family’s physical health, remain mindful of their mental health as well. One in Five Minds is going to be posting blogs related to the challenges facing families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure to sign up to receive our emails so you don’t miss out!