As I write this, my community is just ending day 1 of the #flattenthecurve quarantine and I’ve already read for panicked messages and posts about challenges having any structure in the kids’ day and trying to get work done than I’d normally read in a year. The stress is building from parents who are trying to work from home and keep their kids meaningfully occupied. In fact, one video from the Holderness Family really hit the nail on the head:

Of course, the crazy thing is that we haven’t even hit day two!

Based upon the latest announcement from the Centers for Disease Control, we may be in this for the long haul. Some areas may see school closures longer than the initially proposed two weeks. This means that the routines and structure that we establish now will either help us (or hurt us) in the coming weeks. No pressure, right?

Figuring out What’s Important

For most, school is one of the most structured places that people attend (the other is a prison, but we won’t go there right now). Bells, calendars, daily schedules, and committed adults tell kids where they need to be, when they need to be there, and what they should be doing while they are there.

Our homes, on the other hand, lack such intense structure. Doubly so when you factor in at least one parent trying to work from home because the entire office is now on telework. Trying to provide the same level of structure as a school may very well be an exercise in futility.

One starting point is to decide what is and isn’t important to you during these next two or more weeks. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What time limits do you want to place on screens? Is there a difference between screen time for play, socialization, and schoolwork?
  • Do you have to get work done during the day or can shift some of your work to evening hours?
  • What role do you want your kids to take in keeping the house clean and organized?
  • If you have an important deadline or meeting, how would you want to keep your kids occupied and out of your hair?
  • How self-sufficient are your kids at providing themselves lunch and snacks? Do you need to carve this time out of your workday?
  • What flexibility do you have to step away from your work to re-direct your kids to what they should be doing?
  • How will you reinforce/encourage your kids when they are doing the right thing?
  • What expectations has your child(ren)’s school set for them?
  • What are your must do’s for your kids versus you would like to do’s?

Creating Structure

Once you know the answers to these questions (or at least a reasonable guess), you can start structuring the day for you and your kids. Create blocks of time for each part of the day, but make sure to keep them flexible (remember, you want them washing their hands constantly!). These blocks might be a mix of things like:

  • Creativity/play time (e.g. building with magnatiles, drawing, musical instruments)
  • Academic time (e.g. schoolwork or enrichment)
  • Quiet time (e.g. napping, reading)
  • Prep time (e.g. helping out around the house)
  • Meal time (don’t forget time for snacks!)
  • Spirituality/Mindfulness time (e.g. yoga, prayer, mindfulness meditation)
  • Self-care time (e.g. showering, brushing teeth)

Move the blocks around to work with your work commitments. For example, don’t schedule academic time during an important work meeting unless you think your child can be fully independent.

Remember, your schedule needs to align with the developmental expectations of your child. While a Google calendar might work well for your adolescent, your kindergartner will do better with a visual schedule like this. For older kids, you can have them create a schedule based upon the priorities that you establish together.

Check out the Pinterest board below for more ideas!

Allowing Failure

It’s probably important to note that schedules, routines, and even your values are going to fail at some point during this process. If you start from a place of accepting and allowing your failures, you will be less likely to rake yourself over the coals for allowing extra screentime when you have an important meeting or a deadline to make. Remember, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

The key is recognizing that failure is an opportunity to learn. At dinner each night, talk over what worked during the day’s schedule and what didn’t. Use these reflections to inform the plan for the upcoming day and adjust. The key to being an innovative parent during this quarantine is to constantly be willing to iterate your plans and build from the previous successes and failures.

For more resources on surviving the coronavirus at home, check out the resource page!