Routines create predictability and comfort. For most of us, our daily routines are created by school, work and various day-to-day responsibilities and commitments. Due to the pandemic, routines have been disrupted which can lead to disorientation and anxiety. Here are six ways that you, as parents and guardians, can combat those feelings by creating routines for your families during this difficult time. Following these tips will make your lives easier and pass important skills down to your children.
- Work as a family unit. With the requirement that everyone shelter in place, we are asked to spend all our time with our children, family and other loved ones – often in very small quarters. We need to share resources such as computers and private space more than ever. To be successful, families need to work together cooperatively, accounting for everyone’s needs, including both children and parents. To promote unity, this is a good time to facilitate regular family meetings during which everyone, including young children, talks about their needs and expectations of others. In addition, daily family meetings can serve as an opportunity to talk about goals and ways to be supportive of one another.
- List the demands and expectations for everyone’s day. Be specific about what each person needs to accomplish. This is the time to list all of your calls, virtual class schedules, homework, lessons, and other virtual appointments. Be specific about when these activities need to occur, how long they will last and what resources people will need to accomplish the tasks.
- Prioritize the list. If there is only one computer and everyone needs to use it at the same time, tension is inevitable. Each person should prioritize their own lists and then work with others when conflicts arise. Compromise can be achieved when priorities are shared, discussed and respected.
- Create daily schedules. Start with the morning routine including wake times, breakfast and daily expectations like chores. Break up the day with various kinds of activities. School and work should be balanced with play, exercise, meals, and snacks. Include everyone on the schedule and post it in a common area, like the refrigerator, for all to see.
- Establish boundaries for yourself and others. Boundaries are often naturally created and influenced by the various settings of our lives. Now that many people are home all the time, we are asked to play different roles in one space, making boundaries difficult to enforce. Parents and guardians have been taking on different roles with children during this time, such as teacher, coach, employee, boss, and parent – each entailing different things. To set new boundaries, it is okay to define the times that you are acting as teacher, parent, etc. when communicating with your children.
- Use mealtimes to share positive stories or experiences from the day. If you have not consistently eaten meals as a family in the past, this is a good time to begin. Research indicates that shared family meals contribute to stronger bonds as well as positive developmental and emotional benefits for children. Use the time to recognize accomplishments, discuss positive stories and share information that you have each learned during the day. By approaching it with an optimistic attitude, your children will feed off your positive energy.
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