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(Still) At Home With The Kids?: How Not To Lose Your Mind

Quarantined? Snowed in? Virtual learning day? Again? We need a reset! Here are some ways to keep your sanity and good humor intact while you are in close quarters with your little ones. Without becoming screen-fed zombies...or gaining 10 pounds.

I know I sound old when I say this, but I remember the blizzard of '93! My kids were 10 and 11 years old and in NC we experienced a blizzard. In our rural area where snow plows are rare and trees shade many of the roads, 14" of snow was a really big deal. We were well and truly stuck at home. For days.

What I remember most about those days is that I taught the kids how to play Clue. And they liked it. A lot. We played and played. I began to feel as though Miss Scarlet had whacked me on the head with a candlestick in the lounge. Endless games of Clue. Endless. And since you have to have three people to play it, I was obligated. We still play Clue when we're together.

That one week snow event from decades ago can not begin to compare to the lock downs we have experienced off and on for the past nearly two years. I have great memories of spending that week "stuck" with my children who were just beginning to have lives and friends and activities that did not always include me. I was happy to have an opportunity to soak in their presence. But it was only one week. Not two years.

I know from conversations with my young friends who are still experiencing times of quarantines that being home for days on end with restless children, trying to work, keeping the house relatively clean, preparing meals that everyone will eat is draining. The situation we are in as parents is getting on our collective nerves, but moms are taking the biggest hit.

Let's face it. Mothers almost always bear the brunt of this kind of crisis. They are the ones that carry the biggest weight of the responsibility for managing our homes. Many fathers do all they can to partner with mothers, but moms are still the primary home managers.

What can a mom do when she is at the end of her own rope and is still trying to nurture children who are at the end of theirs? Patience wears out, tempers flare up, weariness sets in. Well, you can declare a reset. You can reframe the experience. You can steer the family.

Here are some solid suggestions that will help you to do these things. These suggestions will require you to access strength that you may not realize you have, but you do. You can make this time a positive memory for your family. Or at least a less stressful one. For all of you.

  1. Accept that this is hard. For everyone. The first step is to stop saying that everything is fine if everything is not fine. You don't need to post endless whining complaints on Facebook, but look at yourself in the mirror and say, "We can do better. We should be happier. We need to have more fun." Admit it to yourself, and then take charge.

  2. Create a reset time. Put on some music for a dance party. Call everyone to the kitchen and make individual home made pizzas. Have a pie making contest. Set up several board games and go around to each game, everyone making one move at each game then move to the next. This is a riot. Turn off the screens. Turn. Off. The. Screens. Tell jokes and riddles. One right after the other. Google them if you have to, but get everyone laughing. Laughter really is the cure for so many stress factors.

  3. Insist (gently) on cooperation. Remind the family often that you are a family. Insist that words be kind and that everyone put forth the extra effort to get along. Be together in one room. Don't let anyone isolate for hours on end. This is not good for anyone's mental health. We're in this together, so be together.

  4. Really Talk. Really Listen. Ask each other questions. If you know that your child has a particular interest or has a lot of knowledge about a topic, ask them a question about it and then listen. You might learn something and your child learns that they have something valuable to say. Don't grow weary of hearing what is on your child's mind and in their heart. This accomplishes a couple of things: you get to know your child's heart and mind and they see the example of good listening skills.

  5. Set a solid routine. Stick to it. Sitting around in pajamas all day? Stop it. Get up, get dressed in real clothes, do something with your hair, and make everyone else do the same. Accomplish something every day. Be alert and awake. Have breakfast. Have lunch. Have supper. Read, create, work, plan, imagine, play, help, serve, laugh, smile. Get with it. Exercise out of doors and get plenty of sunlight. Drink water. Stay strong on purpose. This is the only life you and your children have. Use it and live it well.

  6. Use the internet as a tool not as a friend. Whatever you have to do to limit your and your child's time in the virtual world do it. The internet has enabled much of our educational and industrial systems to carry on somewhat, but we are becoming dependent on it for companionship. We need to rely on each other for relationships. We are humans and we need other humans. Make sure that your ratio of time with people and time on the web is 3:1 at a minimum. Unplug the drug.

Life during Covid-19 has been radically different than anything any of us planned. But there are a lot of advantages to this. We have learned how to pivot and how well we can adapt. We can change and continue to grow and learn. Life can be lived differently from our expectations and still be beautiful. We can make good things rise from bad situations.

But mostly, we have learned that we are in charge of how our homes function and how well our family loves and lives. Take the leadership role you were given and be great!

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