As we settle into the new normal of social distancing, many families are facing a different kind of life together—one that hopefully brings new joys but certainly also new tensions.
If you’re not used to being home with your young one and life now is feeling difficult—and maybe you feel as though you’re about to unravel—please know that you are not alone!
I am a full-time mother of a very active 4-year-old boy and an independent 2-year-old girl. I have certainly experienced my share of tensions, meltdowns, and breakdowns, but currently it’s smooth sailing—lots of laughter and good cooperation and I’m really enjoying them.
However this has come about after a lot of effort, reading, learning, soul-searching, and improvement on my part.
I emphasize myself here because nearly always, children’s bad behavior mirrors their environment in some way. This includes parental attitudes. For many parents, this is of course a very stressful time, so naturally our children will not be at their best. So please do your utmost to take care of yourself—physically, emotionally, spiritually.
I have found that being really tender and loving as I take care of my children can be wonderfully healing for all of us. For example, dressing and undressing can be a battle in my house, but when I approach it as a time to connect both verbally and physically—talk about how big they are growing, how proud I am of something they did, examine and kiss yesterday’s boo-boos, give a foot massage with some lotion—we all enjoy the process.
An additional plus, I’ve also found that after connecting with me in this way, my children are satisfied and are more able to entertain themselves for longer periods.
My second piece of advice is to make sure you have the following three things in good shape: routine, boundaries, and warmth.
In this article I will focus on some of the key elements of routine. Stay tuned next week for more on boundaries and warmth.
Having a routine is pretty basic parenting advice, so you’ve probably heard it before and probably follow it to some extent. However, it takes a great deal of dedication and discipline to stick to a routine, so now that there is nothing you need to schedule around, it may be tempting to let your routine go. Please don’t, and here’s why:
Routine makes children physically and psychologically comfortable. It allows their bodies to find a rhythm and sense deep down that all is right with the world—even though all is not right in the adult world now—your child’s world can still be bright and beautiful.
Also, the coronavirus is inflicting terrible misery on people in certain places in the world, but thankfully and somewhat inexplicably, it is not affecting many children. So for those of us now resting chez nous, who are untouched by it, what better thing to do than fill our homes with joy, peace, and gratitude?
Of course this is also a good time for self-reflection, and you may also feel sadness and fear but strive to be the master of these emotions. Balance them with empathy and hope.
A good routine should also give you time to follow the news, but preferably not when young children are around, as the news is likely to make anyone agitated and that is not pleasant for young children. Of course if you do find yourself upset about something in front of your children, it can also be a good opportunity to model good coping skills. All ll I’m suggesting is that you don’t make a habit of watching the nightly news in front of the kids. Actually, if you are a longtime reader of The Epoch Times, you probably know better than to watch cable news.
Here are important aspects to consider when creating a good routine for young children: timing of meals and sleep; balance of inward and outward activities; connection with you and independent play.
Most young children do best when they eat and sleep early. Young children are often hungry earlier than adults so dinner between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. is ideal. Sometimes I find my kids need a 4:30 p.m. dinner. Early dinner means bedtime can be 7-7:30 p.m., and you get your evening free.
By inward and outward activities I mean quiet, focused play, or stationary activities like drawing, versus gross motor activities like dancing or running around outside. Note that screen time is not what I consider an activity, more of a pacifier, and my children don’t have any unsupervised screen use. Once in a while we watch a few minutes of family photos or videos or something educational but I don’t use screens as a babysitter. This is one of the benefits of an effective routine—your day is balanced so they just aren’t necessary.
Connection and Play
As I mentioned above, children do best when they connect with their caregiver in different ways throughout the day. This could be eye contact, your taking time to really look at the block creation they built and admire it, chatting during a meal, reading a story. For my son, wrestling with his dad is also an important way to connect. I don’t wrestle but have a number of other little games involving movement and physical contact that my children love. For example, they love running back and forth past me while I try to give their bottoms a pat. I also combine this with counting in English and sometimes foreign languages for an extra layer of learning.
Also, work together! My son and I like to work in the garden, and my children love to help me cook. And when I approach cleaning with gusto they are usually happy to help. My husband recently had to remind me that the key to doing chores with young children is managing your expectations. They will probably be more of a hindrance than a help at first, but if you praise their efforts and teach them how to do things right, you will have spent good quality time with them now and planted the seeds for a capable child in the future.
Good luck and stay tuned for next week’s article on boundaries and warmth.
My Routine With Children Ages 4 and 2
6 a.m.: I wake up. The day goes much better if I’m awake before the kids.
7 a.m.: Kids wake up, we cuddle, read, hang out.
7:30 or 8 a.m.: Start eating breakfast, then dress and I try to squeeze in morning chores (making beds, laundry etc.).
9 or 9:30 a.m.: Head outside. In nice weather we stay outdoors until lunch.
10 a.m.: Light snack, like water and fruit.
11 a.m.: Come inside and prepare lunch.
11:30 a.m.: Eat lunch.
12 p.m.-1 p.m.: Clean up and do chores.
1 p.m.-3 p.m.: Rest time. We read stories together and the 2-year-old usually sleeps. After reading to them, I try to make time to meditate, read, or do chores without their help. They can play quietly if they don’t want to sleep.
3 p.m.: Afternoon snack.
3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: We usually go outside again.
4:30 p.m.: Prepare dinner.
5:30 p.m.: Eat dinner.
6:30 p.m.: Start bedtime routine.
7:30 p.m.: In bed. I work after they are asleep.