Updated: Apr 5
A couple weeks ago (Or was it months? It FEELS like months...but I'm pretty sure it was just weeks.... anyhow...) when this social isolation/physical distancing/COVID-19 situation began, I wrote about Keeping Kids Safe During a Pandemic with four suggestions to make the most of your unexpected time at home. One of these suggestions included creating a schedule. Since that writing, I have seen a lots of parents coming out against the stress and anxiety of creating and maintaining daily schedules....So I want to offer you JUST TWO suggestions to help in this article if you can relate to feeling "schedule stress"!
Now, the first thing we all need to know and remember is that our brains are pattern-seeking. This means that we each have a biochemical preference for a specific routine or rhythm and our brains (and therefore our bodies) feel, think, and act our BEST when we know what to expect to happen first, next, and last in a given situation.
All humans have a specific biochemical preference for daily and weekly rhythms.
Therefore, having a predictable routine (which may sound less scary than "schedule" for you) is going to be helpful for everyone in your home during this utterly unpredictable time.
Just start with something! Like going to bed and waking up at about the same time each night. I know, I know, why not "continue watching" if you don't have to get up early to get ready for school and work, right? Wrong. NOW, more than ever, your body and brain - and your kids' bodies and brains - are going to need some predictability!
OK, you started with sleep and wake times (and let me know if you are struggling with this in your home - I can help!). How about tackling meal times next? If you're all waking up about the same time, perhaps you can eat breakfast together? If your children are older, maybe each of them could take turns preparing lunch for the family? If they aren't old enough yet to tackle this on their own, maybe one day could be "Mom and Mike make dinner" and the next could be "Dad and Joanie make lunch." It would be helpful for your children to have a hand in serving each other - especially during this time - so they (and us) could help make sure we're not just looking out for our own needs, but helping take care of each other.
Next, I suggest making daily commitments and sharing them with each other for accountability.
This is basically just goal-setting but it gives every family member a "focus" for the day. You may want to start off with just one. With two teen boys in my home, we try to make three each day:
One Personal, One Relational, and One Learning Commitment
We do this in the morning and although they may roll their eyes at it, after a couple days of doing this in the morning - AND FOLLOWING UP IN THE EVENING - even they had to admit that it was pretty cool to see how they were able to accomplish more with this daily commitment making!
Here's an example of how this may work in your home:
It's breakfast and you are sitting enjoying your tea and toast or whatever and you say to your children, "Today, I am going to do 10 push ups, work on being present when you speak to me, and read one chapter of my book. What would YOU like to accomplish today?"
Depending on the ages of your children, of course, this is going to look different. They may say, "Today, I am not going to fight with my brother." To which I encourage you to help them reframe it to what it is they are going to do rather than NOT going to do! So you would say, "Today, you are going to use kind words with your brother and/or let him have the first turn and/or only use gentle touches?"
NOW, the evening follow-up is the one of the two most important steps in making daily commitments!
#1. RECOUNT: At dinner or before bed, you say, "Today I was going to do 10 push ups, work on being present when you speak to me, and read one chapter of my book....Well, I forgot to do the push ups. But I made sure to put my phone down when you talked to me and did read one chapter of my book. How did you do with your commitment?"
#2. NO JUDGEMENT: On yourself or your children. Whether they followed through or not with their commitments is on them. So, if your child says, "Well, I was going to use kind words with my brother, but I called him a butt-head." OR if she says, "I used kind words with my brother" but you heard her call him a butt-head. Just. Listen. And nod. AND DON'T SAY ANYTHING! This may be the hardest thing you will do today! But, you want to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in your child. You just accept what they say with love and grace and trust that our Sovereign God knows and is on top of it!
I hope this article provided you an understanding of the need for predictable days and the encouragement to know you can make and keep daily commitments! As always, if you need assistance with creating connections that increase cooperation in your home, please let me know. You are not alone. I can help!
#ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you're in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them.