Tips for Coping While at Home

Published: | by Kyrstin Hill

How are you at juggling? 

Caring for kids, schooling from home, telecommuting, doing household chores, cooking meals and cleaning everything from hands to door handles multiple times a day can create all kinds of stress in adults and stressed adults make for stressed kids AND stressed kids often communicate in behaviors that create more stress for adults, also known as the never ending cycle! So with the thought of continuing this stressful new normal “until further notice," what do we do? How do we cope? 

This post will go over topics like juggling time, creating a schedule, behavior management, conflict management and other survival tips that may make life more bearable, maybe even enjoyable, during this uncertain time.  

Juggling Time 

Create a Master schedule for everyone in the house. Schedules offer stability and predictability – something in short supply these days. Make the schedule visible and fun as you let kids illustrate it with icons and pictures and hang it in a prominent place. Then make sure everyone has an individual copy. Even little guys can learn to a follow a picture schedule. Helpful Hint: Go over the schedule each day to reinforce the use of it. It's always better if children can see it and hear you say it.  

As you schedule, make sure there is an ebb and flow to the day. It is reasonable to expect elementary aged kids to concentrate on a topic or task for 45 minutes to an hour but that needs to be balanced with movement and something that requires less concentration. Younger children might only concentrate in 20 minute increments.

Below is an example of what a schedule could look like. This schedule may not work for your family, so you should create one that goes with your family's flow. But remember, schedules can work if they are followed. 

TimeActivityNotes
7:30 a.m.Breakfast: Set table, help with prep and clean up 
8:30 - 9:30 a.m.AcademicsParent facilitation may be needed to start the day.  
9:30 - 10 a.m.Physical PlayWalk, dance to music, sports, etc. 
10 - 11 a.m.Independent academicsKids do the work and adult checks at the end.
11 - 11:30 a.m.ChoresAge appropriate chores are added to the chart.
Kids do the task and the adult checks at the end of the time frame.
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Lunch: Prepare, eat and clean up Everyone works together. If children are old enough, they can help set the menu for the week and prepare their own lunches.
12:30 - 1:30 p.m.Independent academicsKids do the work and adult checks at the end.
1:30 - 2:30 p.m.Outside playThis can serve as downtime for adults. 
2:30-3:30 p.m.Independent academicsKids do the work and adult checks at the end.
3:30-5 p.m.Art, music, messy play*, outdoor play*Messy play – Create a designated space in your house for messy play and set aside some time for that play …Make sure  CHILDREN CLEAN IT UP at the end of the  designated messy play time.  
5-6 p.m.DowntimeDowntime could include reading, television, screen time, etc. 
6-7 p.m.Dinner and clean up
7-8:30 p.m.Prepare for bed timeFamily games, watch a movie, reading, etc.
8:30 p.m.Kids in bed/Adult downtime Kids reading/sleeping in bed. No technology. 

  Behavior Management 

Maybe your children are well behaved all day every day, but for the rest of us here are some simple tips that might help manage all of this together time.

  •  First/then. Make sure your directions to kids are succinct rather than wordyFirst math, then outside works better than lots of explanatory words. You can even create first then cards to use since kids will not only hear your directive but will also see it! It's always better if children can see it and hear you say it. Click here for a First/Then Chart template.
  • Be careful to reinforce the desired behavior, not the misbehavior. All misbehavior is an effort to escape something (like doing school work) or access something (like a video game, attention, freedom, power, etc). For instance, if a child is punished with a time out, it may be that he “won” because he is escaping what you wanted him to do. Any time you “solve” a behavior, ask yourself if you just gave into what the child really wanted. 

Conflict Management

Most conflict is about accessing something – an item that has to be shared, power over siblings or your attention. It is very difficult to be accurate in who did what to whom first, so don’t even try. Many times kids are just looking to be acknowledged as the one who is right (accessing your attention). Instead, consider trying these steps:

  1. Acknowledge the conflict. As soon as you hear voices start to rise…STAY CALM and enter the situation. 
  2. Get on a level with the children and ask each child to describe the situation as you control interruption from the other child. Repeat what you heard from each in your words. 
  3. Ask each child for ideas about compromise. 
  4. Recount the conflict, the children’s solution and stick around until it is put into place. 

Last word on behavior. 

Remember the Titanic? The part of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic was below the water level. The behavior you are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg -- stress, hunger, fatigue, anger, sensory challenges, fear and insecurity are All underlying causes of behaviors you might see. If you only address the behavior, it will be repeated. Take some time to observe and figure out what might be causing your children’s behaviors and see if you can address any needs they have.  

Other Survival Tips 

Create adventure whenever and wherever you canBe creative with this and plan for weekends to make then different and special. Throw out the schedules on weekends in favor of BIG FAMILY TIME, spent hiking in the outdoors, serving others in safe ways (i.e. from a car, from a picture window), family tournaments, etc. 

Think ahead. Plan the adventures you are going to take. Will you take a vacation this summer? Will you plan a trip to the Museum? Make a list of the first ten things you want to do when the quarantine is over and plan them. Let you kids use your phone to determine the distance, plan what you want to do when you get there and even create a budget for it.  

Give yourself respite. Since babysitters are hard to come by unless you have older children in the house, set up a time to FaceTime with grandparents. At least they can keep an eye on the children for 10 minutes while you take a breather. Use technology to your advantage.  Bend the time constraints on tech time a little to give yourself respite during the day. Once you know the video game is safe, let kids play them alone and give yourself a breather. Though this is not the typical advice you hear from child development experts, “desperate times call for desperate measures!"

 On the bright side, this unprecedented time is RIPE with opportunity you may never have again. The gift of time with your children is such a blessing. Take time with them just to do life. An on-going jigsaw puzzle, hikes and making collections, cloud watching, journaling, reading together, developing a skill together like cooking, sewing or woodworking are all amazing ways to connect with your children and get to know them in new and different ways. This pandemic will pass away with the speed of childhood and we may very well look back on it and say, "Where did the time go?” Use this gift wisely!