We are closing out week three of our shelter in place orders here in California, and we still haven’t hit the peak of the pandemic. In three short weeks, everything we’ve ever known has been completely turned on its side. Our streets are bare. Businesses closed. Eye contact and smiles are scarce. Our children are home demanding snacks every hour and making themselves available for zoom meetings photobombs. And we have inadvertently become the Lunch Lady! As well as the IT manager, the Teacher’s Assistant, PE teacher, Martial Arts instructor, and nurse.
In some cases, the teacher and the principal. I haven’t even touched on the other personalities in the home that is now home all day long. Your dogs who usually love being around you are now waiting to get their house back. Life feels more like an episode of the Twilight Zone right now.
The last time Hippo and I spent this much time together, he was a toddler. I was not a single mother. And I was not working. Having a toddler dependent on you is different than having a tween defy you while also being dependent on you. Also, there wasn’t a cloud of fear and anger hanging over his head. Although my child is used to living in a home whose schedule is dictated by a chronic condition, Covid19 is more like an invisible boogie man roaming the streets. It’s stripped him of his friends, his school, his work, his activities, and most of his independence. While simultaneously restructuring his daily routine. Not to mention the fact that it has segregated him from his other parent. Who lives outside of the home in another state. When the world is burning, all you want is your mommy and your daddy. When the world is burning all around you, it would be amazing to have a partner right there supporting and loving us both through it all. However, that isn’t our reality.
Trying to find a balance between his school work, my school work, my financial work, my brand building, maintaining a household, and my health is damn near impossible. Not just because of the emotional stress this whole situation is bringing, but the physical space. There is no space in our small little home. And because I am the only one doing all the things…Hippo and I are pretty gosh darn close now. Much closer than any tween wants to be to his mom. So, how do we do it every day? How are we maintaining?
Maintain A Schedule
Although we are getting up an hour later than usual, we are still maintaining an order of the day. That includes getting dressed, maintaining proper hygiene, eating before starting school. And his school day follows his regular schedule while he is in class through Zoom. Afterward, he will “hang out” with his friends as if he was in school. They play games together virtually, chat through video conferencing, or may read along while the video conference is live. This way, they can still see one another and interact. This is his time. I try to remove myself as much as possible, outside of making breakfast, snack, and lunch.
I make lunch special. It’s not the standard sandwich, fruit, and chips he would get while at school. I try to make it a little enjoyable. It’s not only essential to maintain a sense of normalcy, but I want my little one to find some joy throughout the day. Sometimes I add a little treat. So when I make my trips to the grocery store, I make sure to add things that he would enjoy that I usually wouldn’t buy. For example, chocolate milk or cinnamon graham cracker cookies. Anything that would give him a comforting hug. I also allow him to keep his video conference going while he eats his lunch. As much interaction with his friends he can have, I am willing to give.
Ask & Answer
My child and I have always had an open line of communication. Because he is smart, I am a single mother, and we are people of color, I need my child to trust me for our own peace and safety. For that, he deserves honesty. When he asks a question, I answer it to the best of my ability. For him, his fear comes from not knowing. I’ve been honest with him about how severe this outbreak has been. I have prepared him for the idea that he may not be able to go back to school until the end of summer. That he may not be ready to go to work until the Fall. He doesn’t deserve false hope and unrealistic expectations of reality. Our kids need comfort and love, the best way that I can comfort my child is with the truth.
It’s also essential to ask them how they are feeling. Check-in with them. Ask them what they know or have heard. The kids are talking to each other about it. It’s crucial we understand what we are dealing with.
Outside of their emotional well being, as them what they want to do. What are some activities they are interested in? What issue I had been having was finding new things to do that I thought he would like. Finally, I just asked him what he wanted to do. He gave me a list. We’ve put these things on the calendar so that he can see them and look forward to something. It also gives him a bit of control over these circumstances.
Now is the best time to take the opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of self-care. For them, this might be breathing exercises, a game, a favorite book, or a nap. Explain how critical self-care is for everyone in the family. Perhaps set the alarm for a time set aside for everyone in the household to practice their version of self-care separately. If you have younger children, it might be smart to plan self-care time during their naptime. This practice should happen every day to help maintain good mental health for the entire family.
Social Media Is Your Friend
I’ve spent the last 8 years restricting my son’s screen time, and now I’m helping him navigate through social media. Why? Because the world is connecting with one another more than ever through social media platforms. There are hosted dance parties, yoga practices, dance classes, storytimes, and concerts that have nothing to do with covid19. The world is getting a little closer together, and I found that participating in some of these activities makes us feel less claustrophobic.
There is no right or wrong way to navigate your family through this time. We are all different with different needs and dynamics. Put the health and safety of your family first. Love on each other. Take care of one another and communicate openly about how you are going to live together this way for this extended period. It’s going to take a lot of patience, communication, and an open mind to navigate your way through. Anxieties are high. Times are uncertain. But the love your children have for you and the support you are willing to give them is more durable than the fear that surrounds us.