As parents, the last few months have been challenging and draining to say the least. The kids are all off routine, they’re home 24/7 and missing their friends and extended family. We all are. While we don’t know how long this will last, or what the new “normal” will look like, we can also view this time as a blessing.
We're so fortunate to have somewhere safe to stay, fortunate that our kids are with us, and lucky that we get to choose how we handle this situation. Here are 6 tips that have helped us get through the last few months, that we’ll continue to use as we stick close to home this summer:
Connect as a Family with a Weekly Tradition
Our weekly tradition started with watching a kids’ cooking show every Friday night. Now it’s evolved into watching this show in our PJ’s, with a different homemade treat each week that the kids help make. Watching this together has been great because it’s helped us bond as a family - we talk about what we think will happen on the show this week, and what we would do if we were contestants. But your tradition doesn’t have to be watching something, it's more about giving the kids something to look forward to, and a milestone to mark our weeks by.
Connect One on One
We try to make time for the kids to each do an activity with a parent one-on-one on a regular basis (trust me, I know how challenging this is with everyone around all the time). Sometimes it’s as simple as a walk around the block. Sometimes one of us will take the other kids on a longer bike ride while one parent stays with one kid to do an activity of their choice. That little bit of solo time gives them a chance to not have to compete for attention, and can be a great opportunity for them to tell you what’s on their mind.
One thing that has really helped us is intentionally creating a time & space for them to wind down. We created a calm down kit for each child (just a box, whatever you have lying around). Together, we filled it with materials that they can use independently to slow down and be more mindful. Some ideas are a journal, some colouring supplies, a book to read, or a small craft. We use our Heart of a Hero journal in this kit because the activities boost confidence, encourage mindfulness or prompt some gratitude and they can choose whatever activity is speaking to them that day. We also encourage them to recognize the signs when they feel like they’re on edge, and then give them an opportunity to have some alone time with a favourite activity. Reframing it for them as an opportunity to take care of themselves, not a punishment where they’re being sent away helps them to embrace it as something they want to do proactively before things get to a tense boiling point.
Gratitude is such an important part of our family culture. We try to find a few ways to incorporate gratitude in the fabric of our daily lives, so that becomes second nature for our kids. We use little prompts at breakfast, dinner and bedtime to help ingrain it in our conversations - simple things like
“What are you looking forward to most today?”
“What’s one thing you did today that was fun/challenging/new/silly?”
“What was the best part of your day?”.
We also have a gratitude jar in our main room with a pen & small papers so the kids can write something they appreciate and put it in the jar. My favourite thing is to revisit those together to see how their answers have evolved. They added everything from “I’m grateful for my socks” to “I’m grateful for living”. Teaching them how to notice these things sets the foundation for them to have happier, more fulfilling lives by simply appreciating the small moments.
Give YOURSELF Time to Wind Down
Make your own self care a priority. Try to think of it as setting a model for your kids, rather than taking away from your kids. It could be a 20 minute walk, a yoga practice, or time to read. Some days, this might involve staying up late or waking up super early, but I also think that if you have a partner at home, I encourage you to ask for support and take time during the day rather than in the fringes of time while the kids are sleeping. The kids need to know what you do to take care of yourself to see what self care looks like.
Repeat This Often
This is hard, and we can do hard things.
These tips are really about creating a space where they feel safe to feel the full range of emotions that all humans naturally feel. Resilience isn't about never feeling sad, angry, or frustrated, but rather feeling it, knowing that we can handle it and knowing it isn't forever We can give them tools like journals to develop an emotional toolkit to reach for when they want to express themselves, and to note feelings of gratitude, happiness, worry and anxiety. Fostering that connection where they know they can come to you with the positives and the negatives is what helps them feel safe and secure.