When I got the phone call that my son’s preschool and daycare would be shutting down indefinitely, my heart sank, then nearly sent itself into a-fib. How was I going to get any work done? I’d already spent two long days scrambling to put the rest of the term’s curriculum online. (I teach college psychology.)
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes. People are sick. People are dying. And every day the news grows more dire. I couldn’t help but chastise myself for all the anxiety and dread I was feeling. After all, I was really just being tasked with taking care of my kid 24/7, right?
But nobody has an end date. Nobody knows for sure what comes next or how any of this will play out. In addition to parenting, you might also be struggling to work from home. And maybe you’re also worrying about a slew of other things that feel overwhelming on good days and absolutely terrifying on bad ones.
So I started to think about how I could try to help other parents out there. Here’s what’s been working for us. I hope some of this will be of help to you, too.
Make a schedule
Kids thrive on routine. They’re used to it when they’re in school or at daycare and they’re probably feeling lost right now — no friends to see every day, no circle time on the big blue carpet, and no songs about silly animals led by smiling teachers.
On our second day at home, I sat down with my son and asked what he wanted to put on the schedule. We worked on it together and came up with some things we would try to do every day.
It doesn’t have to be chiseled onto stone tablets and mounted on your wall, but having some idea of what your day is going to look like can lend a sense of normalcy.
Technology is A-OK
I’ve found tons of really great apps that I didn’t even know existed. Here are some of the best.
This one requires a paid subscription but you can register for a one-month free trial.
Khan Academy Kids
Not only does this app offer a huge selection of games, activities, books, and videos, but it’s absolutely free.
This is another paid subscription-based app but they also offer a one-month free trial. This app is great for its enormous selection of books.
Scholastic Learn at Home
Scholastic has offered up many of their resources for free.
Not only does PBS Kids offer a whole suite of free apps, but they have also shifted all of their daytime TV programming to “At Home Learning Broadcasts”. From 5 AM to 5 PM your kids can catch educational programs broken into time chunks by age and grade level.
This one seems like a no-brainer. At least, it used to. We have to be more careful about where we go and with whom we come into contact, but there’s still a big world out there — even close to home. We’ve been going for walks and bike rides around the block and occasionally heading to nearby state and county parks. And if you have one, playing in your own yard can help break up the day and provide some fresh air and exercise.
- Fly a kite
- Do a quick scavenger hunt
- Do some yard work even if it takes you longer than usual. (Most young kids actually like to help their parents. Woohoo!)
- Blow bubbles
- Invent some word or number games using sidewalk chalk
- And here’s a gargantuan list of other ideas I found
Give yourself regular breaks
Kids don’t need to be scheduled every minute of the day. It seems like a lot of parents are running themselves ragged trying to make sure their kids are still learning and progressing and maybe starting their own companies within the next five to ten years. I’m as anxious as they come, but if I can let go and not freak out if my kid wants to play with an empty mayo jar all afternoon, then probably anyone can relax their expectations a little bit.
We’ve all got to do what works best for us. We’ve got to do what we can to keep ourselves healthy (physically and mentally) for our little ones and for ourselves.
Realize that you’re not the only one freaking out
This sounds obvious. But have you really sat down and considered that there are millions of other parents out there who are experiencing the same feelings of frustration, desperation, anxiety, and perhaps even depression that you are? When I think about this, it makes me feel less alone. And I think about those who are worse off than I am: the single parents, the parents who are worried about losing their jobs or even their homes, the parents who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.
This is not to say that whatever you’re experiencing isn’t hard. It’s OK to break down or have a really, really bad day or feel like you have no idea how you’re going to make it through even one more day stuck at home and trying to work with your kids superglued to your legs.
Which brings me to my final point…
Mental health is more important than ever
I suffer from depression, OCD, and disordered eating. The stress I’m feeling is definitely not helping any of it. I’ve started restricting food again. I’ve had days where I felt like depression was going to swallow me whole. But I’ve also had days where I can see everything pretty clearly and am able to do the things I need to do to help myself heal.
I recently requested a mentor from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. It was one of the hardest, scariest things I’ve ever done but I gritted my teeth and did it anyway. My son can’t afford for me to get any sicker. He needs me now more than ever, so I’m putting the pedal to the metal and using any resources at my disposal right now.
Here are some others:
What’s been working for you? Do you have any go-to resources to share?