This is a guide to help parents during this time that we are all at home with the kids. The 11 tips for families to survive are about things that still have to go on in the house, no matter what and no matter the age of your children.
Eating healthy meals, balanced diets and taking lots of water is the most important thing for families right now. Meals should be well thought out ahead of time as much as possible. This will ensure that there is less of junk consumption going on and more of whole foods, balanced diets and balanced meals. [ Download a meal timetable for the family here]
I don’t know if being at home means that they’re hungry or they are eating out of boredom. But children are eating more than ever before. Make sure that your house is stocked with healthy snacks. These can be homemade snacks or store bought snacks. Buy a mix of things they like and healthy snacks as well. Have fruits available in the house, cut it up or have it in bowls that children can easily access on their own. Too much candy and too much sweets at this time would have a counter effect on children being calm and even being able to concentrate in school.
It is critical that everybody has a schedule. The days can seem so long and unending, lack of structure is really a detriment. So we want to make sure that our children have a schedule that they are following. I recommend breaking down your day into roughly three parts. That is what we have been doing in our home. The children have a time that they wake up, they have their bath, have breakfast and get ready for online learning. Then there has to be a time for everything else that would have happened during the regular school term; like lunchtime, taking snacks, taking breaks, online learning and homework. They also have to get some sunlight.
In addition to academic learning, they also need time to de-stress, communicate with their parents/siblings and have free play. I advise you have a rough schedule that everybody follows so that you know what is happening when. Taking in everybody’s demands will help to make things a little smoother at home. One of the tips I have here is try not to all be on zoom calls at the same time if possible. I am not saying it will be easy, but if you just think about it, it might be easier for your husband to do calls during a particular time and then you try to do your calls at the other half of the day when he’s then spending time with the children. It is all about flexibility, but the schedule is very critical.
4. Computers and Devices
Some children had laptops that they were using during the school term. The reality now is that all children need their own devices because they are learning from home. It is more likely that you are either in the market for computers, laptops or smart devices such as iPads. Make sure you get recommendations from the school if possible, so that you don’t get devices that will not work or that will not be useful after the pandemic period is over.
Think about getting good laptops with good memory, make sure that the screen size is large enough so your child’s eyesight is not compromised. You might also need printers because sometimes children need to print out sheets and worksheets. I would recommend that the printer is wireless, which is the one we have in the house. You may think it’s such a small feature, but it’s not that much in cost, and it gives you more flexibility to print from wherever you are.
To get reliable internet at this time is really difficult. But you have to try your best to see what works; sometimes hot spotting works better than WiFi at different times of the day. I found also that sometimes in the evening, when more people are online, WiFi is not as strong. You just have to figure out what works for you in your neighborhood. It is also important that you talk to your school and let them know your challenges with internet or even power supply. We just all need to plan be more mindful of planning. Charge your devices when you should and try not to use it if you don’t have to.
Data is very expensive; you may have to buy multiple data providers in your house to ensure that you can get online. Call around and ask questions, I’ve personally had to ask my neighbors to find out what internet providers they are using. I have tried one or two different ones during this time just to ensure that children can be online. If they keep getting bumped off when they’re trying to learn, it breaks up the flow and it is really difficult for them to stay connected to that class.
Another tip is that when the children are online and learning, my husband and myself tried to stay off that particular WiFi provider during those hours, so that the children can be the only ones using it. It is really about flexibility and finding what works, try to balance in different ways.
We all still need to have fun. And if we are not careful, we are going to continue working late into the day because there’s almost no closing time anymore. For children as well, online learning can be unending, they have their classes online, homework online and from there, they just go into watching videos or YouTube and there’s no break. We need to ensure that recreation is something we plan into our time as families. Make sure you have plans on how you’re going to have some recreation. It could be minimum, even if it’s one hour a day, try and play board games or cards, read a book together, watch a show together, talk about it, dance etc.
We love watching Shark Tank as a family and the other day I decided to try something different. My husband and I presented our business ideas to the children. They got to be the judges and ask questions and it was fun. Recreation doesn’t have to be expensive, it ‘s more about the idea that you need to have fun together. Learn how to keep a positive atmosphere in your home here.
You can also decide to have virtual trips, there’s so many of them. You can get virtual trips to museums in different countries on Google. This is just an exciting way to make sure we’re using technology to our advantage.
[Join Zuriel as she speaks about the benefits of play as therapy during this pandemic here.]
Our children still need to have playdates and social distancing doesn’t mean they can’t see their friends or hang out with their friends using video calls, WhatsApp, FaceTime, zoom calls. Let them engage with their friends, cousins and family members that they cannot see physically. Encourage older children to be in connection with their friends. If they are younger, you might have to get involved with calling the friends or parents for them. This way, you will be able to pay attention if your child is becoming very reclusive, moody or sad. You might want to watch that the anxiety and being locked at home is not starting to affect them or their mental health in negative ways.
8. Hair care
You may have been team saloons before. Definitely for the last two months, your child has not been able to go anywhere to get their hair done. And maybe you don’t know what it takes to take care of the child’s hair. First of all, you can’t ignore it. So you have to get onto the team DIY hair care bandwagon. Your son might not have had his hair cut during this time. Maybe it’s time for you to become a home barber; watch YouTube videos, call your hairdresser and ask for tips to take care of your children’s hair etc. Hair care and hygiene is still important in order to avoid a situation where your child’s hair is all knotted up and you just have to cut it.
9. Physical activities
We all need to keep moving. If children were in school, they would be going from class to class, canteen and the playground. If you don’t have a compound where a child can go and ride a bicycle, run around, climb on trees etc, your child is probably sitting all day. It’s not healthy. Get your child to stretch every morning and stretch at night, watch YouTube videos to give you ideas. Let them go outside if you have a little bit of space in the compound. If you don’t, let them take a walk outside or stand on the balcony. We need to get fresh air and use any means to keep them moving. So make sure you incorporate exercise and physical activity into the family’s routine.
This is a time to make sure that we are doubling down on chores for our children. Let them learn how to clean their rooms, fold their clothes, do laundry etc.
Everybody should be reading, reading is the best way to expand your mind to stay connected, but make sure they’re reading the right kind of content. Reading does not have to be only academic, let your child read books in genres that they enjoy, let them read widely. It might not be as easy to buy physical books now but there are so many online resources that allow you to get free and paid for E-books on Amazon. Audible offers audio books as well.
Ensure that your child is reading, staying engaged, connecting with friends and doing other interesting things. Do let us know if the tips were helpful. If you have more tips, feel free to share with us. Stay safe!