Easing Up On House Rules During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Now more than ever, you can let go of your attempts to be Mary Poppins or the perfect parent. The rollercoaster of events caused by COVID-19 has forced us to dig deep and rethink what is most important in life. But meanwhile, we are required to #stayhome with our families while also attempting some degrees of normalcy with work, homeschool, and botched social interaction.
While it sounds nice to maintain a desirable homeschooling schedule, the reality is proving to be difficult for most. So, before you start beating yourself up for not handling the situation like Carol Brady, cut yourself some slack, take a deep breath, and save your sanity by breaking some house rules during the pandemic.
It’s OK to Break the Rules When It Comes To...
Explain to your kids that this is not the new normal. You are taking advantage of an unprecedented time where it is acceptable to shift the rules temporarily. Instead of trying to have complete control over every aspect of being in isolation, practice letting go of a few normal routines.
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The term "screen time" has a bad reputation. It is one of the biggest parenting dilemmas while juggling working from home, maintaining mental health, and finishing household chores. For many parents, there is lingering guilt when their child is in front of a screen. At least for now, whatever screen time guilt trips you’ve set upon yourself in the past should be thrown overboard.
The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that during the coronavirus pandemic, screen time would mostly increase among children and adults. They didn’t set limits on what is considered too much, except to say, “Just don’t be on it all day.” Neuroscientist Abigail Baird explains that screens are a tool, like a hammer, in that they can be used to build, create, and fix if it’s used correctly.
The New York Times recently reported on following the three C’s when allowing your children more screen time: Child, Content, and Context. These simply ask the adult to consider:
- What your child enjoys (Music? Animals? Inventions?).
- The quality of the content, which is more important than worrying about the quantity.
- How you are contextualizing the content with your children.
Plenty of educational and age-appropriate resources are available, but whatever you do, limit the news and set parental controls on every screen.
Here are 40+ Educational Shows You Can Stream Now for more productive screen time.
Research shows that children with consistent sleep schedules and bedtime routines are more likely to behave better than those who have interrupted and inconsistent sleep routines. In reality, it’s OK to bend the sleep rules a little as long as it’s just within a half-hour of sleep and wake times. As with anything, it’s dependent on your child’s mental stability, and they should still maintain their eight hours of sleep.
Just keep in mind that turning screens off at least an hour before bedtime is a good way to ensure their brains are less active for sleep. Several studies show that when people are fixated on blue LED screens (from TVs, smartphones, and tablets) right before bedtime, poor sleep quality is likely to follow. But just as with anything, keep it in moderation, and it varies from child to child.
If you're struggling with sleep as a parent, check out Dealing With "Coronasomnia": How to Improve Sleep During Turbulent Times.
And then there are teens and social media. Although there are some risks included with social media, there are also plenty of benefits, especially during isolation. For teens, social media is a portal. It helps to strengthen friendships, share interests, provide support, and allow for self-expression. If used correctly, social media is a way to share educational content and build a sense of connection and belonging.
If you choose to loosen your social media rules a little during isolation, be sure to talk with your child about internet safety. Pay attention to their behaviors and moods, and create an open dialogue about what their friends are up to.
Drop the Broom
And the mop. And the laundry. Permit yourself to step over the LEGOs and doll clothes with acceptance. Experiment with kicking a puzzle piece under the couch. Although you are most likely going to be the person that will have to organize the cleanup (or do it yourself), it’s OK to bend the housecleaning rules a bit.
Now is not the time for an immaculate home if you have children or adolescents who require constant cleanup. Dabble in some Marie Kondo, but don’t add more stress on yourself if it’s not going as smoothly as you’d like. If a messy home is a source of anxiety, meet yourself in the middle and find a mess-zone you can handle.
Remain Vigilant With...
Just as with letting loose and breaking the rules a little, it’s also just as important to remain vigilant and create space for yourself. You’ll find that some things that you never needed to make a rule for have now become a top priority.
Kids are watching and listening to everything and are experiencing just as much strangeness and chaos as you. Try to provide a safe, emotional outlet for your kids, so they don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed when they experience sadness, anger, and confusion. Limit your own screentime with news, soften your creased brows when you’re staring at your phone, and allow for time for the kids to talk about their highs and lows of the day.
Focus on Family
If there is any time to focus on your family, it’s now. Although your children have probably seen you lose your temper, allow yourself to create a bubble for family time, even if for a few minutes each day. Play those dusty board games, Zoom with extended family, try some crazy art or tell fart jokes to make each other laugh. Our third week into self-isolation, I reluctantly let my ten-year-old trim my hair. She was beside herself with excitement and a sense of adventure. It’s those random family moments they will remember and cling to the most.
Don’t forget about yourself. Commit time each day – yes, every day – to do something that doesn’t involve work, kids, or household chores. Paint your nails, exercise or indulge in a 20-minute yoga session (even if the dog won’t get off of your mat), try a paint-by-number for adults, maintain a gratitude journal, take a free online course, or even just take a nap. There are countless ways to practice self-care without involving excessive alcohol or unhealthy habits. If it requires your kids to have some screen time, your mental health is a perfect excuse.
It’s Going to be OK
I encourage you to take a step into the rabbit hole of minor rule-breaking. Kids are much more adaptable and resilient than we realize. If you can let go of a little control in a strangely inconsistent time, then it will help your family and your own mental and emotional health. It’s a teachable moment in that there is a time and a place for everything, and now is the time for a little rule-breaking.
Since every family is different, find what works for you. It’ll be over before you’re able to master all of your isolation plans. Years from now, you’ll have some great memories to share – some cringe-worthy, some inspirational, and most likely plenty of deep belly laughs.
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