Parenting is a 24-hour duty (not job) which keeps you physically and mentally on your toes. We’ve got two children – daughter 11 and son 7. Prior to this global COVID-19 pandemic we were very close to kids. They knew we were always ready to listen to them and provide information/support. This approach worked out quite well because once the virus started spreading and eventually affected life in Jamaica, they had quite a bit to say and ask.
Listen to the experiences of other parents, here in Jamaica and across the world, we realised that we got a few things right in managing our children; this post is about some of those things. Hopefully you may find them useful too.
Maintaining a routine
When school was in, this was easy; but we know it’s important to keep them on a schedule. So, once homeschooling was the way forward we continued right where we left off – wake, shower, brush teeth, breakfast, dress for school, start classes (online and home-taught) etc. We also knew that this change in approach to school could stress them a bit so they got more time than usual to just ‘be kids’ and do some silly things. As much as possible we had to remind ourselves about balance in their lives.
Being real with them, just not too real
One of the first things we did was have an open, frank conversation with them about how life would change while we worked from home. We explained that our spending habits had to be adjusted. Certain luxury items would be cut from our grocery list and conserving food, water and electricity were of paramount importance. This made them anxious so we had to spend a little time calming them. Nonetheless, we got complete buy-in from them and now they’ve become champions of energy efficiency, even at their grandparents.
Limiting/curating their news intake
Prior to the pandemic, local news headlines and stories could drive fear into adults, let alone children. I recall my daughter asking in the onset of the pandemic reporting, “daddy, does anyone get better or do they all die once they get it?” It then dawned on me that I’ve got to filter the volume and type of news to which they’re both exposed. No child deserves to be stressed by news; children really shouldn’t be stressed at all. While it’s important for us as parents to keep up-to-date, the news has a lot of information that kids just don’t need to know. It can create more anxiety.
Making time for their friends
There was very little warning if any that school would be suspended until the next academic year. For many children school was an escape from home. Truth is, home isn’t always a sanctuary or solace. In many cases there are children who have more peace of mind away from home. Regardless of the background kids are missing their friends. Our kids are able to connect with their friends online and play games or just talk. Thankfully when we have Sunday dinner with the in-laws they get to see young cousins. In fact, we organised sleepovers at our house with their cousins. It’s nothing short of therapeutic. While they seem to have adapted to online connections, nothing beats face-to-face (in a mask) lol.
Making the most of meals
Depending on the size of your household and other factors you might not be able to always dine together. We prepare meals together often as well which means the food is full of love. Family dinner is a must; we use the meal to celebrate the end of another day together. Our son also insists on us proposing a toast at dinner; so everyday it’s basically finding a reason to be thankful. The attitude of gratitude is alive and well here which is a great characteristic to build in children.
This was always a feature of what we do, but it’s proven to be more essential in this time. Nothing helps a family bond like Monopoly, Uno, Chinese Checkers, Chess and Ludo (Ludi); the latter has left egos bruised in our house lol. Ego bruising aside, it brings us together and helps us expose the kids to things like strategy and competition while teaching them to manage the disappointment of a loss and also how to responsibly celebrate victories. In this pandemic it’s helped us reduce our screen time and and stave off the pangs of boredom too.
Besides the formal homeschooling this pandemic has got us doing new things. Our daughter is into cosmetology, so she’s learning some tips and tricks of the trade from her mom and aunt who are both certified cosmetologists along with the “University of YouTube”. Meanwhile, I’m using my science background to teach farming techniques and useful nuggets about food.
The latter is done via #FruitTuesday. Every Tuesday we try a fruit we’ve never had before or a popular fruit while learning about the benefits and, in some cases, the history of how the fruit came to Jamaica.
Caring for our bodies and for each other
From a physical perspective, it’s important that we remain as active as possible and set an example for our children. I restarted a fitness regime which includes, among other things, jogging/walking daily. After a few days my kids joined me in the mornings. They motivate and push me. Our conversations are great and oftentimes provides comic relief.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Williams and I have date nights or as we call it #CovidCocktails. On select nights once the kids have gone to bed then we find a drink recipe online and get busy mixing in the kitchen. There’s nothing quite like chatting over drinks and sometimes (re)discovering each other. If nothing else, it takes the edge off and helps us to cope
These ideas worked for us; they may be helpful for you too. I wish you the best as we all navigate these challenges.
In closing, please follow the health protocols and other guidelines from the government. Stay Safe!
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