Pandemic Parenting

The nice thing about having agreed to write this post is that I have something to do this weekend that doesn’t involve repeatedly checking Twitter and Instagram, trying to send messages to friends but not being able to figure out the phrasing and finally giving up, and staying up too late thinking I’ll get something done but accomplishing nothing.

My kids were on spring break last week and I had four days off, but Friday was rough. To get us through the weekend, I had my kids make schedules (pictured above), which definitely helped in terms of avoiding boredom as well as giving them a sense of control in a situation that’s beyond their control.

If you're looking at the photo of the schedules and thinking they're absurdly detailed, yes, it's true. They're ending up being more of a guide to a sequence of events than something we're following exactly. A long time ago, I remember reading something about the value of following the usual routine during times of crisis. For a kid (especially young kids), the routine provides comfort and helps them know what to expect. So having a set wake-up time and bedtime, having some limits on screen time, having regular mealtimes, getting dressed every day, etc., all have meaning right now.

For those people here who have kids, I imagine the specific things you’re dealing with are different depending on the age of the kid, but it’s all stressful. And for those who don’t have kids, I know many of you still have your own parents to worry about right now.

Highlights of the past couple days include the jalapeño learning to chop vegetables with a chef’s knife and the peperoncino grating his own cheese for a quesadilla. The boys have also done a good number of household chores, and the jalapeño’s room is the cleanest it’s been all year. The jalapeño has also been having FaceTime chats with a 4th grade friend, and they've been both hilarious and adorable. Yet there were also some intense sibling fights and meltdowns.

In some ways, having elementary-age kids is great because it limits how much time I can spend reading about the pandemic. Taking care of my boys’ immediate needs gives me something to focus on and keeps my anxiety levels down. On the other hand, I dearly miss having any sort of time to myself (the boys did very little without a parent all weekend), and I envy the people who seem to be actually accomplishing stuff while staying home. On the other other hand (I have a lot of hands), I recognize how fortunate I am to not be dealing with far more serious problems.

During this next week, teachers in our school district will be working on plans for teaching remotely; we will be going to the school to get a Chromebook for each boy at an assigned pick-up time. Since Mr. NaCl and I will both be working from home (and need to be able to actually get work done), my parents are going to come help. They’re both 70 and in good health, so on the one hand I think they’re happy to stay busy and pitch in. But part of me can’t help wonder if I’m being selfish and irresponsible by accepting their help.

Over the weekend, I did do a very little bit of reading about how to talk to kids about coronavirus, and one of the key takeaways is that it's wise to filter the information they get. It depends, of course, on age of the kid and how sensitive they are, but limiting their access to TV news/press conferences and online sources of info might be wise. I've also told the jalapeño that there are things he might want to talk about that shouldn't be discussed in front of his 6-year-old brother.

By chance, I came across some wise words from a school psychologist. This psychologist said not to be surprised by an increase in behavior issues, including meltdowns, tantrums, and oppositional behavior. This is a normal reaction under the circumstances. (I was very reassured to read this.) They also said not to obsess over kids' progress in school during this time of remote learning or to put too much pressure on kids academically. As parents, our first priority is to do what we can to ensure that our kids feel comforted and loved right now. To quote the psychologist, "How [your kids] felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during these weeks is . . . gone."

So how are you feeling?

12 thoughts on “Pandemic Parenting”

  1. Also, this happened on Saturday:

  2. we're on spring break this week. thankfully we have a bit work from outside of school to manage some sense of structure. of course, i'm kind of at the "f#@$ it, just let `em watch TV all day" point too...

    1. we had a couple of days like that last week. However, today we finally started a schedule like Pepper has above, which my mother-in-law is executing thankfully. My son craves structure. We also banned TV this past weekend and had him help with spring cleaning in the house. His mood was so much better than normal. I think all of us would do better with more structure, less screen time.

  3. We picked this week to change my son's ADHD medication to one that takes 3-4 weeks to kick in. (the previous one worked great, but made him really tired) That was.... maybe ill advised.

    For the most part, they had been home schoolin' at a neighbor's house across the street. Its where they normally go for daycare and she has two similarly aged kids, so it worked out. However, that will end after today because Wisconsin is going on lockdown and her husband is in public health who's job is considered essential, so they don't want any additional risks. So that should be fun, since we'll both be needing to work from home and I have a project in progress for a locomotive application, which is considered an essential industry, so it can't be delayed any.

    But as for the pandemic itself, I've been fairly detailed about what this all entails because they are pretty ok about that sort of stuff; lot of people will die from this, can't go anywhere right now, stuff like that. Plus, one of the girls my daughter plays with a lot were at Disney World until Sunday and letting her know every specifically why they can't play together for awhile is helping my daughter not be upset about it.

  4. The Little One's birthday is Thursday, and getting her to understand that the party has been postponed has been tricky, but I must say for a (soon to-be) 3 year old, she seems to be rolling with it pretty well.

    I think part of it is we're explaining it, but in terms she can understand. "Daddy is sick (which I am) and we don't want Grandma and Grandpa to get sick, right? Well, lots of people are sick right now, so everyone is staying home until they feel better. And as soon as everyone feels better, we can see Grandma and Grandpa."

    We'll see how things are after things have dragged on.

  5. Aristotle (2nd grade) had a bit of a meltdown the other night, and has been having a really hard time with missing school and her friends. The two boys who are in school are much more okay with the situation, but they're also less social creatures than Aristotle. I'm trying to give her "assignments" to do during the day, until the distance learning stuff starts up again next week. And I'm trying to give her more compliments and attention too. I feel like this is all going to be a little easier starting next week, as this week Philosofette is really focused on getting ready for the distance teaching. Once the teaching actually starts, I think (well, hope) it'll be easier to get into routine.

      1. We equipped an old phone with Messenger Kids, and the little one (7) has been in her glory chatting and video messaging her (many) little buds (and grandparents). It's actually kind of fun to see her connecting in a way that most of us here don't. We're not social butterflies.
        The bigger one (14) has been having real phone conversations with friends. I hear him laughing with them (up later than he should be...but...strange times) and that's reassuring.

      2. She doesn't really, though there are cousins we plan to connect with. The problem right now is that Philosofette and I are both busy, so we've not really able to set up those types of connections yet. Ideally next week it will get easier with Philosofette at home during the day.

    1. The peperoncino is having multiple meltdowns a day and at times refusing to do anything anyone suggests. He's really touchy and will fall apart at neutral statements he perceives as insults. We're definitely trying an assortment of strategies to help, but I suspect these aren't going to totally go away no matter what we do.

  6. Newbish also had a bit of a meltdown last night. It started with something unrelated, and it ended with him sobbing about how much he misses his teacher. His teachers have all been doing an excellent job at sending lots of videos of them reading books and doing music time and science experiments and whatnot, but he's having a hard time. We had noticed that he was getting clingier and more clownish for attention, but we had chalked it up to just the fact that he had noticed that we're stressed.

    Our school district is offering child care to district employees, so we're going to start that on Monday. I'm hoping that being around other kids and some of the familiar faces of the staff will help.

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