Chances are some of you reading this may have fallen victim to trying to be all things to all people in your family: meal planner, entertainment manager, teacher, therapist, fitness coach and at times you are close to losing the plot. Might this be the time to Take Back Control and lay down a few rules and routines. The starting point should be your wellbeing. The Dalai Lama talks of being ‘selfish wise’ – a bit like putting the oxygen mask in a plane on yourself before helping other people. It is not an instinctive thing to do but a necessary one for everyone in the family’s long-term happiness.
Of course no two family make-ups are the same but having talked to a number of families with kids of varying ages over the last few days, there are a few universal themes.
Eat, exercise, think, sleep – repeat: that’s it really.
Eat: it couldn’t be a more important time to eat healthily. It doesn’t help having too much sugar in their system if the kids aren’t running around as much as usual burning it off.
Exercise and fresh air: however and wherever you can get this it is vitally important for everyone to use their allocated time outdoors, every day.
Think: a bit of brain stimulus is so important – it doesn’t need to feel like school work.
Sleep: many children are finding it hard to have a good night’s sleep at the moment. I’m sure this will ease as we all become familiar with the new normal but it might be good to get a few tips on good sleep practice.
Repeat: this can be problematic – it’s a challenge for us all but we need to mix things up within our routines as much as possible.
Tensions are sky high even in little ones who have picked up that something (a lot!) isn’t quite like it usually is, so don’t do anything to rock the boat. A good mantra is: Dial the volume down, choose your battles and keep it simple.
Being at home all day with young children during this time is hard work; acknowledge that you are doing a fantastic job! Routine, routine, routine is what is going to get you through not least because you then have set times when you can do something that is just for you. If you have more than one child, finding something they can all together is tricky but incredibly rewarding; I have heard that Cosmic Yoga is a winner. Then variety within the routine: from different foods they eat to new games and finding something a bit out of their comfort zone (a challenging bit of Lego, a tricky word puzzle). If anyone has tips for exhausting an energetic six year old please wing them our way.
To much moaning and groaning we have introduced a 3/5 system of activities to keep our twin 11-year-olds off screens. We are only on Day 3 of the holidays but so far at the end of the day they have gone to bed saying they have had a really good day. However much kids rail against rules, they want and need boundaries.
We have 3 compulsory activities a day: Joe Wicks’ 9am work out, a reading hour after lunch and one-hour outdoor activity (football skills, practising netball, trampoline).
Then we have a long list of activities from which they can choose 5. Today’s choices were: Kids’ TED talk (they chose one on deception …); painting/drawing project; Lego; baking; general knowledge quiz (Twitter is a good resource for this); games hour such as cards, Scrabble, Risk; Meditation/yoga from Youtube or online streaming; Appreciation journal writing and chores (this was surprisingly popular). The rest of the time they can do whatever they like, including screens.
For us all this is the worst but also it can be the best of times: time for greater understanding and involvement in our kids’ lives and maybe for them to teach you a few things too. Some days will be easier than others and, if you’ve all had a tough day, remember there’s always tomorrow.
Finally do not underestimate the power of an afternoon nap. You deserve it.