As a baby boomer, my youth was inextricably bound to the war in Vietnam and the anit-war movements in America. For my children, it was the terrorism of 9/11. Now my grandchildren are living their teens in the Co-Vid 19 pandemic.
I literally experienced the Vietnam war on television – it was the first time we saw the horrors of war in real time and the daily death count was like a hammer hitting us nightly. The 9/11 attacks left us with the sure knowledge that we were not completely safe, even in our own country. Now the pandemic is confining us to our homes with our children. How we handle this as parents will be remembered by our children. So #1 is don’t watch news!!!!
What can we do? We can’t pretend it’s not happening, especially with our older kids. But we can tell them and demonstrate our belief that this will pass, that we don’t have to be idle, and that we can even come out the other side better for having had the experience. Every child will get their cues from their parents. Your stress is their stress, your anger is their anger, your frustration is theirs. While we can’t ignore our feelings, here are some ideas as to how to make this time better for them than those of us who went through the war or 9/11:
BREAK THE RULES! You want to create some good memories? Do something unexpected! Make each day of the week special. Mondays are Ice Cream any time you want it, Tuesdays are No Bedtime, Wednesdays are No Tv or Social Media from dinner to bedtime while you play games that your kids get to pick, Thursdays are Dance Off – video’d and posted, Fridays are PJs Only – even if you go out for walks, to pick up groceries, riding bikes, playing basketball, etc. Saturdays are Pizza Day, Sundays are Creative Day – write a poem, a song, make something (food, craft, art). You get the idea. Make it yours. Change it up. You want to be sitting around in 10 years from now and have them say, “remember when all we ate was ice cream on Mondays?”, followed by another saying, “yea, and we wore PJ’s all day long on Fridays?”
JOURNAL. Everyone gets one. It’s a great habit to start and emphasize that seeds of ideas that may flourish later, and private thoughts that they never need to share, rants, whatever, but they should write something every day. They’ll be able to revisit it and it will be interesting and, hopefully, amazing.
INVOLVE …in cooking especially. A great time to let them learn that meals don’t magically appear. You can search for cool, new recipes and each person gets to cook a meal of their choice. Especially good for tweens and young teenagers. They’ll use this for the rest of their lives!
GARDEN – I find gardening hopeful. Planting something and seeing it grow is just magical to me. You can order seeds online – herbs that you can use in cooking, flowers, plant a pinto bean and it will sprout. Remember putting a sweet potato in a mason jar and watching it sprout.
GET OUTSIDE Go for a family walk, bicycle, play kick ball, when it gets warm play in the water. Every day.
MAKE IT BETTER FOR SOMEONE ELSE. This is the ultimate remedy for almost anything is to reach out to help others. Kids can draw pictures or write letters to older people in the neighborhood, make meals for neighbors, write cards and notes to everyone, video chat with the kid’s friends. On a larger scale, people are creating ways to help that will astound you. A colleague in Brooklyn created a GoFundMe on FB that raised over $32,000 in 3 days that she funneled to local restaurants by paying them to make meals for first responders (in ER rooms, etc). Brilliant, yes?
TODDLERS. A friend’s 15 mo old has picked up the stress of this time and her routines have changed. She doesn’t want to nap (oh no, no downtime for her parents!) and she’s not sleeping as well. I don’t think this is unusual at all. Right now, I think a little regression may be in order; everyone needs to be touched and reassured and babies respond to physical reassurance, words just won’t work – toddlers who’ve started enjoying independence may need to be rocked to sleep again, if they were off the bottle they may want it again. Give them what they need NOW. I promise it will all come together when we get back to our previous routines!
I post this hoping it helps. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please let me know! I share almost everything amongst friends, family, neighbors, and clients!!
WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!!!