There are many posts and articles reporting what we should do and what we should avoid during the time that many of us are facing right now. Many families here in Europe are going to stay indoors, at home, in the next weeks.

If we are home with children, trying to get some work done, there are several aspects that we need to organize to get through the next weeks in the best and healthiest possible way. With healthy I mean not only physical but also mental health. When we are confined at home with no chance to go out and meet friends, we can quickly feel isolated, lonely, frustrated and anxious. – Even if we are home with our family. 

Internationals who don’t have extended family nearby that can just come over and take care of the children if needed in normal times, have the advantage of being used to only depend on their core family, i.e. usually their partner, as in this situation, older family members should be careful around children. – Nevertheless, the exceptional situation makes it more difficult for all of us.

Here are 10 tips that can help families make the best out of the next weeks.

1) First of all, it is important that we know that with any kind of change like this, all family members need time to adjust. We all gather information from many sources and need to filter what is true and what not (!), what is applicable for the situation and what not. Have a serious talk with your children and listen to what they have to say.

Some of us will be more resistant and need some time to get used to the idea of staying put. Venting frustrations, arguing about point of views might be unavoidable: be prepared to be strict and empathetic… – We all can have different coping styles, and they also change depending on the situation and where we stand during the adaptation process. 

2) With parents and children working and studying at home, the routine will be more intense but different from holidays. In order not to shift into the holiday mode, maintain the same routine as during normal weekdays. This means, have breakfast at the same time, get dressed (there will be moments someone will suggest staying in their pyjama the whole day…) and have spaces where everyone can study and work. 

3) Set up “do not disturb” rules. Those who, like me, have a home office, know about the importance of setting clear signs. When I close the door of my office and workshop area, it means that I don’t want to be disturbed. It can help setting strict office hours you usually have also at home, but it might be that you have to adjust your children’s and your routine.

If our children are very young and we can’t leave them playing in the other room for 30 – 60 mins, take more but shorter breaks, like every 20 mins. With infants and toddlers we can try to organize your work around their waking hours.

When my children were younger, I would work early in the morning and after they went to bed. I wasn’t working 100%, but would manage to get a 50% job done (and yes, I worked also during the weekends): surprisingly I managed to get more done in the 50% time than in 80% when I worked at the office…

When both parents are at home, work out a schedule so you can alternate who is looking after the children. Maybe one who does the “morning shift” and the other one the “afternoon-evening shift”. 

If we are solo-parenting, we should inform our work giver about the situation. The whole situation is exceptional as we are not going to ask babysitter, nannies, friends to help us out in order to avoid social contacts: work givers will need to take this into consideration, if they don’t, remind them about what your day looks like.

4) Children might need some support to stay on track with the online program they’re given from school. Unlike families who home school, we usually don’t have all the resources that would make this time easier for us and our children.

Nevertheless, maintaining a learning schedule for each week and keeping track on what they are doing is helpful for them, us, and the teachers once they will be back to “normal”, as it will allow us to find out what has been done, where our children might need some more support etc. – We or our children should inform the teachers if the workload is too much at the moment, or not clear enough etc. What teachers might need help with is to find out a pace that allows all kind of learners to process and study what they are offered through the (many!) channels…

5) Plan outdoor time. Staying indoors for such a long time is not healthy. It’s not about going out and meeting others! We need to stay at a safe distance to others!

It’s more about getting fresh air every day. If we can’t go out, we should at least open windows several times a day and makes some exercise, stretching, yoga, dance… whatever we can, to move or work out.

Those of us who have a dog, will need to get outdoors anyways. Some kind of outdoor activity that doesn’t require social proximity should be on our everyday agenda.

6) Indoor exercise. No matter if we are used to work out regularly or not, this is the time to focus on healthy habits. We should get into a routine – maybe in the morning and evening – where we do some exercises and find ways to do pushups, jump, lift weight etc. every day. – We can use the few minutes for short exercises while waiting for the water to boil or the meal to be ready. 

On Pinterest and Youtube you can find plenty of suggestions about indoor exercises.

If you need some incentive, this is a game from “Juf Sanne“:  you only need to roll a dice…

7) Connect through singing and dancing. Although this is similar to tip 6), the dancing and jumping I mean should be done with the whole family. They are good for our heart and they get the endorphins flowing.

Making time every day to listen to music, sing and dance with our family will help us enjoy this time together in a fun way, connect and combat stress and anxiety. All will seem more feasible afterwards. People were doing it in Wuhan and Italy already.

8) Connect with family and friends through facetime, skype, zoom etc. This is not only for those who live far apart, but for everyone at the moment. We can and should keep in contact with friends and family, check in with each other to keep the morals high. If we want to avoid speaking about the virus every time, we can share readings (literature). Our children can tell their grandparents what they are studying, and grandparents can share what they know about some subject areas (and learn with their grandchildren)…

9) Healthy meals. Apparently people are stocking on toilet paper, canned food, pasta and rice. It is very human to go and stock on goods in times like these. So far, here in Europe, there is no food shortage. There is no need to not eat fruit and vegetables, and to continue a healthy food intake. Too much sugar and processed food will only weaken our immune systems, so we should make sure to keep our intake balanced.

The same applies to drinking – and I really don’t mean alcohol (which actually would be a bad coping sign actually, and a bad example for our children…)

We need to keep everyone as healthy as possible. This goes hand in hand with keeping up regular mealtimes during this period: not only because it allows us to bond and connect, but also because it makes it easier to manage the mealtimes. If everyone eats at different times it can easily happen that “the kitchen is always open”. – We are working on a meal plan that will help us keep an eye on what and how much we are eating. 

10) Find new ways to communicate. Spending some weeks with family can feel too long, too much, too boring or too overwhelming.  Even if we manage to keep everyone busy and occupied with tasks, chores etc., we shouldn’t  forget that this is an opportunity to get to know our family members from a new perspective.

We can explore new ways to get along, to connect, to discuss and to find ways to cope with difficult moments. Many parents feel overwhelmed because they want to keep all under control. We can’t. Surely not in a situation where we are constantly asked to adjust to new regulations and restrictions!
Our children will see us struggle, get upset and worry. It is very important to show them how we handle this situation in a way that makes it possible for them (and us) to feel safe. For those who are very worried and scared, it is time to ask for help! There are many support groups online, also for children and teenagers!

Every family has her own way to cope with difficult situations; some are used to talk a lot, others need more silence and physical distance when conflicts arise.

When we can’t “leave the boat” we might have to explore new communication and negotiating strategies. Every strategy starts with two people who are willing to understand each other (not to convince each other!) and to actively listen and in a most effective way

A last tip – yes, an additional one… – is to write a journal. Note what you observe, what you experience during this period of time, and ask your children to do the same. In a few months and years you will (hopefully) look back and want to remember these moments.

Our world changed drastically, and although we all hope that all will be back to normal in a few weeks, the normal we knew before will not feel and not be the same, and it’s ok.

Every change and crisis has a positive side. This one brings families together. It makes us realize how little we really need and what is important, really important for us to survive and be content. Together will make it, insieme ce la faremo.

I wish you and your dear ones all the best. Take care and keep safe. Please join my fb group to get more tips and support if you need.

If you are a multilingual family, you may want to join my fb group Multilingual Families to find tips, resources and support in all your languages.

How are you and your family doing at the moment?

Where do you live and how are people around you managing to stay at home? Please share in the comments.

Find some resources/ideas of what to do with young children at home here (with indications about how to do the “indoor activities” mentioned in the infographic here below; ©The Best Ideas For Kids)

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