There’s no playbook for how to change or modify our routine to accommodate a pandemic. Therefore, 2020 was on-the-job training for how to survive; figuratively and literally. Now that we’ve hit 2021, we’ve learned a few things, made some observations and found a few “best practices” that can help all of us.
- Require Respect for Boundaries – In the hustle and bustle of what used to be our hurried lives, respect for personal space and boundaries was often optional. At any moment someone might barge into the bathroom to ask, “Mom, where is my …?” But now that we’re still at home together, it is even more important for everyone to respect each other’s need for space and privacy. Let’s bring back the courtesy of knocking on a closed door and waiting for an invitation to enter. This may take some reprogramming, even for us parents. We often think, “It’s my home and I can go into any room I want, at any time I want.” But the truth of the matter is this: every one needs their own space. Have a conversation about this over dinner (or breakfast or lunch), encouraging everyone to inform one another when time alone is needed. It can be a note on the door, a doorknob hanger or a message in a family group text. Now that we’ve discussed boundaries from within, I would be remiss if I did not mention protecting ourselves from outside influences. There are going to be some pretty spectacular IG photos of what other families are doing, places they may be going and activities they are allowing their children to participate in. You have to be secure and confident in the boundaries you’ve set for your family. Some parents may allow sleepovers, but if you have anyone in your home with a compromised immune system or you’re just not comfortable, don’t let someone else’s decision influence the boundaries you set in your home. You might have to be OK with being the “mean parent” right now.
- Have a Routine – Full confession here, I am a systems girl. In almost every area of my life and home I have a system for the way I get things done, so not having some sort of routine makes me break out in a cold sweat. However, I know there are others at the opposing end of that spectrum who despise predictability and prefer to go along with the flow. With that in mind, your routine can be as loose or as tight as you’d like. We know the pandemic is going to end and things will return to some sense of normal, eventually. Therefore, keep a routine. Have everyone get up and dressed before starting the day. The ability to focus increases when we change into regular clothes (at least on the top half). Be sure to get some time alone before opening your door (not the door to your home, but your bedroom door) to the wild. Continue making lunch and sticking to the “normal” daytime schedule as much as possible. Minimize all-day eating with a pitcher of water and a few slices of cucumber (or your favorite veggie or fruit) on the counter, some grapes and other healthy snacks. Think about it like this: if your children were in school, snacking all day wouldn’t be an option. Plan for some physical activity in the afternoon or evening, a brisk walk around the neighborhood, a few planks. This can be done together or as part of your alone time. Lastly, the best morning routine starts the night before. An organized area is more welcoming than a desk or work area that is in disarray.
- Practice Autonomy With Your Children – This is a favorite topic of mine. I absolutely love helping parents give the reins of their children’s lives back to them in age-appropriate ways. There are normal mishaps and problems throughout the day that our children must solve on their own. However, with everyone at home, we see most of these hiccups and instinctually want to solve, help or remove this obstacle altogether. I would like to caution you from doing anything other than encouraging them through it. In fact, their instinct may be to come to you to solve it because you’re two doors down instead of being across town. Here’s a tip – instead of giving them the answer or telling them what to do, ask a question. Give the problem that they tried to transfer to you, back to them. Think about saying, “Wow! That’s a real dilemma, what are you thinking?” Or “What did your teacher say when you told him you didn’t understand the assignment?” This is a great opportunity to teach our kids how to think through a problem, how to approach a teacher with a concern, how to send an email to a teacher about a grade they want to dispute. These are life skills that they will need in college and future employment. Let’s equip them to handle a situation instead of pulling out the proverbial lawn mower and mowing it down.
- Give Yourself a Break – Listen, it’s not gonna be perfect. None of it. So, start the day with an affirmation that confirms this statement: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.” Setting the goal of perfection will rob you of your peace. Part of giving yourself a break should include everyone in the family having a tangible way that they contribute to the upkeep of your home. Children as young as 10 can do their own laundry and that of a younger sibling. And that younger sibling can sort and separate laundry according to color. Teenagers can prepare a meal for the family, and I don’t mean by way of Uber Eats. Once we release the goal of it all having to be perfect and the notion that we are the only ones that can do it “right,” we make space for others to step in and step up.