The Realities of Social Distancing with Kids

If you look on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll see picture-perfect families actively engaged in quality family time. Their home is spotless and the relaxed parents are sharing a gentle laugh, watching their children play together peacefully.

Other parents are posting memes about how their home has become a house of horrors, with messes everywhere, mom hiding in the laundry room with a stash of emergency chocolate and the veins on the dad’s neck bulging as he tries to teach third-grade math to his son.

Social media has amplified our online personas to the point where few timelines offer a realistic view of what’s going on in someone else’s home. It’s even worse right now. We’ve got too much time on our hands and too many things to worry about, so scrolling on our phones feels like an escape. Instead, it puts more pressure on us to “win the quarantine” – whatever that means.

Let’s Get Real

This is a tough time for everybody. We don’t have to BE anyone specific. We don’t need to DO anything the “right” way. We don’t have to ACHIEVE any impressive goals.

We just need to be there for our family and friends, while meeting employment obligations (if we’re fortunate enough to still be working). That’s why we’re sharing some realistic suggestions for helping your family get through this challenging time. Cut yourself some slack and ride the storm out without putting so much pressure on yourself. (And give yourself a break when you need it.)

Take inventory of your own feelings. If you’re feeling stressed out, worried about money, bored out of your mind or can’t handle the constant chaos, it’s important to identify those feelings and decide if those are the emotions you want your family to remember when they look back on this time.

Address those feelings and any physical concerns you have so they don’t become the theme of your quarantine. Share your heart with your family (in age appropriate ways) and let them know your goals for this time – for example, creating happy memories without the expectation of perfection. Here are some conversation starters. Keep in mind that sometimes people just need a prompt to open up and share their questions and concerns about these uncertain times.

  • To your spouse, partner or other adult in the home: “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and am concerned about being able to afford our bills. Can we brainstorm on ways to streamline what needs to be done and divide up the responsibilities? It would also be great if we could take a quick look at the budget for areas where we can save.”
  • To your teenagers and young adults: “I know you’re going through a really rough time right now and I wish I could take away the anger, fear and sadness you’re dealing with. It’s okay to have those feelings – I have frustrations, too. Let’s talk it out and decide how to move forward together as a family. We’re all gonna have bad days and we’re all gonna have good days. I think it would be great if we could look out for each other and take turns doing random acts of kindness for each other so we can get through the rough spots.”
  • To your middle school or junior high kids: “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through right now, but I want you to know it’s okay to be mad or sad. It’s also okay to be happy for taking a break from school, even though you miss your friends and some of your teachers. I want you to know that I’m gonna do my best to be patient and not nag you, but I’m human and I’ll mess up sometimes. But we’re gonna be fine – and you’ll be able to tell your kids about living through this crazy time in history.”
  • To your primary school children and maybe even your kindergarten kiddos: “Isn’t it kinda cool to do school work at home while Mom and Dad do their jobs? So that we can stay healthy, we’re gonna keep making smart choices like eating good foods, exercising, getting fresh air, learning new things, washing our hands really well and letting our bodies get enough sleep. We can do some special things like camping out in the living room and wearing pajamas all the time.”
  • To your littles: “I know you miss your friends, but we can FaceTime with them and color pictures for them. I also want you to teach big sis and big brother some of the songs and games you learned at preschool so they can play with you. Won’t that be fun?”
  • To your fur babies: “Who’s a good dog? YOU’RE a good dog.” (Snuggle and kiss as needed.)

Tips and Tools

To make life easier, we’ve rounded up some resources to help you maintain your sanity while being hunkered down with your family 24/7. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on these lists in order to be a good parent during a stay-at-home order. Do what sounds like fun for your family – and toss everything else out the window.

How to Get Better at Dealing with Change

How to Work at Home with Kids

Tour World-Famous Museums from Your Sofa

Boredom Busters: At-Home Activities for Families and Kids

As we keep moving forward, remember that your children don’t need perfection and your home doesn’t need to be like anyone else’s. Instead, keep this quote in mind and be kind to yourself.”

“Education in the true sense is helping the individual to be mature and free, to flower greatly in love and goodness. That is what we should be interested in, and not in shaping the child according to some idealistic pattern.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

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