If you’re like me and you are now on house arrest with your kids because schools and activities are all canceled for a few weeks (maybe longer), you may be wondering several things. First, your thoughts are probably focused on keeping your kids/spouse and extended family away from the coronavirus and caring for those who are sick. These are worthy thoughts. Second, you have a small amount of panic because you’re about to have your kids at home…all day…with no where to go. Since I’m not an epidemiologist, I can’t speak to the virus, I’ll speak to how to structure this time at home with your kids so you (and they) don’t lose your minds.

Let’s be real, here. This is like summer break without the pool, play dates, park trips, or the museum. It’s like when someone is home sick from school, only without the sick part. For some parents, this is their dream. Relaxed schedule, no place you have to be at a certain time, the day’s agenda is wide open. For most parents, the thought of having NOTHING to do with their kids all day every day for weeks is terrifying. After homeschooling for seven years, we’ve basically been self-quarantining ourselves and this type of schedule is what our normal is most of the time. For some thoughts on how to make the next few weeks a happy time with your kids, keep reading.

Set Some Goals

Take a few moments this weekend to think about what you want to accomplish with your kids during this time with them. Do you want to clean out a part of your house? Do you want to learn a new hobby together? Finish some puzzles? Maybe move furniture around in a room to give it a new look?

Pick one large goal (like changing up a room) and maybe two smaller ones (like puzzles and hobbies) and then chunk them down into daily goals. Maybe an hour or two each day is spent on reaching these goals. When you look back on this time at home waiting for the virus to clear out, you’ll have something fun to show for it. When your kids look back on this time, maybe their memories will not be filled with anxiety and fear but of fun times at home.

Create a Routine

Kids thrive on routine. The love predictability. In a time in their life that is unpredictable (like when school is canceled and all anyone is talking about is this deadly virus), having a routine to their day will help their emotions stay level.

The routine doesn’t have to be rigid. Maybe it looks like this:

After waking up – Leisure breakfast, snuggle in bed with a book, stay in pajamas for a couple hours.
Mid morning – Household chore time. Tidy rooms, do laundry, etc.
Lunch – after lunch, everyone gets a little pocket to themselves – you included. If you have younger kids, this is nap time. If you have older kids, everyone grabs a book, something to color, or some homework. This gives you time to yourself if you work from home, need to shower, or just need a breather.
Afternoon – Watch a movie, do a craft, free time to yourself to play inside or in the yard. Maybe knock out some of those goals you set.
Dinner РEnjoy cooking meals without the Instant Pot where you have to chop and sauté something. Make dinner less of a chore and invite your kids to help you make it.
Post Dinner – Family time to do something fun like go outside for a walk or play a board game.

There are no set times in this schedule, but it is still a routine that kids will appreciate. And it will give you some guidance in the day when they come at you with questions like, “When can I play outside?” or “When can I watch TV?” It will also help make sure that your house and their room stay somewhat picked up.

Get Outside

We may not be doing much socializing right now, but we all still need fresh air each and every day – kids especially. Make it a point to get outdoors, even if it’s cold, and feel refreshed. Get some exercise as a family by walking in your neighborhood. Make your kids use that play equipment sitting in your backyard that they promised they’d use every day. Ride bikes and scooters. Everyone will feel so much better with some physical activity and space outdoors. You don’t need to interact with anyone other than a casual wave as you pass by, keeping germs on your person.

Use this time to knock out some outdoor chores around your house, too. If you’re like me, things are starting to green up and I’m seeing all that needs to be trimmed, raked, and fertilized. Take advantage of having extra hands and put your kids to work. Start a summer garden while you have some time and extra bodies. Teach (or learn) a new game together. Clean out the garage if the weather permits. The options are endless.

Have Fun Together

While we all may be a little anxious about this time – after all, it’s not too often that everything comes to a halt – there is a lot of joy and simplicity to be found in time together with your kids. Try to take advantage of it and do something fun with them. Have a pillow fight. Binge watch their favorite show with them for an afternoon. Make homemade ice cream. Paint your faces silly with makeup.

With any luck, soon, everything will be back to normal and you’ll have made some really great memories with your kids that will last much longer than the spread of the virus.

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