We would all love to feel as happy as our kids about their staying home for the foreseeable future. However, we still have to work and run a house, while keeping them busy, happy and engaged, without going to public places! Here are a few steps that will help both parents and children keep their sanity in the upcoming weeks. By staying home and avoiding public places as much as you can, you are protecting both yourselves and vulnerable people who are at risk. We humans are creatures of habit and our brains work better when we know what is happening next. The uncertainty we are facing can be stressful, but working together with our children to create a new routine can help us have more control over our daily life. 

1. Set an emergency family meeting with your kids

    • Introduction to the meeting: Explain “We are all going  to be living and working together in our home. We will all need to come together to be successful. When we are doing this, we are helping our community and world to get healthy. When you are playing and working and studying independently, it makes it possible for me to keep working and to earn money for our family. We will need to make some agreements so we are all successful”.
    • Rules of family meeting: everybody gets to talk and take turns, everybody needs to agree to the solutions found.  This means parents listen as much or more than they talk. 
        • We speak to each other with respect.  
        • We brainstorm ideas, even crazy ones, then come to a solution that is respectful to everyone.  
    • School closure
      • Talk about why their schools are closed.  Schools, workplace and museum are working together to make sure fewer people get sick.   
      • Questions and answers about the virus, when you don’t have an answer, write the question and either find answers later or if they’re older, invite them to answer those as part of their academic work*
      • Not spring break but homeschooling: there will still be academics during the weekdays, and structure during the day.
      • Work as a team: acknowledge it is challenging being isolated and all their activities being cancelled, so you need to come up with a plan together
      • Work: Explain that you are not on vacation and have to work during the day too
      • Routine and rules might be different for now and things will go back to normal once school is in session again.

2. Routine chart:

    • Brainstorm about what should be part of the new routine (Write down everyone’s idea and even encourage silly ones « No working ever and no cleaning up! » or « kids do everything around the house and parents just play all day», that way it’s a bonding time and then it is easier to make sense of how as a team you can make it work together.) 
    • Agree on the different parts of the routine, it might contain:
      • Story time (even with older kids), it helps create a connection, and a child who feels connected is more likely to be cooperative, plus it can help transition to a calmer activity.
      • Work time (Children are more able to work in the morning so it is when most of the academics should take place) (see our daily work planner)
      • Outside time (backyard or walk around the block or in nature). 
      • Lunch (easy recipe they can participate in)
      • Quiet time after lunch (nap for younger kids, meditation, reading for older kids)
      • Chores: more time at home means more meals, dishes, activities, and mess, which means everybody needs to participate in taking care of the house! Introduce that if they take on more work, you will have more quality time together*
      • Quality time with parents: creative activity they pick, cooking something together, going on a walk*
      • Free time: it is important they have time just to have fun where they do what they want 
      • Screens: have clear rules that your family is comfortable with and use them at strategic time (when you have a conference call, end of the day, etc.)* Let children know the rules for media consumption will likely be different for a few weeks, but not forever.   
    • Create a routine chart: Either download our routine chart or invite your children to do their own (they could start on Monday morning by writing and designing their own routine chart), the more they are involved, the more motivated they will be!

Important note:

  • The first version might not work, possibly at all! Think of it as a great opportunity to learn, and try again. You can review your day at dinner time and discuss as a family how to improve. It can take homeschooling families months before they find a structure that works optimally for them. So please, give yourself the grace to fail!
  • We won’t be able to do it all and always be the perfect parent, employee or housekeeper, and neither won’t our children be the perfect student, sibling or help around the house! It can be a time of growth for the whole family and is an amazing time to connect more deeply outside of all the social obligations we usually have. 
  • Finally, you can create a list of things we hope to do together during this time. Share each others hobbies, build giant forts in the living room and watch movies with popcorn. Keep the silly happening.  

Mathilde is a Doctor of neurosciences who specialized on the impact of playing educational games on children’s cognition. during her research. She also has a strong interest in positive discipline and is a certified educator. She lives in California with her husband and her three children who provide constant opportunities for learning in the parenting department!

Mathilde Cerioli, Ph.D

Doctor of cognitive neuroscience + Positive Discipline educator + Parent