We have now spent more time in 2020 at the mercy of a pandemic than without it. For most parents, the time that’s passed since March has been an incoherent blur of juggling virtual learning with working from home, entertaining your energetic children, and attempting to keep up with other day-to-day functions. In short, it hasn’t been easy. There is no playbook for parenting during a pandemic, but as a collective group of people who are doing their best, we’re slowly writing that narrative together.
Now that we’re a few months into this way of life, here’s some wisdom we’ve gathered along the way.
Set up virtual playdates with a purpose
Raise your hand if you would be perfectly fine if you never had to hop on another video call again. The reality is that platforms like Zoom or FaceTime help us nurture treasured connections that we’d be devastated to lose in the long run. One of the most challenging aspects of video calls is keeping participants engaged, especially our little ones. Instead of setting up a call with no agenda, try infusing a purpose into your virtual hang out. Have a close relative or friend read a story to your child or coordinate with another parent to try an online cooking class together. The more entertaining the activity, the more likely your children will respond positively to yet another video chat!
Do ordinary things in odd places
This one is a little out of the box, but hear us out! The pandemic has confined us to our homes, but have you appreciated every corner of your house this year? Of course, we frequent the common areas like the kitchen and living room daily, but you can transform many parts of the home into a destination with the right attitude. Why not take dinner outside and have a picnic on the lawn, or do a coloring lesson near a bedroom window? There are no rules in 2020, eat your snacks in a circle in the hallway or let your little ones host a movie night for the family in their bedroom. Mixing things up and disrupting the idea of what’s considered “normal” can help break up the monotony of staying home. And while we’ve missed many photo ops this year between canceled graduations and postponed weddings, this moment will be one you want to remember, so don’t forget to grab your phone for a quick selfie!
Use technology to your advantage
Setting up a daily routine or schedule has been essential to most families during the pandemic, but why do you have to be the bad guy when enforcing that schedule? Virtual home assistants like Amazon Alexa can set up a “routine” and automatically announce activities on a predetermined cadence. This predictable set up helps children stay on track and anticipate what’s coming up next.
Create a snack tracking chart
Grown-ups often turn to food when we’re bored, and our children emulate that same craving. When we’re spending days at home, one of our first impulses is to start snacking to pass the time or fill an unidentifiable void. To keep this habit under control, create a snack tracking chart that lives on the fridge. Use magnets to track how many snacks are allowed in one day and move magnets from one box to another as snacks get eaten (this might also be a helpful practice for us too, parents!).
Have fun with snail mail
During a challenging year like this, the fact that we’re able to stay connected with distant family and friends with the help of technology is a blessing. Don’t let your children take that for granted. Bust out some old postcards or stationary and encourage them to write a letter to a loved one or a stranger in need. Vulnerable residents at children’s hospitals or senior care facilities are deeply impacted by the pandemic—especially when it comes to feeling isolated. Writing some handwritten cards with words of encouragement will keep your little ones busy, teach them about how communication technology has advanced, and make someone’s day on the other end. It’s a win-win!
Spend time in nature
While it’s important to maintain the social distancing guidelines that have been established by your local authorities, that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors all day. The world’s best playground and classroom is just outside your front door. Encourage your children to appreciate and immerse themselves in nature. You can print a nature ID card for solo exploring, you can come up with creative art projects using items found in nature, or you can simply opt for an outdoor activity like a daily walk to encourage a fresh air break. Either way, one of the biggest takeaways from 2020 should be a heightened appreciation for the world around us, and you can help cultivate that feeling in your little ones. Outdoor lighting is also one of the best places to practice your phone photography skills. Be sure to follow along on our Instagram for weekly photography tips!
Create a video blog or photo time capsule
Pass your phone to your little ones and let their imaginations run wild! Think of a video blog or photo series as a time capsule for an unexpected season of life. You can use your phone or another recording device to let your little ones share their experience as a kid during the pandemic. This activity will teach them the basics of how to take photos or record, save, and perhaps even edit (if appropriate) a video. When they’re older, they can look back on the memories of what 2020 looked like through the innocent perspective of a child.
Talk to your child about what’s happening
As much as we wish we could always protect our children from the scary parts of the world, we can’t. The pandemic isn’t something you can hide from them or delay sharing until the time is right. It’s happening all around us and even though we’re months into this “new normal,” your children likely still have questions about why. The CDC has released helpful recommendations for how to navigate the conversation around COVID-19 with your children.
And if all else fails…
Atlanta-based brand Spiked Pops creates adult treats to ease the burden. We want to remind you that we’re all doing the very best we can, especially this year. Being good enough is totally OK, and your home interior does not have to look like a Pinterest board as a measure of success. Take 2020 one day at a time and have faith in yourself.