Full-Time Family Togetherness

With schools shutting down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents are now faced with full-time family togetherness. We have to figure out how to keep the kids occupied, run a home school and balance work responsibilities. 
Fortunately, there are some experts who have thought all this through and have helpful tips. We talked to Kim John Payne, author of the book Simplicity Parenting and Christine Carter, sociologist, parenting expert and senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Here are some of their suggestions: 
Make a plan. Take some time to think how you want the day to flow. When will be time for academic work? When will be time for outdoor play? Music lessons? Creative activities? Have a family meeting and let the kids know that you will still have to manage job responsibilities, too. Figure out how everybody in the family can help each other. “Establish a really, really good rhythm,” Payne says. “Don’t have each day be random or a process of discovery.” If there is no predictability to the day, kids will likely act out with behavior problems. 
Enjoy connecting. For once, you’re not rushing around all over the place. You have the opportunity to eat meals with your family and just spend the time. Carter says you might think of returning to the 1970s model where families watched shows and movies together, as opposed to everybody watching their own programs separately on devices as owe tend to do today. If you are working from home, remember to stop working, too! “Stop trying to get things done in every moment,” Carter says. “Try and separate out the time in which you’re connecting with each other.” 
Do the things you usually can’t.  If you now have an extra hour a day because you’re not commuting, fill that with something positive. Maybe now, the family can finally eat breakfast together or everyone can get some exercise. Maybe people can catch up on their sleep. Give the kids more time to play. “This is a gift of a break from being so busy all the time,” Carter says, adding that people shouldn’t think they aren’t valuable or significant if they aren’t busy all the time. “You’re contributing to the greater good by staying close to home and trying to flatten the curve [slow the spread of COVID-19].” 
Limit the news. Sure, it’s good to stay informed but do you really have to have nonstop updates? Could you get by with checking the news once in the morning and once in the evening?  Think about the impact on children, particularly the younger ones, Payne says. Before you share anything with the kids, Payne suggests you first ask: Is it true to your family values? Is it kind? Is it strictly necessary that you talk about this now? Will it help make your child feel more secure? If you answer “no” to any of those questions, maybe wait to talk about it. 
Though the world is uncertain and plans are falling through everywhere, we can do our best to make our family a place of stability. There’s a lot we can’t control, but “we can declare peace in our home,” Payne says. 
Lisa Renner is a calendar editor for Bay Area Parent. 


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