Surviving and Thriving

As many parents have been instructed to work-at-home, and children instructed to stay-at-home and therefore play-at-home, many households have been forced to find work and play stations, often in very limited space. Parents have had to scramble to find a corner of the house (if they didn’t already have a dedicated office space) where they could set up to carry out their work-related duties.

Yes, it has been several weeks now that schools have been closed. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers may well be at the stage of feeling like climbing the walls or pulling their hair out, while many children are in fact climbing the walls and pulling hair out, their own and that of their siblings.

Advice from a myriad of sources across the globe suggests that having a structure for each day, a timetable, a schedule, will help to keep us all sane, focused and feeling productive. As much as I agree that setting out a structure for each day can help immensely with having a sense of purpose, a sense of security and safety in this suddenly very uncertain and unsafe world, I also want to suggest that focusing too much on a rigid structure or schedule can exacerbate stress and increase tension and anxiety in the home.

So how do we manage these energetic, rambunctious and curious children that are now home-bound? Here are a few suggestions that may help to put some order into the stay-at-home chaos:

1. In collaboration with your child/children, create a schedule which will provide a guide for structured activities throughout the day but which also allows for some flexibility. The weather, your child’s mood or physical well-being, your mood or physical well-being, are factors that may warrant a change or omission in your schedule.

2. Set-up areas in your home- if space allows- where children can move from one activity to another.

  • One area could be a reading corner with cushion or small chair, blanket, plush toy, good lighting and several age appropriate books.
  • Another area could be an art/design/craft corner where there is an easel or blackboard to paint and draw on. (Improvise with two cardboard boxes stacked with paper taped to the side to create temporary artwork surface), and/or a small table with various supplies to create craft projects. Depending on the age of the child this could be stocked with play dough (fun activity to make your own with flour, water etc., check online for recipes), construction paper, glue scissors, cotton wool balls, felt, cardboard rolls etc.
  • A third area could be a more formal school-workstation where there are pencils, crayons, activity/workbooks, flashcards etc.
  • A fourth area could be an action and music station where there is space to dance, jump, fall onto cushions, play musical instruments (whether store-bought or homemade)
  • Of course, if there is adequate yard or outdoor space, children can be encouraged to engage in active play outside for a period of time each day, taking in some fresh air and sunshine.

If space does not permit setting up separate areas, compiling different boxes or bags of supplies for different types of activities can work as well, to be taken out and then packed away at specific times. Children of all ages enjoy being creative and being involved in designing and setting up their own work/play areas. For most children work is play and play is work!

Children age five and younger usually require a greater degree of adult involvement in guiding and assisting them in play and learning activities. Their curiosity needs to be channelled into positive and fun experiences. These children should not be expected to entertain or occupy themselves for long periods of time.

Children age five to eleven years old may need less constant involvement of adults, but they do need supervision and guidance in using their energies in constructive ways.

All children can be included in household activities, according to their age and ability. It is strongly recommended that children be allowed to take an active role in maintaining their living space. Asking for their ideas and assistance with basic everyday tasks such as folding laundry, putting away dishes, making beds, sweeping, dusting, tidying up toys, and caring for plants will help to develop their sense of competence and confidence, and their sense of responsibility.

Continued in Part 2 – Screen Time and Parent-Child Interaction

Lystra Mahabir-Mongroo, Self-Care Psychotherapy & Counselling Services

B.A./B.S.W., M.S.W. EMDR II, C.Hyp.