It seems parents are more afraid of having their kids stuck at home with them 24/7 for the next few weeks than they are of the actual pandemic. Not only is there no school, but we’ve also been asked to practice “social distancing” (no playdates, outings, parks, public places, etc.), which is making you wonder if you will end up killing your kids before the coronavirus even gets a chance to come near them…
We’re here to help.
As we’ve learned from the time our little tykes were babies, children thrive on routine. Creating a flexible schedule (that is actually achievable, not the kind that Mary Poppins would aspire to) will help things run a bit more smoothly and help to prevent those dreaded words: “I’m boooooored…”. The schedule would need to be age-appropriate, and can include topics like mealtimes, chores, outdoor play (without the neighbours), table activity, construction activity, creative activity, free play, etc. If your child will be missing out on school, there will need to be a time-slot for school work activities too.
Special alone time
Another thing to add to the schedule is special alone time with each parent. For children under 4 and a half years, they need 10-20 minutes of alone time with each parent daily doing something that creates SHARED enjoyment (yes, YOU need to be having fun too for it to count). If your child is over 4 and a half, you can either continue the small daily top-ups, or you can do a weekly mommy/daddy date for an hour or two. If you choose this option, it is best to schedule it to happen on a certain day of the week at a specific, predictable time. Doing this will make sure your children’s love tanks are filled, which means far less thoroughly annoying attention-seeking behaviour and plenty of confident independent play.
There is nothing wrong with putting some screen time in the schedule too, but don’t over-do it. And make it near the end of the day so that you can add or subtract the amount of screen time each child will get according to their behaviour that day (if screen time is valuable to that child, that is). For example, if your 4, 6 and 8-year old have 35 minutes of screen time at 5pm in their schedule, you could add or remove 5 min segments for positive or negative behaviours during that day.
If one child has lost 10 minutes while the other 2 keep their 35, that child must take the timer with them to their room, set it for 10 minutes and play something else while their siblings start the show. Once the alarm beeps, that child may join the other 2. If they have all lost some screen time, they each need a timer accordingly, and you start the TV show while they miss out on the required number of minutes. If someone has earned an extra 10 minutes, they get to watch another 10 minutes when the other 2 are required to get on with something else in a different room, or can use these extra 10 minutes on a different screen device.
If your children are 3 years +, create a “super siblings” incentive tool for them. Whenever they are all playing together delightfully, they earn something towards a common goal. For example, you could have 2 trays out. Put all the ingredients needed to bake something specific on one tray (about 10 ingredients/baking utensils). When you see them all playing together beautifully like little darlings, show them that they have earned an ingredient while you move one to the earning tray. Once they have earned them all, they will all get to bake together.
Also listen to our podcast on the correct use of incentive charts.
When you have more than one child, chances are that one is more of an extrovert and the other is more of an introvert. Your little social butterfly will hate playing alone while your introvert is going to crave a bit of space from time to time. And if he doesn’t get it, WWIII is bound to begin. You need to make sure that you teach your introvert how to request some alone time in a respectful way and teach your extrovert how to keep themselves entertained (and to respect their sibling’s request for space). I call this “chill time”. Chill time is when children play quietly, on their own, in separate places for an age-appropriate length of time. Children can be taught to do this in separate rooms from 3 years old, or on a mat in the same room as you from as young as 18 months. This is a great tool to use when your children are starting to get on each other’s nerves, or when they are getting over-excited and therefore getting on your nerves.
MUNCHKINS PARENT COACHING
I know what you are thinking:
“My children would never stay in their rooms to play on their own”
“My kids would throw a monumental tantrum if they had to play in their room while the others got to watch TV”.
Well, that’s where we come in.
Book a Munchkins Parenting Coach today to learn some practical tools to have your children listening beautifully with a good attitude, how to deal with their tantrums effectively, how to get them to play independently, to express their emotions appropriately, how to combat sibling rivalry, how to have close, meaningful family relationships and much more – all in a single 3-hour home visit or virtual consultation (via Skype or WhatsApp video call).
With the right tools, the next few weeks could actually leave you wishing you could keep your cuties home for longer.
Celeste Rushby has been with the Munchkins team since 2010 and heads up our amazing coaching team. Her experience as an occupational therapist and mother of three (a singleton and twins, who were all born prematurely, at 30 and 32 weeks respectively) has played a key role in her many successes as a parenting coach and trusted mentor to parents. Her repertoire also includes specialised training in neurodevelopmental supportive care of high-risk infants (with the primary focus on premature babies).