How to Stay Sane When Kids Are in the House All Day

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I’m going insane!

Actually, that’s not completely true. My kids are driving my wife insane and she is driving me insane.

Okay that was a joke, too—sorry Emma, don’t kill me! In fact, my wife is so incredible with Jayden and Sara right now that I have a renewed sense of admiration for the love of my life.

I wouldn’t be able to write at all if it’s not for her sacrificing all her time to be with the kids. How does she do it?

Here are a few tips I gathered by observing.

1. Develop a daily schedule.

Setting expectations have always done wonders for children. When the kiddos know what to expect, they won’t have to ask repeatedly whether they can have more screen time because they already know the answer. Plus, it helps you lay out everything that needs to happen in the busy day of yours so you don’t miss anything.

And it’s even better if you plan your days ahead with your kids. It might sound like a chore, but it’ll a) give them something to do, b) make them feel ownership of the schedule, and c) help them remember the conversation of when it’s work time and when it’s play time.

2. Involve them in more of the daily routine.

My wife started having our kids vacuum the floor and wash some of our dishes recently.

I was really impressed, especially because my son actually enjoyed doing some of these chores. Obviously he’s not going to be making everything spotless, but that’s not the point. Having him do chores not only helps us out, it also gives him another activity and challenge to tackle.

Best of all? He learns that nothing around the home gets cleaned up/fixed unless someone puts in the elbow grease to make it happen.

3. Talk more about the family finances.

For one, money is probably top of mind these days so it’ll be easy to share what’s going on.

We’ve been sharing with Sara and Jayden quite a bit more on how much everything costs and how money works in our world these days.

We’ve also involved the two when we needed to decide how much to spend on say, groceries, or the occasional take out.

It’s been interesting to see how they respond.

Sara seems to be more conservative and wants to save the money whenever she could, while Jayden just wants what he wants no matter the cost. Some of it might be due to age (Sara is 10, Jayden is 7), but no doubt personality plays a part too.

4. Manage your own anxiety, as mood sets the tone for the entire household.

I’m guilty of this, because I’ve been really stressed out and I’m being even more of an authoritarian than normal. Being in a bad mood will ruin your kids’ moods, which will make them more cranky and end up causing more trouble.

Worst yet, your attitude will slowly rub off on your kids and affect how they handle stressful situations. I noticed Sara raising her voice towards her brother quite a bit more often these days, and the tone she uses is strikingly similar to the way I speak to my kids when I’m frustrated.

Calm kids come from calm parents! Never forget that.

5. Accept that you aren’t going to be working at 100% efficiency.

Practically all of us will come to the conclusion that we won’t be as efficient working from home as if we were working at the office if we think about the situation long enough.

Yet, many of us still have the expectation that everything will get done at the same pace regardless of where we are conducting our work. This too shall pass, but also face the truth: this temporary situation is going to slow down your progress in some ways.

6. Divide and concur.

Allow one parent to watch all the kids while the other works, and vice versa. Develop a plan and take turns.

This is where the plan you developed can help as everybody will know what to do so there’s no confusion. Without a plan, everyone will chime in to help seemingly at all times and no one will feel like they can ever have uninterrupted time to get things done.

7. Do some activities together.

Other than planning your day together, spend some time doing some other activities around the house. Make a drawing together, sew a few face masks, or play some board games.

This might be your last chance to ever spend this much time together with your kids, so cherish the opportunity. And plus, the parents who spend more time with their kids will find that their kids listen to them more intently.

It’s obvious when you think about it, right?

8. Avoid hand-holding your kids when they need to get their homework done.

Many parents are telling me how they are spending a significant amount of time helping their kids do their school work.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Don’t underestimate your kids! Help them figure out how to log into the school systems and then let them lead the way. You want to be the support, and not the person clicking and typing everything out.

At the very least, you don’t need to be beside them when they are on Zoom meetings! Let them figure it out and ask you questions. Just go into their platform once a day for younger kids and even less frequently for older ones to make sure they are handing in their work. That’s it!

Once they get going, their school work time is actually going to be your alone time. Just try not to schedule a “can’t be interrupted” meeting at those times if you have young kids.

Jayden was in a zoom meeting and one of the kids started crying because he got a question wrong, and the parent was in a seemingly important meeting and actually asked his son to go away and not bother him! Don’t give into the temptation to ask the teacher for more work, though.

9. Go out for a walk in the neighborhood, as long as you are avoiding others.

Get some much needed fresh air and exercise. The sun will lighten your mood, boost your immune system, and give your whole family another healthy activity to do together.

And one more thing about walks.

Unless you are planning a hour+ long hike, and you can’t swing it any other time, avoid going for your walk right before and after dinner, when everybody else seems to be out at the same time.

Take multiple shorter walks and do it throughout the day when no one is outside. Use it as a break between all the activities, and you will also be safer because fewer people on the streets mean there’s more room to practice social distancing.

10. Have play dates.

No, I don’t mean a physical get together. Have your kids setup a time with their friends so they can face time each other and see how they are doing.

They can also be playing with toys or their favorite video game while they talk over video conference. It’s not the same but the interaction will help your kids cope with loneliness, as they will feel more connected to everybody they know.

In fact, you should reach out to your friends and your family too. Keeping in touch with your buddies will help keep your anxiety in check, as well as lower your friend’s anxiety too.

And if you involve your kids in the conversations, they will feel even more connected and will pay dividends when they get to see auntie and uncle when social distancing orders are relaxed in the future.

11. Tell yourself it’s okay for the kids to watch a little TV, or god forbid, use the iPad.

Electronics aren’t all bad. Just like anything else, it’s not good when your kids do nothing else but watch that screen of theirs.

What’s worst is when parents yell at their kids whenever they are on their devices, only to spend countless hours everyday looking at their own phone. Everything in moderation, and everyone will turn out just fine.

These are trying times, especially if you are a parent. How are you coping in the midst of this panic period? Do you have any tips to offer everyone else? If you do, please share because my wife and I could always use a few more tricks to help out our day out too!

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Alex R says:

    Everyone staying home has been extremely hard for us with three small kids in the house all the time.

    Just helping them with homework takes up a couple hours every day and plus they argue all the time so it’s been impossible to do any work. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope if things stay this way for long.

    Thanks for the tips, I’ll have to give a few of these a try soon.

    • David @ says:

      Stay calm.

      That’s probably the best advice I can give to any parent in this crisis. It’s also the hardest though.

      Hang in there and know that you aren’t alone!

  • Jimbo says:

    Calm kids come from calm parents….. well said!!

  • Joe on the Move says:

    I’ve been popping that wine open and letting my kids watch TV for a while now. I’ve accepted that they’ll go back to school in a future a bit …let’s just say… behind…

    I imagine other parents will be in a similar situation though, so my kids will just be average 😀

    • David @ says:

      Oh man! I won’t be following your example but I respect your decision. I do suspect that your kids will be fine though. The stay-at-home order seemed to have gone on forever already, but it’s really just been four or five weeks.

  • Betsy says:

    The play dates one caught me off guard. At first, I was like whaaaaaaaatt? But then I realize that you are talking about facetime. This makes perfect sense!

    They are now saying there may not be school until the end of the year. Why are we paying so much on property taxes when no one is going to school??!?

    • David @ says:

      You make a valid point about property taxes, but the board of education in your district is probably hard at work figuring out how to deliver remote learning to you. It’s true that remote learning is nothing like having your kids go to classes, but this is going to be a temporary situation. My state is talking about possibly beginning school in July this year to make up lost time, so we will see how everything plays out.

      Have trust!

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