2020 has been difficult at best and, for some of us, life-altering. I don’t know about you, but around here, my kids have definitely been feeling the stress of all the change this year. They wear masks and are in and out of school. All their everyday activities are canceled, and our holidays were much more subdued than usual. They have spent so much time at home that we all find ourselves going a little stir crazy.
In such uncertainty and shifting schedules, we have found a few things that create stability and a sense of normalcy in our home, even while everything is changing around us. There is so much that we don’t have control over that it is vital to create as much stability in our own homes as we can. The Institute for Family Studies says,
As common sense would suggest and as research confirms, children tend to do best in stable households, where they know what to expect and feel (perhaps unconsciously) that their relationships, health, and safety are basically secure. Undergoing repeated transitions can cause stress by threatening this feeling and undermining kids’ and their parents’ sense of control over their lives, which then tends to worsen parenting and to lower children’s academic achievement and mental health.
So we can all agree that stability is vitally important for our children and ourselves! But how do we maintain mental and emotional health for our families when everything is constantly shifting around us?
Stress Relief for Everyone
One important thing is to pay attention to your own needs. What do you do to maintain your physical health? Your spiritual health? Often your kids need the same things you need. What things comfort you in times of stress? These same things can help de-stress your kiddos too. Need a long quiet bath after an intense day? That might be the thing that your 7-year-old needs after a long day of e-learning.
Sometimes a long walk is just the thing. Make a list of stress-relieving things for you and look at which ones might meet those same needs in your kids. Bring them into the discussion. You might learn something new about your child or find something new you might enjoy together!
We found ourselves wandering…
The days can seem to all blur together in this season. There were days that we would find ourselves kind of just wandering around the house, not sure what to do with ourselves. In our case, this led to complaints of boredom, an increase in bickering and fighting, and an excess of whining.
Anchor Point Activities
Enter anchor point activities. This is one of the most significant changes that we instituted. Anchor point activities are activities that happen at the same time each day to lend some structure to the day that each family member can count on.
These will look different from family to family. The important thing is that they are consistent every day. My favorite one is afternoon reading time. Each of the kids gets a book, snuggle up, and read for thirty minutes after lunch. They all know it’s coming, and they all expect it every day. It is a moment of normalcy in otherwise abnormal days. Pick 2 or 3 anchor point activities that you know can be consistent in maintaining day in and day out.
Some other great anchor point activities could be reading a book out loud during lunch every day. Or singing a song together every morning after breakfast before everyone starts their work for the day. It doesn’t have to be complex. It just has to be consistent.
Plan Things to Look Forward To
Plan things to look forward to. This can be tricky with the way things currently are. So many of the things we used to look forward to aren’t available to us right now. It has to be different, but our kids have enjoyed take out in the car while listening to audiobooks. This is not something we would have done before 2020, but it has been a fun new family activity that we all look forward to!
We eat take out and listen to audiobooks in the car
A family game night every Friday would be a great way to work something into the week that the whole family can look forward to. Our current family favorite is Draftosaurus. Here is a great cooperative family game called The Crew where you all work together instead of competing against each other!
We love being creative as a family, and being at home so often has allowed us to expand into new creative options. There are mounds of evidence about how beneficial creative play is to children emotionally, intellectually, and even physically.
“Creativity is intelligence at play.”Albert Einstein
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”Fred Rogers
Creative play is imperative for children to happy and healthy. At our house our kids are writing their own stories and recording them, drawing and painting more than ever, and building all kinds of new lego creations and forts. Check out this article on encouraging creativity in your kids for more ideas. This creative time has been something for all of us to look forward to.
I am pretty sure, that if I polled my family the top thing we all look forward to every week is Saturday morning breakfast. Every Saturday morning I make brioche french toast (this bread from TraderJoe’s is the best) and we have a long sweet breakfast together. No phones, no rush, just lots of butter, and great conversation with all my favorite people. This ritual is easy to maintain and we all just love it!
Bedtime and getting up in the morning still happen every day. Making these things consistent creates such calming rhythms for children. Whatever bedtime routine works best for your little ones, make sure to keep it the same time, same place, same activities in the same order. All this sameness provides an opportunity for their minds to be at rest. They are not guessing at what might happen. They know exactly what to expect, and it breeds stability.
Consistency in Beginning the Day
Repeat the same thing in the morning. Even though many of us don’t leave the house right away like we used to, we can still keep a morning routine. We get up. We let the kids wake up on their own but is almost always at a similar time. Breakfast is usually the same thing everyday.
One of the most essential parts of the morning is our family worship time. Foundations by Ruth and Troy Simons is a great place to start for family devotions. After this, the kids know it is time to get dressed, brush their teeth, and make beds. This rhythm creates consistency at home when there is little to no consistency in the outside world.
Honestly, we have long stretches when we are super consistent, and when we are not we can tell a big difference for our whole family. After a couple days of not getting dressed or too much TV, all of our attitudes suffer. If you have been consistent and are in a lull get back on the horse! It is hard to start a routine again, but always worth it!
Getting Buy-In from the Kids
This has been a treat for us as our kids get older. We bring them into more of our planning discussions and ask them for their input and ideas. It is so rewarding for them to be a part of the team that keeps our family running smoothly. The more they are involved, the more they want to participate in whatever plan we come up with. It also gives them the confidence to know that they are valuable and needed as a part of the family. They are not bystanders; they are essential players.
Hope for Something New
As much as I hope 2021 will be different, I want to be prepared for anything that comes at us. Putting these plans in place has given our family and our children stability in an ever-changing world.
A Few Helpful Resources
Check out these printables if you are having trouble with increased bickering between siblings spending so much time at home.