Young family enjoys time together at home.

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Making the Most of the New Normal at Home with Kids

Doing your best to parent during Coronavirus pandemic

Waiting to see what the new realities of everyday life are going to be like during the Coronavirus pandemic? Well, it all starts from home, where you and your kids will be spending most of your time for the foreseeable future. The right approach will mean the difference between hours upon hours of boredom, or worse, tension, stress and fear, and productive time spent working, learning and enjoying time with your kids that you might have never had or will have again. 

It’s not going to be easy but talking with your children, sharing feelings with one another and making them feel safe will go a long way to getting through all you will face together.

Setting Realistic Expectations
So how do we go about it? Where do we start? The first part of making the best of your new home reality with your children starts with your mindset. Be open, flexible and positive. Life has changed, maybe not for the long haul, but definitely in the short term and that has to be acknowledged. Much of your success in getting through the days in the best way possible has to do with creating plans for the days and weeks ahead, while also understanding that those plans are subject to change, often. Roll with it and tell your kids it’s okay to roll with it also. 

Though it would be great for everyone to face every day with a positive outlook, the realities and uncertainties ahead make doing so difficult. That’s okay. Expect your kids to be testy, scared and suffer through occasional bouts of Cabin Fever. The same goes for you as parents. Don’t be too hard on your children, store up all the patience you can handle and get ready to forgive and forget as much as possible. 

Set Up Routines
The very things that often make ordinary everyday life mundane and predictable are the things we will begin to miss soon as we are largely bound to our homes. For kids, although it may be hard to believe, they will soon begin to long for the days where they had to get up at the same time, get dressed, have breakfast and be shipped off to school. To lessen what will already be major changes, make sure to follow as much of a routine as possible. Have them go to sleep and wake up at around the same times. Take showers or baths at regular times. Avoid them spending the entire day in pajamas and get them dressed in the morning. Prepare meals for them at the same times as they would during normal circumstances. 

"Most students thrive on the structure they receive in school when they know what to expect with their daily schedule and routine," said Melissa Scatena, to Good Morning America. “Prepare your child for the transition by working together to create their schedule. Ask them to share with you what their day typically looks like in school and empower them with ownership over creating their schedule for home.”

Homeschooling for Everyone
While homeschooling has become more of a viable option for the population as a whole in recent years, it will now be part of our everyday life, at least for the near future. But that doesn’t mean that your particular experience will replace school entirely, nor should it.
Kimberly Fox, of The Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York, said you don’t have to be a believer in the virtues of homeschooling to embrace it during these times. "We don't have to be school," Fox told CNN. "Under these circumstances, we're not going to entirely replace all of the structures that happen at school. But we can do a couple of things to make kids feel more secure and to make us feel like we're making the most of this time."

Luckily for our residents, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has put into place an Instructional Continuity Plan for the Coronavirus pandemic that provides mobile learning devices, instruction and even internet hotspots for connectivity to facilitate continued education for as long as schools are closed. Even so, getting your children to buy-in will be a process, so ease them into it.

Get Them Involved in Home Life
Homeschooling is not the only way to have children participate in productive activities. Make sure your child continues with his daily chores and even increasing their workload is advisable in certain circumstances. Even if your child is too young to have chores, involve them in setting the table, feeding the dog, putting away dishes and other daily activities which will make them feel like important members of the family unit. Give them the chance to take on additional responsibility and they will more likely than not take on the challenge as it will make them feel like active participants in getting through the Coronavirus pandemic. And don't forget to praise them for helping out around the house.

Schedule Time for Fun and Outdoors
While you want to keep your children doing productive work both in terms of schooling and chores, you also want to build in fun to their regular schedule. That means singling out periodic times for them to play games, interact with friends and generally goof off. Just as recess allows your kids to release steam when they are in school, planning free time at home will have similarly positive effects. 

It is also critical to get your children outdoors whenever possible. Although different challenges come with each neighborhood and living arrangement, it is advisable to get your kids outside and active whenever possible. Whether that means playing a sport or just taking a walk around the neighborhood. Get them outside and breathing fresh air. 

Digital to the Rescue
The availability of digital devices – whether they be video games, streaming devises, or social media platforms – is going to be critical during these times. Your children can continue to connect with family and friends that otherwise would be largely unavailable, they can watch shows both for education and entertainment and they can continue to feel part of the social fabric of the world to get a real sense of unity and solidarity during trying circumstances. 

From listening to books  and podcast on your device, to playing crossword puzzles and even doing yoga together or meditating, there are an amazing number of apps you and your children can take advantage of when you are at home. Check out this list put together by CNBC

Though field trips are something that we won’t be seeing for a while, virtual field trips are a great way to educate kids and get their minds out of the house even if their bodies can’t be. You and your kids can visit a number of museums and zoos around the world that are offering virtual tours to look at everything from  fine art and  exotic animals. Check out The Louvre, Van Gogh Museum and Guggenheim Museum. For a virtual vacation to anywhere on the planet, launch Google Earth and zip around the world exploring with your children. 

A word of caution, set time restrictions on how much time your kids should be spending online and continue to monitor what information they are seeing. 

Get Crafty and Creative
Nobody knows how long the current situation will continue or if it will get more and more restrictive. But no matter what the outside world does, the inside of your home can be a cauldron of creativity for you and your children. We have yet to come close to the limits of human creativity and all you need to tap into your own and that of your children is to sit down and focus on coming up with a fun game, craft activity or even some stimulating conversation. 

A recent article in suggested a variety of easy indoor activities sure to interest your children while also providing uses for items that you might have discarded and even getting to clean. Among them were Toy-Washing Bin, where you let your kids wash their plastic toys in a big bin (fun and teaches good sanitary habits; Box Road, where you flatten a box and draw a map with roads in marker, while also adding blocks as buildings and other toys to create virtual cityscapes; and Trash Art, where you allow your kids to pain everyday items instead of throwing them away. 

If you feel like you’ve exhausted your creative juices for the time being, there is no harm in getting some help from places like Mommy Poppins, Pop Sugar, USA Today and more. Of course, you can always just go to The Children's Trust Pinterest board to get even more ideas for Things to do at Home with Kids!