Keep your restless kids busy while you stay sane too, as everyone stays home during this Covid-19 circuit breaker. Follow these pro tips.
Involve your kids in the planning
Ms June Yong, who is in charge of editorial content at Focus on the Family Singapore, suggests discussing boundaries upfront.
She says: “Involve the children in thinking about what you can do as a family to manage space constraints, routines and screen time, and device use.
“For example, if one child needs to work on an e-assignment, can he use the shared desktop at a certain time while his sibling tackles her homework that does not require the computer?”
Stock a nutrient-rich pantry
When it comes to physical preparations, Dr Michael Wong, a family physician and consultant at Raffles Medical, advises getting supplies that will ensure a balanced, nutritious diet.
This includes groceries with a long shelf life such as frozen and tinned vegetables and fruit, rice for carbohydrates and tinned meat and fish for protein.
There is no need to buy too much food as food delivery services or close friends and relatives can bring food items to your doorstep, he says.
Those with underlying conditions such as diabetes would do well to have at least a month’s supply of their medication in case of any emergencies.
Besides monitoring family members’ health in case of Covid-19 symptoms, he recommends having medicine on hand for common illnesses, such as paracetamol for fever, antihistamines for allergies and anti-diarrhoea medication.
Rehearse conflict resolution
Talking about conflict before it erupts lays the ground for parents to reach for appropriate ways to react and gives the children a chance to raise their own concerns and needs, Ms Yong says.
Brainstorm solutions to deal with raised voices by thinking of places in the home where one can cool off, and pre-empt arguments by asking the kids to take turns when it comes to prized resources like digital devices.
(Also read: 5 things not to say to your kid when you are angry)
Take ‘sanity breaks’
“It may be more helpful to think about trying to parent calmly for the bulk of each day, or to aim for at least three to five positive interactions with each child daily, rather than setting an impossible standard of perfection (of never losing your cool),” says Ms Yong.
“If you feel you’re losing control, say it out loud: ‘Mummy is feeling upset and would appreciate some space. Please give me 10 minutes to cool off in my room.’
“Stating our needs early can help our kids be aware of our feelings and conscious of their actions.”
She recommends parents take “sanity breaks” by stealing away for 15 minutes of quiet when everyone else is preoccupied.
Set boundaries with your spouse
Ms Yong says: “Spouses need boundaries too. Some people need peace and quiet to work; others enjoy occasional banter or background music. It helps to state each other’s needs and preferences.”
Set realistic expectations regarding working from home, doing household chores and child-minding, and team up on tasks such as dad supervising the children’s homework while mum is cooking.
(Also read: 5 relationship mistakes that sabotage your marriage)
Play family games
Structure is good, but do not get too hung up on keeping to a minute-by-minute schedule.
Ms Yong from Focus on the Family Singapore suggests building in time for school work, chores, exercise, play and breaks.
“Bear in mind that a young child may be able to sit through a task for only around 20 to 30 minutes.”
Homeschooling parent Dawn Fung, founder of Homeschool Singapore, a community of homeschoolers, suggests a heart-warming scavenger hunt.
Within 20 minutes, each child must look for five items in the home which remind them of a special memory associated with mum.
Each family member then shares why they picked the items. The children can go a few rounds with different themes, such as looking for red items only.
Mrs Anita Low-Lim, a member of Media Literacy Council and senior director at Touch Integrated Family Group, suggests child-friendly alternatives when even Netflix begins to pall: Go Noodle encourages families and children to stay active indoors through dance and meditation; WhizKidScience is an educational YouTube channel by Aiden, a teenager who conducts fun science experiments with materials that can be found at home; and But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids.
The podcast is available on Spotify and features answers to questions submitted by kids such as “Do animals get married?” and “Who invented words?”
Reset your life
Ms Sha-en Yeo, who runs a business, Happiness Scientists, which uses positive psychology to support people to be happier, suggests reframing the enforced solitude.
Ms Yeo, who has written resources for parenting during Covid-19, suggests looking within to think of goals that you may have neglected or pursuing personal projects like trying new recipes.
“Instead of using words like ‘stuck’, adopt a growth mindset by seeing potential in spending this time connecting with one another,” she says.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
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