Written by Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services
Welcome to our temporary new normal – staying at home with the children and whoever else in your family is around at the moment. There are a lot of things to consider in how you will plan your days together. The children all have school work to do. But that won’t take all day – so what’s next?
Here are some ideas for bonding with your teens and children over this period:
1. Create a schedule together. Young people who were in school last week may be happy to be home – and they also will flourish with a clear and consistent routine. You get final say over the schedule of course, but kids will value being given the kinds of choices you can live with (“Would you like to do homework first, or get in half an hour of outside play first?”). Older children and teens can have more flexibility than younger children. Make sure that their schedule doesn’t stray too far from the hours for sleep and eating that they need during the school year.
2. Play with them. This is another opportunity to let your children have some choices. They will love having you play with them – and it’s fine for you to gently guide their play options by providing them with choices you can live with. Letting children be the leader in their play, and you following along in their play world, is also healthy bonding time.
3. Play stop-and-start games to build attention and focus, and work off energy. Games like “red light green light”, Simon Says, and Freeze Dance are fun ways to enjoy your children and also keep building the attention skills they need for school and life. Even something as simple as inflating a balloon and then playing a game of keeping it off the ground as you bat it back and forth is fun bonding and skills building.
4. Play video games wtih them. You might be a “nube” (someone who is new to gaming) but if you can set aside 30-45 minutes to let your children and teens show you around the video games they play, it’ll be well worth it. Ask them “How do you know if you’re doing well?” and see what you learn!
5. Get creative together. Make art, tell stories, make music, code, build a website, or get involved in hands-on creative work like cooking or gardening. You’ll be building memories and reducing stress. There are plenty of creative projects online – try to find some that support some of your kids’ interests or schoolwork.
6. Do chores together. This is a good time to work on chores and trouble shoot areas of conflict. For example, if it seems that there is always a meltdown in your house when you remind your child to clean his or her room, maybe now is the time to find out whether they need help with more specifics steps in that cleaning process. For example, instead of a simple “go clean your room” try “let’s put all the books back on the shelves with the spines facing us” and then go on to the next step.
7. Let them be bored. As tempting as it is to schedule every minute or just let them have more screen time, the kids need boredom. It actually makes them more creative. Just make sure you have rules in your family that address good behavior in case sibling fights break out.
8. Get some exercise. Walking or playing outdoors – especially on trails or parks – is great – as long as you avoid crowded situations for the moment. Indoor fun can include dance challenges, fitness games through gaming machines (the Switch’s Fit Adventure and Dance games are excellent as are the Wii and Xbox fitness games). You can also find videos online for all kinds of kid and teen friendly yoga and other types of workouts.
9. Videochat with friends and relatives. It’s especially important right now to reach out to older relatives who may be finding social distancing difficult – help your kids connect through video chat.
10. Learn something together. There are any number of documentaries and courses available online. Find something that relates to one of your child or teen’s passions, and dig deeper.
We understand that these may be some difficult and stressful days, as we all try to cope with a situation none of us have faced in our lifetime – and do so with love and humor. Our office and indeed most counseling offices are offering video-based counseling, in case you need to reach out for support or ideas on how to get through this as an individual, family, or couple.
Article was written and sponsored by Resident in Counseling Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services