We all have that friend – the jack of all trades, seems to do it all and is good at everything. That’s Meg. I met her 7 or 8 years ago when she was a teacher and making cake pops on the side. I remember her being equal parts creative and supportive. I was just beginning to explore photography beyond taking pictures of my daughter. Today she has 3 kids and owns her own business and has a passion for helping others. If you are worried about how you are engaging your children during the time at home, this a must-read.
Engaging Your Children, Saving Your Sanity
The real question here is, can we have both? Judging by the clingy 20-month old on my knee, the emotional 4-year-old taking a break, and the sassy 6-year-old, I’m inclined to say “no” but that would just be the quarantine talking. In reality, as basic as it seems to be, it all comes down to routines and expectations. I’m also here to share a big truth with you. You are not your child’s only source of entertainment. I’ll say it again for those simply scan-reading…
You are NOT your child’s sole source of entertainment.
The development of independent play, imagination, and inner dialogue are often overlooked when we think about our children’s abilities. Remember back to when you were a child. Did you play with non-electronic toys such as dolls, cars or playhouses? You had an inner dialogue. You made your toys talk or put them in imaginary situations. Most likely, one or both of your parents worked and did not have an opportunity to spend time singing and dancing in front of you all waking hours. The same is very true of our children today.
While I’m all for a good movie or a device, I do have some guilt if I feel that they’ve been on “too long.” (What too long is varies from situation to situation, but we all know that feeling of “what time did you start that game again?”)
We’ve put a few routines in place at our that help our kids to move through the day while providing me an opportunity to get things done. In my house that usually means to take a phone call or complete some facet of work that needs doing.
- Employ Your Smart Device
If you have an Alexa, Google Home or other device you can probably set reminders or alerts on a schedule. We set our Alexa to remind us about snack time, quiet time, clean up time and various tasks (i.e. my son’s morning school meeting at 9 am Mondays and Wednesdays). We’ve found that the kids are much less resistant (and whiny) when Alexa gives the directive versus an adult human. Even the baby knows the routine and follows it (sometimes better than the big kids).
- Let Your Kids Choose
Many children crave the ability to exert some level control over their environment (and act out if they feel smothered or out of control). Allowing them to “choose” their next activity is often just what they need to feel heard and independent. We go about this by providing 2 or 3 options that we want or will allow and let them choose what they do “next” or “first.” The expectation is that they will do all three things but the order in which they do them doesn’t matter.
An example near bedtime would be as follows:
“Would you like to put on PJs, brush your teeth or clean the toys off of your floor first?”
It’s implied that they will all be done but the order is up to them! Less fighting, more doing, more sanity!
- Institute Quiet-Time
We have a daily quiet-time in our house, yes on weekends too! We have ours in the afternoon because that’s when our youngest naps. It’s a set chunk where the older two spend time playing independently in their rooms. Their rooms are already child-proofed, safe for sleeping, and have special room-only toys. For our 6-year-old, that means Legos, Legos, Legos! They’re too small to be scattered around the house so quiet-time is the ideal time for him to spend time creating and playing. For our 4-year-old, this means her doll house and Hatchimals, again too small for the main living space but perfect for imaginative play. The boundaries we set for them, and practiced for a while before they became routine, included that they were to stay in their rooms to play quietly until quiet-time was deemed to be over. Unless they were sick or hurt, they were to stay and play (bathroom breaks as needed of course).
Now, while I can’t say that it’ll always be perfect, quiet, and kind play, these opportunities for sanity have changed the landscape of how we structure our day. I’m able to have set “work-hours” for the day where I can bank of taking calls or getting focused work accomplished. I’ve also noticed that my kids are better able to entertain themselves for things like car rides and quiet morning play should they wake up early now that they have had practice.
Above all, be flexible. Changes take time and we’re all going through some serious changes at the moment. You’re doing an awesome job, your children love you, and we see (and appreciate) you. You’ve got this!
Meg Kerns is a mother of three, digital strategist, and blogger at The Mother of Chaos. She is fluent in sarcasm, a ferocious cheerleader of parents, and enjoys spending time on Instagram! She lives with her husband, kids and their dog in Loudoun County where she was raised.