Updated: Apr 17, 2020
A good day begins with you getting in front of it. Instead of waiting for your children to wake you up, get up before they do and think ahead. You know your children–you know how they typically react to things, what they like and don’t like, and what they respond well to. You’re going to take that knowledge and use it to both your advantage and theirs.
First, settle and ground yourself. Before you face the hordes, sit, bow your head and close your eyes. Visualize a few things you are thankful for–your home, the fact that you have food, the spring weather. Remember that God loves you and your children. Tell him thank you for that love, and ask him to help you through the day. If you have time, read the 23rd Psalm and picture it in your mind. Tell God how you’re feeling, no matter what it is–“God, I’m already tired of my kids. Help me not to be crabby.” or “God, I’m afraid of what’s going to happen with this virus. Please help me.” Just tell him. Amen.
Next, think of the day in three segments: before noon, afternoon, and after dinner. Jot down a few things your kids could do: play games, color/do crafty things, watch TV, read/listen to audiobooks, etc., things you know they enjoy doing. Include a pretty good chunk of “quiet time” after lunch–if your children are young enough for naps this is a given, but don’t forget that children of all ages need time to be quiet and alone. Plan on AT LEAST an hour, and two is not unreasonable.
By the way, you will need easy access to a timer, something to use as a noise to get your kids’ attention–your phone, a whistle, a bell, or even a glass you can clink with a spoon–and paper and pen.
Now, think of the food you have and what you would like to serve for meals. Write it down. Think about snacks–instead of allowing your kids to graze, set specific times, say 10:00 and 4:00. At breakfast, announce, “Kids, from now on we’re only going to snack a certain times. I’ll let you know when it’s time.” At snack time, use your whistle, etc., to get their attention, and have them come to the table, sit down, and complete a limited portion of a snack, preferably something healthy, but definitely something you’ve already chosen; let them choose between a couple of options if you’d like.
You now have a list of food and activities, as well as a structure for the day. What you’re looking for isn’t a schedule, it’s a resource of ideas for when you are grasping for something to do. If your kids play well together you may not need need to use it much, but with so many days at home stretching out before us you’ll probably need this list at some point.
As the day progresses, use your whistle to announce a change of activity: “It’s time for coloring!” or “It’s time to go outdoors!” or whatever you’re ready for them to do. Tell them they can only do this until the timer goes off, and set the timer for however long you think they can engage in the activity before it devolves into conflict. This is more manageable and less stressful than saying, “You have to play outside until I say you can come in” and then having to rush out when you hear screaming.
You can insert times when they have to play alone, thirty-minute TV breaks, hand washing breaks, “listening to music” breaks–however you want the day to go. Use the timer in this way throughout the day. Try not to just park them in front of the TV or Ipad indefinitely.
Remember: You do not have to entertain them. In fact, they’ll be far happier if you don’t get involved in what they’re doing, but they will do much better with you leading them through the day in this way than if you ask them “Well guys, what do you want to do?” You will have time to do some things you need or want to do, and you will have less whining and bickering to deal with. Notice I said “less”. You’ll still have to deal with complaining, whining, and bickering from time to time, which is why . . .Tomorrow, I’ll explain how to deal with complaining, whining, and bickering!