Parents all across town are nervous. Fair enough. We haven’t done an Easter break like this before but we have relationship with our family we can draw on and I’m sitting these five tips here for you to consider as you think through how you are going to best navigate this.
1) THIS IS BIG (heck – you know it is ‘all on’ if they have delayed the release of the next Bond movie!) – so let’s gather together and acknowledge it as a family and maybe even ask them what around them has changed that means to them that this is big. We want everyone in the family to feel acknowledged that staying home hasn’t been easy, but that we are clear on our mission of staying connected and well while playing our part to lower COVID-19 transmissions and keep our community, healthcare system and economy as protected as we can. If we approach the current uncertainties with curiosity and the attitude that we only need to bite off bite-sized chunks then we actually have been presented with quite the opportunity to take what we are all feeling and needing and map through this Easter School Holiday period on more united way that we perhaps have mapped through any school holiday period ever!
2) HOW ARE WE? Taking some time to gather together and map out a school holiday plan is crucial. People who feel heard get more invested so dust off any community consultation skills you have and use them. Invest time into hearing from each family member about how they are feeling, what’s been hard, and what silver linings they have noticed. Listen….listen ….listen. Resist the urge to justify or correct or rescue them from their feelings. www.innovativeresources.org are an Australian company that make fabulous picture cards that you can lay out and invite family members to choose one or two that they relate to. Using something external like that is gold for moving everyone into the reflective headspace that you are going to reap from as you move into actively problem-solving together. Watch the Love Parenting social media pages and I will put up a video. You will be able to get each person to screenshot which card they relate to and then they can use it to tell the others in the household how it has been to be them. Having a pack of these cards in-house will be useful forever more. I highly recommend having a look at Innovative Resources options and getting a packet that you like the look of sent out to you and I can help you with creative ways to use them through all sorts of communication opportunities with your family across the years ahead.
3)WHAT DO WE NEED? Individually and as a family, which of your needs are crying out to be met at the moment? Our biggest bang for buck is going to come from taking our energy out of places that are zapping us and providing low bang-for-buck escapism (overconsuming news, scrolling social media, shopping online for stuff we really don’t need) and channeling our finite selves into wherever the needs are sitting. And that’s why starting out with ‘how are we?’ is so crucial. If we really notice how we are we will be able to tap into what we need. This is a good opportunity to recap for everyone what the key human needs are. Maybe you will talk about yours being something like: feeling safe, social connection, movement, good fuel, good hydration, good sleep, Vitamin D. Sure the kids might say they ‘need’ stuff….but in my experience they actually if curiously asked in a tuned-in way surprise us with how tuned in to themselves they are. If you have the need to still work through the holidays then put that out as something that the family can factor in, if a child is missing friends then they need to clock that, if you know that you have a child in the ranks that is a real mover then getting them some physically exertion needs to be prioritised or the flow on effect will be big. This step is to just take everyone’s expression of their need seriously.
4)WHAT HAVE WE GOT TO WORK WITH? Each family will be resourced really differently, some will have money to throw at ideas that come up (eg buying new tech or subscribing online to activity courses etc) , some will have more time than others to get a nice go-slow on, there are always specific skillsets within families and an example might be that a child that loves to bake can have us notice that and wonder if they would be up for going a bit more ‘savoury’ than usual so the baking can count as lunch or dinner. Asking everyone to focus on what IS still available to the family and brainstorming how those things can be married together to meet the already expressed needs is where this all comes together.
5)WHAT MIGHT WE REMEMBER THESE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS AS? It often helps when solving something together if we work backwards. You might even open your family discussion with “what might we remember these school holidays as?” and invite them to think about all that IS still possible to do and what they really hope you would say yes to. Perhaps you have a particular school holiday growing up where you remember spending day after day losing yourself in an activity that you were so into. What might your kids come up with these holidays that they can see they would probably look fondly back on? And maybe it would involve you relaxing one of your usual family rules…. or spending some money…..or getting involved with them…. in order for that to be able to happen. They are all considerations and up to you to do what you can do with what you have in a tone that keeps everyone engaged and feeling part of the problem-solving so that what is set up can be sustained.
An case-study example of this all coming together:
A parent I crossed over with this week needs to get 5 solid hours a day of work done from home across these school holiday workdays. She has a teen dearly missing her friends, a pre-teen that expresses feeling bored often who has the last few weeks kept gravitating to the kitchen in a cyclone of cupcake-baking, and a husband who is still going to his office in town to work but after work is all about going out-out-out (and frustratingly-to-her more willing to break social distancing rules than she is)
So… what they came up with when they met as a family was:
On weekdays when hubby leaves for work at 8am the pre-teen and the teen will head out to walk the dog together and then spend half an hour each doing something around the household beyond their usual jobs that they send her a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture of (weeding/cleaning out and restacking a kitchen cupboard/ wiping out the fridge/washing an exterior house wall etc- anything that makes the house run better or feel nicer but that the fairies just don’t magically show up and do).
If those pics reach her by 9.30am then their deal is that the girls can make morning tea of popcorn and something from the ‘movie food’ shelf and settle in to watch a different Marvel movie each day while she knuckles in and works towards her work deadlines through until 1pm.
From there the mum will come out and make something for her and her girls to sit down to and eat together in the sun on the back steps.
The early afternoon time and weekends are going to get made up as they go (hopefully with the pre-teen using those baking skills towards more savoury things that can count as dinner).
They have set 4pm each day when hubby comes back as bikeride time for whoever wants to go for an adventure-through-the-neighbouring-suburbs ride with him. Which cleverly serves as a built-in social distancing measure because that has been when he has until now been getting anxious and making lots of mad-dashes to Bunnings for doomsday-prepper things he doesn’t even really need.
The 14 year old who is dearly missing her people and who currently only has Instagram, has been invited to choose a second social media platform that she thinks would be a useful choice towards connecting more socially online with the people she misses and to research and pitch to the parents about which settings she could activate and how she could use that platform (probably Snapchat) to have it be a ‘plus’ rather than a ‘minus’ new intro to her life.
Anyway – hold off on the comparisons. Comparison is the thief of joy. Your family is unique and every family will draw on what they have as their own strengths and resources through this.
Be sure to get in touch if you would like a hand to organise your thoughts around what your family’s needs are, what you DO still have available to you to work with, and how you might creatively marry those up to thrive through this next bit.
You can reach me via www.loveparenting.com.au/enquire