WHEN THE KIDS ARE HOME, Part 1
You know about summer vacation fatigue (call it SVF). Symptoms: irritability, boredom, whining, thoughts of disowning your whole household for being constantly in your way. If that also sounds like your family during the early COVID-19 shutdowns or even now, you’ve met SVF’s cousin, COVID claustrophobia.
Whatever the season or cause for expanded home time, stumbling over your children at every corner takes a toll on the nerves. They probably feel the same way about you. Here are some life hacks for when your family starts feeling “stuck with” each other.
When There’s “Nothing to Do”
Before you dismiss requests for parent-child time (“I’m busy, why don’t you play out back?”), consider whether you’re actually performing an essential task, or just sweeping the floor again because you’re spending too much time noticing specks of dust. If the latter, you have that “nothing to do” feeling yourself, and naturally you feel irritable.
There are things beyond the routine you can do with your kids. Try some of the following.
- Plant an indoor herb garden, declutter the closets, or paint the spare room.
- Bring out long-neglected board games and puzzles.
- Become tourists in your own neighborhood. Take a long walk and tally “scavenger hunt” points for spotting a cardinal, a hollow tree, a local monument, a dog walker with multiple dogs.
- Become tourists in your own home! Do a walk-through and list twenty interesting things you’d never noticed or hadn’t thought about in ages. And don’t forget the view from your windows!
When You’re Busy and Someone’s “In Your Way”
Of course, you can’t skip a virtual business meeting because your child is restless. And it’s (mutually) infuriating when you’re fixing a leaky faucet and your preschooler is stretched out trying to create a Very Important Picture—in the path between you and your tools. Try these ideas for avoiding human traffic jams.
- Make this a household rule: When starting a project, put everything in easy reach to begin with. It’ll not only minimize unwanted crossing of paths, it’ll reduce “forgot something else” frustrations and the accompanying touchiness.
- Divide household chores so no one has too much busy time or too much nothing-to-do time.
- Understand that children’s “play” projects require as much attention as homework or your Don’t scold them for “idleness” just because they aren’t following some adult-biased description of “productive.”
- Stock your home with art supplies and other individual activities—then make out a master list together, and post it for easy access when someone’s trying to think of something to do. (Also, make a rule that anyone who tells a parent “There’s nothing to do” is required to follow the first suggestion!)
- Schedule daily time for playing with your kids. It cuts down on whining for attention and on the tendency to let busywork fill up your own schedule—and mindless screen time theirs.
- S. Keep in touch with loved ones outside, too. Hold virtual conversations individually and as a household. And even in an age of high-tech communications, don’t forget the good old handwritten letter, which can be especially meaningful for its save-and-reread value!
Tips for tougher at-home situations are in “When the Kids Are Home,” Part 2.