Ask Alisha - Juggling Kids at Home

Since Covid-19 became part of our (almost) daily conversations, I think most of us have come to hate the word 'lockdown' (especially Victorians here in Australia)

It seems every outbreak we have results in a city or state (or whole country!) going into a lockdown. And each time it happens, we are thrown into a bit of a spin initially and then begrudgingly get used to it until we are free again. I won't get into the heartbreak I feel for the hospitality/travel/entertainment industry....or how bad some domestic violence situations can get or even the increase of anxiety and depression in people....because I'm keeping this blog just as a reference for parents suddenly juggling more from home. As a parent, I know the overwhelm involved when trying to manage the household, working from home and parenting all day without the usual visits to schools, parks or friends houses etc.

None of us are supermen and superwomen (we like to think we are, but we are not!) and we need to relax a bit when it comes to what we think we need to take on right now. If you are still earning a living from home, you need to be able to do your work!

No one expects you to become an amazing teacher at the same time as that. If you are juggling little ones as well as school aged kids, no one expects you to multitask your care and be an amazing teacher. If you are struggling emotionally and mentally, no one expects you to ignore yourself and your capabilities right now and be an amazing teacher.

Your kids will learn other things right now while at home. How to help more around the house. How to care for each other and how to talk to each other when we are struggling. How to water the garden and how to help cook dinner.

And these are different times for us so we need to be able to parent differently. Your kids might be getting more screen time than usual. That's ok. Your kids might be in pj's all day. That's ok. Your kids might be up and down with their moods just like you are right now. That is more than ok and needs to be expected.

my kids doing some journaling at the kitchen bench

What I Did in Lockdown

For my family, I wanted to keep things pretty loose and relaxed. I did have the luxury of my two still in primary school so I knew any extra time off wouldn't mean that they couldn't do their chosen career in 10-15 years time! But I know that some of you have seniors in their last year of highschool and you would just hope that they are feeling supported from home with their studies.

Some days, you might be there to supervise some learning and some days, you might have to just keep playing, creating and fitting around all the curve balls you are being thrown while fitting in your own work.

When we were in lockdown, I wanted to embrace the break for my kids as I thought it might be nice to take the pressure off all of us and maybe, just maybe, we would actually enjoy some of it?. And what I can tell you about me embracing and taking any extra pressure off myself and my kids was quite a nice break from our usual fast paced and almost hectic lives and schedules.

So making things more fun and more relaxed just because of an ATTITUDE and PERSPECTIVE that I consciously created was my biggest take away of that time and that's in everyone's power.

Again, I know this is a completely personal choice and one I was able to easily make. It will not be the same in every household as there are so many variables at play but what I am asking you to do is to make sure you are choosing wisely for what is going on for you right now. And always be looking at the bigger picture.

This time will not last forever.

And I also thought I'd share the non-negotiables in our house for the days when we were in lockdown and they were all rewarded with screen time! Here are our rules in case you want to borrow any.

Non Negotiables (well actually, there is always negotiating going on...lol!)

Every day, these things have to happen:

1. At least an hour of physical activity a day (could be following a class online, a walk with the dog, riding bikes, playing handball in our carport or a combo of all!)

2. At least an hour of reading for fun each day (their choice of book).

3. At least an hour of creating or imaginative play which includes everything from writing in their journal, colouring in, painting, sketching, lego construction, working with clay or playdough, gem design, craft of any sort to playing dress ups and performing in their own plays (or any imaginative play - letting them get bored helps with this immensely!) I find that these activities go for more than an hour each day which is great...as long as it's for at LEAST an hour, I'm happy.

4. At least three tasks that help the household. This could be emptying the dishwasher, putting away their clean clothes, tidying their room, tidying another room in the house, emptying the rubbish, doing a kindness for someone in the house (whether that be mum, dad or sibling).

kids reading in their pillow/couch fort

If these non-negotiables are all done, then they were allowed 1 hour of Minecraft on the ipad plus 1 hour of Nintendo plus 1 hour of fun learning on the ipad (Prodigy, Mathletics, Wushka, Arthub etc). But the catch is that if the other stuff isn't done, then they lose time off these screen activities which are always allowed later in the afternoon depending how their day has gone and what they have accomplished.

We also take time off screen activities for bad behaviour and add minutes on to reward them. I make no apologies for this as it's really helping our house run as smoothly as it possibly can while in such different times. Basically it's all about pinpointing what your kids want most and using this as your dangling carrot! ;) For older kids it might be facetiming or online gaming with their friends etc. 

So how I set this up - I bought a whiteboard online from Officeworks and put it up on the wall of our main living area (right near the kitchen island bench of course!) and I had the rules listed as well as columns for each child's time allotment on the 'holy screen time' activities.

I take 5 minutes off each time a rule is broken and I add 5 mins on every time they do the right thing or respond to a question or instruction positively. They also get bonus points if a task is done without me asking or a kindness is shown to each other (sometimes they give each other their minutes so they get equal time on Nintendo to play against one another for their full allotted time that day! I count this as a kindness too and often give them extra time for this).

Because they were also old enough to mark their own time, they were also responsible for timing themselves during screen time so they had to either set an alarm on the ipad they were using or use their watch alarms to go off when nintendo time is up. Minutes are taken off the following days screen time if they go over the time frame they were supposed to have and this is teaching them responsibility and accountability quite quickly I must say! If your kids are younger, you might have to police these time frames for them a bit more closely.

I also found that I didn't raise my voice as much because when they did something wrong, all I did was walk over to the whiteboard and deduct 5 minutes from their column. It's a very effective way of controlling the situation without yelling. If they needed explanation of why time has come off, we talked through it....but mostly they knew straight away why it was coming off. Similarly when I was really happy with them and wanted to reward with extra time, I praised them and walked up to the board and added to their time and they looked sooo happy with themselves! 

Our new whiteboard which is actually a pinkboard! 

Television

I also allowed set times for TV, which I relaxed more on weekends! So during the week, my kids were allowed to have the tv on between 6.30 - 8am and between 5.30 and 7pm. Obviously this will be different for every household but just sharing what we did!

I found that tv was on for about an hour each morning and each night but it's only allowed on in these time frames unless we use the tv for a learning activity or exercise class etc.

Other tips for days at home while working or managing the household and supervising kids are:

  • Making lunchboxes of a morning so you don't have to keep getting them snacks when you hear the inevitable 'I'm hungry mum!' We don't actually do this as I haven't seen the need (yet!) but I think it's a great idea especially if you have zoom calls or teleconferences during snack attack or meal times. 
  • I have also written a blog with lots of things to support you at home with the kids at the moment. There are links galore for activities, exercises and even working from home tips resources and you can read that HERE.

Emotional Support

We always need emotional support but it is especially needed during lockdown. There are lots of numbers to call to ask for help and some of these are listed in the blog link above. I'm fortunate enough to have had fortnightly psych appointments for a few years now and these continue via phone consult for me since Covid began. It's worth looking into with your GP if you think a professional chat is needed as a lot more can be accommodated over the phone these days!

Emotional support can also come from our family, friends, school mum friends and our co-workers. These are new and unprecedented times so we NEED to be reaching out asking for help and just bumping ideas off each other. It all helps.

The flower essence packs to have on hand for parents are Essential Mum Pack, Calm Kids Pack, Teenager Pack, School Pack, Chillax Pack, Protect Pack and Like A Boss Pack.  So do check these out HERE as they are so wonderful to help us and our kids right now manage and support our emotional health. 

You can change the feel of your spaces right now with our Flower Essence Mists. We use lots of Help, Slow Down, Focus and Cleanse Mist right and again, I feel so much more supported in my home with these beautiful mists.

And don't forget to remind yourself to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF at the moment especially if you are captain of your ship. You are carrying and steering so much. A lovely way to do this is with my Note To Self Affirmation cards. The kids and I all have a pack and pull ourselves a new message/affirmation each day and they just serve as a quick reminder to do something nice for ourselves or go a bit easier on ourselves which is only a good thing IMO!

So I hope you got something out of this blog that can be adapted to you and your household. As different as all our circumstances are, we are all in this same situation together so we have to look out for one another and keep asking for help and support when we need it.

And remember no one has asked you to be superman or superwoman right now so if you have asked yourself to be. Please think about standing yourself down from that incredibly high pressure position.

You are enough just as you are.

Yours in Health,

Alisha x

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