PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown. Hi, Anna.
PAM: So, it is really an unprecedented time right now around the world with countries responding to the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 and more and more countries have closed schools, public spaces, rec programs, and have asked people to stay at home, only leaving the house when necessary. This means that homeschooling and unschooling families are no longer able to go to their usual places and programs and that many families whose children are usually in school have unexpectedly found themselves spending their days at home with their kids.
Now I know on this podcast, we specifically talk about the unschooling lifestyle, but this week, Anna and I wanted to open things up and talk more generally about the possibilities for any parents who find themselves at home with their kids for the next while. And remember, it’s as a safety measure to minimize the spread of the virus.
So, to get us started, let’s acknowledge the challenge and the stress of the situation. I mean, that’s a big thing to be able to do upfront is to really understand for ourselves that it is a stressful time for everyone involved. Isn’t it?
ANNA: Right. And I think sometimes for kids, especially depending on their age, but really all ages even up to our grown children, it’s going to express in some different ways. So, it may not seem that they’re outwardly stressed. And so, it may be that they want to be closer or they want to be side-by-side and then things will bubble up in conversations. And so, leaving space for that, I think, is really important, just those side-by-side conversations where even if you’re just hanging out, one’s reading the paper, one’s playing a game, whatever, but to be there so that those conversation points can bubble up. And if announcements come across, to be there and things like that.
And then, some of you may have children who are feeling and expressing a lot of anxiety about it. And so, I think that’s just that time to validate and to breathe and to maybe give some tools of breathing and meditating and just connecting and bringing everybody back to the moment. I think that can really help. And just to be aware that even though we may not realize, it is stressful for them, this piece of worry about the unknown, but also the change of the routine can be difficult for children.
PAM: I wanted to pop in and acknowledge, too, that it’s the same for us, right? We are feeling stressed. The uncertainty is palpable in this situation. So, to be able to not only give our kids that space and that acknowledgement, that validation, that, yes, this is hard. Our schedules are changing up. So much uncertainty and change and just all that stress, to give ourselves that moment to be able to work through that, too. Because our kids can pick that up in us and that can add to the weight that they’re feeling about the situation, as well.
So, it is really important to take that moment to figure out ways that we can move through it, or else, we’re just gonna be stressing each other out with each interaction. We’re going to be coming up against each other, because they’re going to be feeling our stress. So, they’re going to be acting more stressed and then we’re going to react to that. And it’s just going to snowball into more and more difficult situations.
So, I think taking that time now, whether it’s breathing for us, whether it’s thinking through things and realizing, for many of us, it’s not personal welfare so much as it is something that we’re doing for our society, for our neighborhood, for the people in our lives right now, to try and slow down the spread. So, to remember that these are good and helpful things that we’re doing, remembering that we’re making really great choices by doing this and by participating in this self-isolation, that can really help to just shift our outlook a little bit. So, we can become more open, really. Instead of being closed off with everything running through our heads, we can come more open into each moment that we’re having with our kids.
ANNA: Right. And we talk about this in a lot of different pieces of the podcast and different things, but we really do set the tone. So, it helps for us to get our self straight. And so, that may mean going to friends or spouses to work through our anxiety or pieces about it if we’re having that and then to really be able to find that joy in the present moment and making some memories and things that we’ll talk about a little bit further. But I think we did just really want to say, let’s acknowledge this piece first. I think that’s the first step is acknowledging that there’s some uncertainty, that there’s some changes.
We have moved my mom out with us. She lives in town and we’re out in the country. So, we’ve moved her in with us. I wanted her closer and to know. She’s 86 and in the vulnerable population, and so, that felt better to us. But that’s a change for us to have her in the house, so just acknowledging that there’s some new things going on and that sometimes that can be upsetting to people or just that validation and acknowledgement is so important and to not brush over those pieces. Because that’s that first step of connection is being heard and seen. And so, that’s why we wanted to start with that piece.
PAM: Yeah. And not only all the uncertainty around that, just the literal disruption of our schedules. Our days are looking completely different all of a sudden. So, that’s gonna throw things off for everybody as well.
ANNA: For the people in school, just quickly along those same lines, because I think sometimes there’s this piece of, oh, they’re out of school and there’s lots of fun things to do. And there are, but I know from some of the friends that we have that are in school, this was also the start of spring sports. So, they were really excited about their spring sports and that’s now been canceled and postponed. And some that were seniors that their graduation is coming up and what is that going to look like? And this was their last couple months.
And so, there’s just a lot of, again, loss and uncertainty and those things might seem like little things in the face of a pandemic, but they’re not. They’re really big. And so, we just need to acknowledge wherever somebody is that, yeah, that’s a loss. “You wanted that lacrosse game to be this weekend and it’s not. And I know that that sucks.” And so, it’s just being able to acknowledge everybody where they are and not rank those, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
PAM: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Because it is important for our kids to feel heard when they’re disappointed about those things, because that is their life. That’s what they’re living. That’s their experiences. That’s what they’re looking forward to. So, not trying to minimize that on them, but to talk through it with them, just so they know that you care and that you’ve heard what they’re upset about or frustrated about or whatever it is. That’s a great place to start with your relationship.
That leads us nicely into the next thing we wanted to talk about, which is to take this time to embrace relationships over the idea of productivity.
I think that was the word that came to mind when I was thinking about it, because this is a disruptive time, a very disruptive time. It’s not business as usual. So, to try and stay on that same tack, that productivity tack, “We’re going to get our work done.” If they were in school, “We’re going to get that schoolwork or homework or whatever, if there’s anything that was sent home from the schools, to try and focus on that,” but understand that we’re all feeling so discombobulated. To try and stick to that more normal schedule can be super hard and will make things even more stressful, I think. So, in taking this time to embrace relationships instead, I think will go so much further to the peace in your home over that time.
ANNA: Absolutely. And I think you’ll find, as parents, that that’s going to feel better to you, too, because I think if we stay in that amped up, “We’ve got to get things done. Now, what are we going to do and how are we going to do this?” It just layers this whole different stress over it. And I think when you focus on, “We’re going to stay connected. We’re in this together,” prioritizing that relationship, those other pieces will fall into place.
And one of the things we just wanted to talk about is, there is some time here. Everything doesn’t have to be done in one second. It doesn’t have to be done in this specific routine every single day. Work together to find out, how does this feel? And how can we do these things? Because I know that some of these kids coming home do have assignments from school, some online stuff, some things that were sent back, but I don’t feel like there’s only one way to get that done. So, work together to figure out how that feels good.
And I think as you stay connected with that relationship, it’ll make the days easier, because we’re hearing some feedback of, “This is stressful and there’s conflict and there’s some things going on,” but when you focus in on that relationship first and those connections, all those other pieces will work out. You’ll solve those together and I think that’s really important.
PAM: Yeah. I think that’s something in our experience that has worked out really well. You will see when you start focusing on that relationship and that connection and being together more in the moment of what’s going on versus trying to control where the moments go, you will start to see how much your kids learn in those moments, alongside anything else that you feel you have to do. And I mean, that again is a question, whether or not it’s a have-to or suggested.
But another piece that can be so valuable about this time is you’re going to see your kids learn so much about day-to-day life that’s really valuable too. They’re going to be learning so much about themselves in this time, because now, all of a sudden, they have time to have conversations. They have time to choose to do the things that they enjoy and dive into them a little bit more than they would typically have the opportunity to do. And when you realize that we have this time at our disposal and instead of trying to control it, see where it flows, we’ve seen time and time again just the fun and magical places that it goes when you leave that space open.
ANNA: Every time. I feel like every time. And it goes in places that you don’t suspect. I think that first piece is just setting aside expectation, because, again, everybody’s going to deal with this situation differently and you may have someone that wants to just be outside if you live in a space where that’s possible and wants to read a book or play a game. I was just telling Pam, we’re super excited about Animal Crossing coming out in a few days. My kids are older now, but we played that when they were young. And so, Raelin was telling me, “Oh, we’re going to each be able to have our own character on the island,” and so, super excited.
So, it could look a whole bunch of different ways. And that may seem like, “Oh, well, you’re playing a game,” and whatever, but what you’ll find with any of those activities is all these webs that come out, all these different paths that open up conversations and just thoughts and who they are and how they’re processing things. And that time is so valuable. And so, just giving a little bit of space there and letting that unfold, I think you’ll see it takes you in some cool directions.
And I think one of the things that we can get caught up in is that need to control or guide or make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing or this and that. But what we’ve found over and over again is, when you do step back and let that unfold and work together in this different way, they’ll lead you to places that you didn’t even know existed, amazing discoveries and insights and things where you’ll be scratching your head going, “Where did that come from?”
But we have to give space for that. We have to step back sometimes for that to be able to come forward and set aside some of our needs to control and guide. And, in fairness, I get it. Especially when we’re in a stressful situation, it can feel like we want to take over control. Like, I want to control everything I can, because I feel like a lot of these other things are out of control.
But this is an opportunity where, as a family and as sibling relationships, we can take that extra second that, just that little bit of pause to say, “Hmm, am I trying to control this situation here with my family?” because of this other stuff being out of control. And so, again, I think you’ll just see things unfold in a really fun way and new conversations that you may not normally have time for, because it’s go, go, go, go, busy, busy, busy.
So, that is a gift of this global slowdown that I’m going to focus on, because there’s a lot of stressful pieces about it, but I feel like the slow down and coming into the present moment and being with the people in front of you, I mean, that can be a beautiful gift.
PAM: Yeah. Oh, I love that. And I wanted to emphasize again, you mentioned without expectations, right? I think that’s such a cool piece, an important piece. And what you’ll notice, when we’re talking about it as our kids lead us through the things that they enjoy doing, something I think you’ll find that’s really cool is if you’re actually paying attention, which is the part of doing the processing so you’re not really spending the whole time ruminating and just paying lip service to the relationship. I’ve been there. I know that happens.
That’s why I say, it’s worth taking that moment to get out of that headspace for a bit and really connect. But I think what you’ll find, too, is when you see your kids doing the things they love to do, you’re going to see them applying so many of the skills that they’ve learned to real life things and strengthening them that way.
If they’re playing video games and stuff, you’ll see them using numbers as they’re figuring things out. You’ll see them reading the game stuff. You’ll see them reading conversations if they’re playing online games. All these skills that we, with school, we worry about the skill itself, but this is an opportunity to just put those skills that they have into action and strengthen them through doing the things that they enjoy. So, I think that’s a really fun observation for me. And I think that’s something that people are going to see.
And this opportunity to just embrace relationships, to be patient with each other, to have conversations with each other, to strengthen our connections by being on the same level with them. I picture getting down on my knees. I remember when my kids were younger, face to face, eye-level conversations that really just show our unconditional love and our care for them and our respect for them as a human being. I think that goes such a long way.
ANNA: I think something I would love to see come out of this is, because I told my daughter who’s 20, I said, “This is something you’re going to remember. When you’re 50, you’re going to say there was this crazy time,” and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but no matter what, already what’s happened to date is going to be this memory.
But what I would love to see, especially for younger kids is this memory they take is this memory of this cool time they had with their family, that we had this weird thing happening and we had fun and played games and laughed and just enjoyed each other. And wouldn’t it be cool if all these kids came forward with that memory instead of stress and trauma, which is certainly an option as well.
PAM: No, exactly.
And then that leads so nicely to that next point that we want to talk about, which is letting kids be themselves.
So, this is a time when we can appreciate them, when they can feel like they were cared for, that they had fun, that they’re making great memories, because we’re not trying to control them. We’re not trying to bend them to our expectations. We’re letting them be themselves.
And we can, as parents, be really curious to learn more about our kids. This is also an opportunity for us to learn more, to learn more about their likes, their dislikes, their personalities, just all those little pieces of them so that we can understand them more deeply. And we can have conversations with them, too. So, they also come to understand us a little bit better when we’re being open and sharing those pieces, instead of trying to direct them, sharing them and seeing where they flow.
ANNA: I think something that’s really interesting about this particular situation is that you might think, oh, it’s kind of like a summer break mentality. The kids are doing whatever. But it’s really not, because what’s very different about this is actually, the parents are needing to slow down, too. So, many parents aren’t going to work. They’re not going to other activities. They’re not doing whatever. So, that is very different.
And I think it lends to what you just said. This is a time where we can be really just being together and having fun and creating relationships, creating memories, all of these pieces, because it is such an unusual thing that may or may never happen again, where we’re all really needing to stay put and to not be going out to different things and all of that. So, it is such a unique opportunity.
And I think for me, personally, I just want to make sure that I’m mindful of that and making and creating it to be as joyful as I can in the moment, because that’s really all we can do is tend to our own personal moment of it. And, like you said, we’re making these choices to isolate because of the vulnerable populations and because of our larger community. And so, I just think that can be a really beautiful thing for us to do, even though we don’t know how that’s going to turn out. But we know that that can help right now.
PAM: Yeah. And I find, like you, my kids are all in their twenties now, but it’s a time where we’re all seeking more connection, because of the uncertainties out there. I have a daughter living in New York City. Just making that time and space for those conversations to happen for them, to flow where they go, instead of trying to maybe cut them short or take them in any particular direction I want to. It’s all about supporting each other.
And they’re listening to me, too, and hearing my thoughts and what I’m feeling, and I’m learning so much from them. They’re really great conversations.
So, I wanted to talk a little bit about how maybe people aren’t so comfortable or used to spending so much time together, so I thought we could mention a couple of ideas.
For me, one of the big things is, like I was talking about before, just getting on the same level with your child and just engaging, actually engaging with them. Let them direct the play. What would they like to do? And actually exploring their interests with them. Just be there with them. If they’re watching YouTube videos, “What do you like about that?” Laugh along with them. Find out what it is about the video that they’re enjoying.
Even if they’re not into conversations like that, you can see their reactions. You can see when they smile. You can see when they laugh. You can bring more of those kinds of things that you’re now learning they enjoy into their life. You can try and play some video games with them. You can read books. We’re going to brainstorm some ideas later, but the point is to take some time to actually engage and do things with them.
It’s not the parents do the parent thing and the kids do the kid thing. But try to join them and have those moments together. That’s where you’re going to start to build more connection, stronger relationships. And the important time now, especially during stressful time is that becomes an open communication line, where they have the opportunity to talk to you as well.
ANNA: And again, I think it’s just the gift of time that we maybe don’t have in our everyday lives, when we’re going, going, going, where we can learn about the new video game that they’re playing or hear about it. And they can be processing things that have happened at school or things that are coming up in their lives or things that, again, we may just be rushing through. This gives us a time to slow down and have those conversations and learn a little bit more about each other and them about you as well. And that’s definitely the gift of it.
PAM: Yeah. I thought this might be a good time to mention, too, some parents who are home are also working from home as well. So, if you find yourself in that situation, giving your kids a space to engage in the things that they really enjoy. That’s actually often going to make it easier for you to be able to work, as well, because you’re getting the work done that you need. They’re having fun, doing the stuff that they need to do. They’re not gonna feel the need as much to come and interrupt or need you for this, that, and the other thing. If you set them up with the stuff that they enjoy, then you have more space to do your work as well.
And when you’re done, you can go join them and engage together. Come back together. It’s really great. So, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that, as well, and to realize it is great and good, solid, to have fun as your goal right now.
ANNA: Yeah. Fun is the goal. I love that. And I think, again, if you’re working from home, depending on the age of your kids, I think it could be helpful to realize that periodic check-ins are helpful, because if you haven’t had this experience before where you have these long stretches with kids at different ages.
What we found is just that periodic check-in, we may be both doing separate things, which happens all the time in unschooling families and homeschooling families as well. But it’s that periodic check-in to say, “Hey, this is what I’ve been doing. I had some crazy calls and some stuff I’ve had to do. And what have you been doing?” And that can just take a few minutes and then everybody can go back. But I think, especially with kind of the uncertainty for everyone, the little love, touch base is nice. I think it can make that smoother.
PAM: And that goes back to learning more about your child. Often it can be partially an age thing, too, but some kids just like more connection, need more frequent connection. So, it’s great to get a real feel for your child, not the expectations of any typical thing that you’ve heard, but know your child, what it is that they need, what it is that helps them move through the day. So, I think that’s a really great point.
ANNA: And that there’s no right or wrong with that. Some of us just need different things to feel comfortable and that’s just about learning each other as individuals. And you can think of it, as adults we learn that about each other, what we need and what we don’t. And so, it’s the same principle. We’re all gonna have different needs and levels of connection and touching and play and all of those different things. And so, this is a really great time to learn that about each other and put that into practice, which will make those days much smoother.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah.
Now might be a good time to just talk a little bit about sibling conflicts.
ANNA: Well, right. So, I’ve just seen a couple of things come across of, “They’ve been bickering since they woke up!” And I guess normally, they’re off to their separate classes or schools or whatever. So, I just thought we’d touch on just a couple tools that we used over the years. It kind of ties into what we just said with no expectations. So, basically, if you come into a situation where you have bickering children, first of all, I check my energy. Bring my energy down, because sometimes that can get me in a place where I’m stressed out.
So, I don’t want to enter that situation like that. I want to center and calm my energy. And I come in with no expectations, no judgment, which can be hard and is sometimes new for people to think about. So, I don’t come in and say, “You need to do this. You need to do that.” I basically just ask. “Wow. I can hear you guys are super upset. What’s going on? Can you tell me what’s happened?” Basically, my role is facilitating the conversation.
So, sometimes when you have two kids and they’re not hearing each other and they’re both very angry, if we can calm that down and just hear, “Okay, tell me what’s going on. Okay. It sounds like this is what he’s saying. You’re saying this,” no judgment, no taking sides, just helping them figure it out. Sometimes it also means separating and then validating individually. Sometimes that works better to have them in separate rooms and validate individually. “You are so irritated at having to be home with your sister.” “You’re really mad that he knocked your Legos down,” whatever it is. Validating those individually.
And what we found is when you can validate that behavior and that sentiment, even if it seems like a, “I hate my sister,” sentiment, they usually can just move right through it, because we just all want to be heard and validated. It’s honestly a magic tool when it comes to siblings is just hearing and validating, no judgment. They’ll get used to that tool and that process. I’ve got a couple of other things, but you go. What are you thinking about siblings?
PAM: Well, that was a big thing for me too. I think that the no expectations, the no judgment is so useful, because that gets you to that space where you can hear them. You don’t want to be three people, two siblings and a parent, where nobody’s listening to each other, because they’re all just trying to get their point across. You want to get to that space where you can actually hear each other.
And, for us, for a number of years, it was much more useful individually. It wasn’t something that we did all together as a group, because they can hear some validation or understanding of the other perspective. There isn’t right and wrong and assigning blame, because everybody feels that their perspective is right. And it is, because it’s their perspective. It’s true.
And once that’s acknowledged, they can start to understand the other perspective. They can start to hear. Like you said, it’s like magic in that these are stressful moments. We don’t want to leave the impression that it’s easy, but it is so important for people to feel heard.
Just think of yourself for a moment. When you’re upset about something, for your spouse, your partner, your friend, for somebody to acknowledge that, “I see you’re really stressed about that. I understand why you’re upset about that.” Oh, just imagine the weight that drops off, that you can literally feel dropping off, that somebody has heard you and seen you in that moment. So, you can give that to your kids.
And the wonderful thing now is you have this gift of time to be able to do that. When you’re trying to push through schedules and you’ve got to get here and you’ve got to do this and that, it’s hard to be able to take that time to really hear each child and help them understand the situation in the bigger picture when they’re ready for that. And brainstorming with them ways to move through it the next time something similar happens, giving them other tools or other possibilities to try and think about. You have this time now.
So, what a gift to be able to use some of that time to help with those interpersonal skills that are going to be valuable for you and your kids for their whole lifetime. They’re going to be engaging with other people throughout their lifetime. And there’s going to be times when people see things differently. So, to take this time to move through those with useful tools is such a gift.
ANNA: And just another quick, practical thing is HALT, which means hungry, angry, lonely, tired. A lot of times when you have something with siblings going on, especially with younger kids, it’s one of those things. And so, hungry is one of those things. We went instantly to the snack when things would start to get crazy. I’m like, “Let’s have a snack.” And sometimes just that would shift the energy enough and make sure people are eating.
And again, you have people that have different routines that are coming home to new routines. And so, just making sure they’re eating and hydrating and stuff is helpful. And angry is about what we talked about, not being heard and needing to kind of validate and get those feelings out. And lonely, this is an issue, because especially if you have kids that have come home from school, their friend sets are really different. They may not be used to being with their sibling all the time during the day.
And so, it’s understanding that it’s lonely when you don’t have your friends or maybe your sibling doesn’t want to play. And so, it may just be that they’re needing that engagement from you as a parent, because that sibling is needing a break from little sibling or whatever the case might be. And then tired, when any of us are tired. And if you combine all those things together, hungry and tired, not a good combination. So, sometimes really just looking at those physical, physiological pieces can help you get a handle of the situation. And then these tools that we’re talking about of validating and hearing each other and being able to express your needs are so important.
And I won’t get too far in the weeds with this, but just looking at the needs versus the behaviors. We talk a lot about that. The behavior you see up here is really just stemming from a need. So, when you can get to that need, then that behavior falls away. So, you don’t have to punish or go after the behavior. You can really just say, what’s happening here? And sometimes that need is hunger or needing a break. And sometimes that need is being heard. And sometimes that need is very physical. “I want to play with this toy right now and I’m needing this space to myself.” And so, peeling back those layers, I think, is just super helpful. And we have some other podcasts about that, more in depth, but just to put that out there.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, well, we’ll put a link to a couple of those in the show notes, too, where we’ve talked more about parenting tools. That’s great.
And yeah, I love that. That reminded me that when my kids first came home from school, there was that period of time, exactly, where there were more conflicts. And something that was really helpful for me was just having in my metaphorical back pocket some of my kids’ favorite activities to do with me.
So, when they couldn’t find a way through in the moment, I could offer up an activity to one of them that I know typically they would really enjoy doing with me. So, they’re moving from something that they want to do to something that they really want to do. So, it’s a bit of a distraction, but also they really want to do it. Then it also releases the pressure. That’s your moment where now you can have conversations and validation and bring the snack, all that kind of stuff. So, it helps to defuse the moment, so that you can get from there into all the rest of the things. So, thanks for reminding me.
ANNA: And that redirecting to engagement I think is so important, because sometimes those sibling conflicts are happening because we’re busy doing something else and whatever. And sometimes it’s just a cue for us. We know we need to dig in and engage here for a minute. And so, maybe it’s a game or it’s, “Let’s make some cookies,” or, “Let’s do something fun outside,” that just changes that energy and reconnects everybody. And then they can go from that. Kids are usually very quick to be able to move on. Once they felt heard and validated and reconnected, they’re a bit more resilient, I think, than adults who tend to harbor a little bit more resentment.
But yeah, so just things like that, that chance to reconnect, to re-engage when things happen, as opposed to sometimes when we feel the conflict coming on, we’re absorbing that into our body and it’s pushing us away, because it’s uncomfortable and we don’t want to hear it. “I can’t believe this is happening again.” And really, it typically is a call to dig in, connect, and get closer. And if you can just get through that first uncomfortable part, you find that that reconnection just refills everybody and refreshes that whole situation.
PAM: Yeah. And we were talking about how often the parent sets the tone. Something I found, if my kids were having more and more conflicts often throughout the day, like every time they got together, that was a clue for me, if possible, to make sure I was physically spending more time with them. Because then I was there even before the conflict broke out to help with some redirection and tools that they can then use moving forward, maybe not the next day. But over time, they start to see the clues when conflict may be building. They can catch it earlier and figure out different ways through it before it comes to a head.
ANNA: And that’s part of that gift of time. When you’re spending time with your kids, you can see, maybe before they can, some of these triggers or things that lead up to it. And what we loved doing over the years was learning that about each other, like, “Oh, okay. When you’re feeling like that, it looks like maybe you’re needing a little space,” and to step aside before it gets to a problem.
So, my daughters were able to self-regulate in that way, like, “Okay, yeah, I’m feeling uncomfortable here. I’m needing some space to recharge or I’m needing this different engagement.” And so, the gift of time really helps us learn those things about ourselves. And some of us adults are still learning things about, how do we feel good in a situation? When does it get to be too much? Those kinds of things.
And I think this is an interesting piece. For an introvert, this is like, “Ooh, I’ve been training for this my whole life,” as the meme says. This is great! But my extroverted best friend is struggling. This is really hard for her. And so, it’s understanding that, in your kids, you’re going to have different personalities. For one, they’re like, “I’m so glad to just have time with my book or my game or my whatever upstairs.” And another one might be going, “No, I’m normally talking to all my friends and doing all of this,” and may want a little bit more engagement. But again, it’s this fun process of being able to learn about ourselves and about our kids in maybe a little bit different ways, things we knew, but maybe you’re seeing them play out in a different way with this additional time.
PAM: You know what just popped to mind, too, this can be such a great time for those sibling relationships, because as we’re learning more about them, they’re also learning more about each other, too. And I found, over time, because they understood each other personality-wise and likes and dislikes, as well, they could proactively, when they start to see those clues, offer up something. “Hey, if you do this, I’ll do this. And then, we’ll both be happy.” Because they understand each other more.
Again, going back to this time and seeing it through the lens of being a gift of a special time together, this is all stuff that they will carry forward with them even when things get back into more typical routines. They will still have that understanding of each other. They will still have whatever they’ve learned about getting along together, processing conflict, moving through all that kind of stuff. This is knowledge and understanding they’ll have and take with them forever. So, it’s really valuable to use this time now.
ANNA: Yeah. It’s a gift.
PAM: Yeah. All right.
So, I wanted to get just to a bit of brainstorming. It all makes sense, I think, for most people. What we’ve been talking about makes sense, but the implementation piece may be tricky. How do I do this? What do we do? We are all stuck at home or at least in self-isolation. We’ll talk about that a little bit.
But the one thing we want to emphasize, when we’re brainstorming, this isn’t to give you literal ideas. I mean, maybe some of these ideas will be useful and you’ll take them and run with them. But the idea is to get your brainstorming juices flowing. We talked this whole time about how your children are individuals. They’re all different. Your children are different than mine, than Anna’s, than other people’s. What you want to do is think about your children in the context of these kinds of activities and try to come up with ones that are going to fit your family, fit things that you enjoy doing as well.
So, it’s not about being prescriptive, as in giving you a list of things to work down, do all these things. It’s to get your brainstorming juices flowing and think about what connects with your kids. What might be fun for you guys?
ANNA: Because you’re going to have so many different types of personalities, more physical, more cerebral, more activist, wanting to be involved in ways in the community and finding things like that. But yeah, I do have some lists. How about you? Are you ready?
ANNA: Well, just something fun that we enjoyed doing were scavenger hunts. And what’s cool about them is you can do them in the house or outside. So, you’d have different spaces around the house and they run and it’s not even about a big prize or whatever. It could be anything you’re hiding. But it’s just fun to have the scavenger hunt. Outside, if you have a space where you can do that and get some sun and some fresh air and run around and it inside is just as great. So, that’s fun.
And there’s things like Nerf battles and jumping rope. Arts and crafts are fun. And artist’s trading cards, they’re called ATCs, they’re really fun and you can Google and you’ll find tons of stuff about them, but they’re basically like baseball card size. I’m holding up my fingers for those of you listening to the audio. So, I don’t know. Maybe it’s two by three or something, so pretty small. But what’s cool about that is it’s not intimidating for people, because it’s this tiny little canvas. And so, you can do drawing art on it. You can do shaving cream and dye makes these cool really swirly ones that you dip in, so fun crafts and things like that are really fun to think about.
But if you have that child who’s really wanting to help, because I definitely had that child that was concerned about people and homeless people, plug into your community. I volunteer for a food pantry and we are still functioning during all of this, because we’re trying to get food out to people. And we’ve had some young people come and want to help. And so, we’ve figured out ways to plug them in, but even making cards for nursing homes, because they’re not getting the visitors that they used to get and things like that.
Make some Play-Doh. Baking is a lot of fun for kids and that type of stuff. And making jewelry. There’s just so many fun things like that. So, what are your fun ideas?
PAM: Well, I hopped onto the art side. And one thing I wanted to mention, too, is it can be fun to do it on your own, and it can also be fun to find cool videos online, back to your child as an individual. Which way would they like to go? Do they want to just start with a blank canvas and go? Or would they like a Bob Ross video? One neat thing about this time is there’s lots of places giving free access to information. And there has always been museum walkthroughs and all of those art museums as well as history museums, and so on, with lots of free information online, lots of animal stuff.
There’s drawing. There’s painting. You mentioned the Play-Doh, so you can make your own Play-Doh. Again, back to the time. You don’t have to rush this. All of a sudden, you’ve got the time to play around. For coloring, you can get all sorts of coloring pages online from really complex to simpler ones. Mazes, too. Just think about the kinds of things that your child enjoys. And you can put together a whole bunch of resources for that. For most things that you have hanging around, artist trading cards are a great idea, because then, too, they might want to be trading amongst themselves as well, or sending them off places as little gifts. I thought that was a great idea.
Then you’ve got your board and card games. I mean, you can pull out a cupboard-full that you haven’t played maybe in years or whatever, and now you have the time to try them out again. You may find a new favorite in there that you haven’t played for ages. Maybe new card games. You can search online and find a whole bunch of new card games. You’ll see if your family prefers some routine to it. Maybe you make it a new project. Let’s learn a new card game every day for the next week and just see. If it flops by day three, then you let it go. But it could be something to explore.
And then it’s like, oh, after breakfast, let’s try out a new card game. You found it, you got the instructions or whatever. Maybe you play with the instructions, make it your own and play around with that. And it just goes as long as it goes. It could be an opportunity for those really long, marathon Monopoly games, something like that.
ANNA: Settlers of Catan and Risk.
PAM: Right! It all depends on ages of your kids and the things they enjoy. What you’ve got around your house are typically things they enjoyed at some point or were interested in at some point, too. So, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t come up again. Maybe you’ll be playing and it’ll be a nice memory. “I remember when we used to play this all the time.” Building forts is a great thing, too.
ANNA: Oh! Building forts. That’s a fun one.
PAM: I was just talking to my daughter this morning and she’s built a big fort around her bed now that she is self-isolating in her apartment. She thought that would just be fun. So, she’s got lights and blankets and sheets and stuff. And she’s always loved forts and building forts. I remember when my kids were younger, we had forts all over the place. And so, that’s creative fun. That’s a place that they will enjoy hanging out for a while after. They can have snacks in there, maybe watch a movie, whatever. It’s like a whole new place for them. Kind of a magical spot inside the house that they’ve created themselves. So, that is lots of fun, too.
ANNA: Right. And that just reminds me, too, even fun picnics, even if you’re doing it in the living room or wherever. That’s fun. And if you have a yard, that opens up other options.
It’s spring in a lot of places, so exploring what’s coming up in the grass, foraging, learning about the different things in your environment. There are birds going crazy here. And so, that’s a lot of fun. And even planting some seeds that they can watch get started and then they are going to grow even as things get later, so that could be fun. But again, a lot of those you can do inside, too.
I think a picnic is kind of a great example, literally, and metaphorically. Just take an idea and just make something fun and magical. Like, lunch is lunch when it’s at the table, but when it’s a picnic spread out, even on the living room floor, that just makes it this magical, fun activity. “We never do this. We never eat in here!” And so, those are the kind of fun memories that I think stick with people.
PAM: Exactly. You’ve got sleeping bags and a pillow or blankets and a pillow, they can sleep in another room. They can have almost like a sleepover party. Watch movies, eat popcorn. They can sleep where they are there. They don’t have to sleep in their beds. It’s all just being creative, being open to not having to do things the typical way.
I remember when my kids were first home, I would read to them. At that time, Harry Potter was out. So, I was reading Harry Potter to them. And it’s not like you need them to sit still and listen. Don’t worry about that. They can be playing with their toys. They can be doing their thing and listening to you read. That is such a fun, connecting time, because I tell you, they hear. They’re listening. And if they’re not interested, they can go off and do other things.
But it’s an opportunity now for us to do those kinds of things together, whether it’s watching movies, maybe new movies, maybe favorite movies. Checking out TV shows, just doing those community things together. Playing video games. Back then, as a family, we were into Mario Party. So, we would have family video game nights where we could all play together and have fun with that. The fun is more important than the what. And I think when you focus on the fun, you’ll discover why.
ANNA: Exactly. The energy of it, the fun of it. And what makes that spark or that person get excited. And it may be you sitting down and playing Mario Kart, because you’ve never had the time. Or it may be binge-watching a series that they love, because it’s just been too much of a commitment for you to sit down, but now it’s like, “I’ve got the time. I want to watch your favorite series!” And they’re happy to watch it again or whatever that is.
And then, alternately, too, the Mario Kart and the video games reminded me, they may be needing video games online to connect with their friends. So, maybe that’s something in some families they don’t feel comfortable with in the past, like, “Oh, they can’t play video games, because they have homework and different things they have to be doing in school.”
But that’s a really great way for them to stay connected with their friends. And so, see it not as “screen time” or whatever. See it as this time where they’re connecting with their friends and doing something they enjoy. And we want to keep that focus on fun, so that we can keep the stress down and just get everybody through this time.
PAM: I think that’s such a great point. If your child is interested and missing connections with their friends, find ways to do that. Lissy and I were just talking this morning about a way we can connect more with all of us in one space and play some games together and stuff while she’s isolated in there. And we all are here, but we’ve got other people, as well. So, there are lots of things out there. Rather than just pulling out the, “No, we can’t. We have to stay home. We can’t go see them,” be a little bit more creative about it. There are other ways to connect with people and make that a priority. Figure that out, install that software or whatever it is to help them meet those needs.
Because we were talking about how the behaviors come from the needs. And if you can go down to the needs and satisfy those, help them satisfy those, help them explore ways to satisfy those. You’re also giving them so much self-confidence when they see that there’s more than one way to do something, to accomplish something.
Maybe being at school isn’t the only way for them to talk to their friends. There are other ways. And in this time, we can figure out other ways to do that. There’s just so many possibilities when you have the time to look and be creative.
ANNA: For sure.
PAM: The other piece I just wanted to mention when we were talking about stuff is kids who have higher energy levels. They like to move more. It’s just also important to try and put in some of those kinds of activities. So, like you mentioned, scavenger hunts and running around. That is lots of fun. I remember when we used tape on the carpet in the basement to make a hopscotch grid.
ANNA: And we did obstacle courses, where we’d give them silly things that they could jump over and hop around and then you could take it and move it all back. But just fun, little physical things.
PAM: Yeah. Even jumping on a bed for a while. If you don’t have a trampoline, it’s okay. They can jump on the bed for a while. Maybe you can do some wrestling, just things that will get their blood pumping a little bit, that will really help them release some of that energy. Pillow fights or even jumping jacks. There’s lots of yoga videos, lots of kids’ exercise videos that you can find on YouTube, too. Even just putting on the music and declaring a dance party.
ANNA: I was going to say, dance party, because that’s really fun. And they laugh at the parents dancing, but it’s just a fun energy. And, again, you can feel it change the energy of a room, just laughing, dancing. Each person gets to pick their favorite songs. So, you’re going to have a range and people are gonna laugh at the song that’s picked and just fun stuff like that.
PAM: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. So, I just wanted to take a moment to reiterate that it is really okay at this time to just BE together. To relax, to have fun, to read stories, play games, watch movies. It’s an opportunity for parents and kids to get to know each other on a deeper level. Because now, all of a sudden, we have that time. We can rediscover our interests, explore things that we find interesting, and share that with each other.
Even as parents, if your kids are a bit older, you’ll have some time, too, maybe. It depends on if you’re working from home or whatever, but you, too, can have that time to explore your interests a bit and share them during that check-in point. Come check in. Say what you’ve been up to, even if it’s work stuff. “I just finished a bunch of phone calls,” whatever you can share about that, just so that everybody’s realizing that life is going on for each person and understanding a bit more about them and what they’re doing.
It’s a chance to build those deeper connections in your family and to make memories. I love that you’ve been mentioning that throughout the podcast. This is the moment to make great memories if you look through that lens. And these will be things that will be remembered for years, like you said. This is a moment that everybody’s going to remember.
So, we can choose to do our best to make these good memories for our kids and for ourselves. And, in the bigger picture, I think looking at that time through the lens of strengthening our relationships, embracing our relationships with our kids, and making those good memories, is going to be so much more valuable moving forward. Just imagine all the things we’re going to learn about each other and understand, even sibling to sibling, and between parent and child.
It’s going to be so much more valuable moving forward than just staying in that stew of frustration and stress. Because it’s there. We all feel that uncertainty. It’s there. We don’t know where things are going. We don’t have to bring that into every moment of our day either, for the next while. We can choose to flip the way we want to engage in our days with our kids.
ANNA: Absolutely. I mean, I’m just looking at it as a gift. And I know that it’s difficult times, but I feel like we just get to choose how we are in that moment. And we get to choose how we’re embracing this. And I think that’s where our power lies is just in at least taking our moment and our little slice and piece and making it as joyful as we can.
PAM: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much, Anna, for taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate it.
ANNA: Good to see you.
PAM: Have a wonderful rest of the day.
ANNA: Yep. Bye!