Every month brings new challenges with children staying at home. School days have crazy uploading sprees, connectivity issues, and getting school work done on time. Holidays are all about getting them to take a bath on time!
Children at home for working and non – working parents alike is filled with challenges. All unique to their particular environments, personalities, and sensibilities. But an adjustment it is.
So I have come up with 3 basic ideas that enable happy kids at home, and 5 practical easy to do activities to put each idea into action. Thus 15 great activities!!
Lets get started!
Tips For Parenting in COVID 19
The First Idea – Connect
The basic need for all mammals is to feel safe and to connect. Families, communities, and friendships are created to fulfill this basic need. When we connect with children we ‘recollect’ them. We fill and refill their cup of love.
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, renowned psychotherapist identifies 4 basic needs or steps which develop true connection in children. It is when children feel:
Then they start to have a (4.) Secure connection with us. And children need at least one secure attachment in their life to truly blossom. This can be done by repeated, predicted, timely and sensitive care.
Also, empathy works when children are sad, and when they are happy. They want you to be proud of them and celebrate. For more on this idea, please click: What is the key to happy relationships?
5 TIPS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD
1. Love Gun
Material: Toy Gun or Make Shape with Hand/ Age: 3 to 8 years
The child shoots the parent and the parent then becomes a love monster and hugs and kisses the child. Then the parents chase the child and play catch and miss, and every time the child gets the parent, s/he gets a ton load of kisses.
Children loved to be showered with hugs and kisses! So try this at home and remember to do it with a flair of drama!
2.Human Tug O War
Material: Body/ Age: 3 to 7 years
The parents ‘fight’ over which part of the body of the child is theirs. One is grabbing the upper body and other is taking the lower body of the child. Do play with extreme caution and a lot of laughter and funny faces!
Children love being the prized possession or being reminded that they are. They want their parents to want them and appreciate them. So be grabby and huggy so you can win your child over!
3. Special Time
Material: As decided by child/Age: 3 to 10 years
This is a very well known but very effective one. So decide 10 to 15 mins in a day when you will sit with your child and both will together do an activity designated by the child. If possible, designate an area or corner for this special time.
Tip: Use a timer so when the activity is completed they do not feel abandoned by you. Also gently remind them 2 mins before end time so they start mentally preparing for it.
Tip: If the activity is being repeated too often, prearrange some new games, toys, or books around your special time area and ask them gently if today we could be adventurers together?
Idea: And when you put them in charge, they want to please you. When they feel connected to you, they want more of that. They want you the most.
The idea is to give them a sense of control over their life. Also, like doing things we love makes us happy, doing things they like fills their cup of happiness.
Warning: It is imperative that all screens are miles away. Screens have a sneaky way of coming in between true connection. Also being home all day with them is not the same. Take it from me, it is not.
4. Time In
Material: Active Listening/Age: 6 and above
The opposite of time outs. In a time out the child is reactive, hurt, angry, agitated, emotional, and cannot think. The idea of time outs is that the child can soothe himself and reflect on mistakes, but that doesn’t happen!
Remind yourself the last time you were angry and instantly calmed after 10 minutes of isolation. Not in my experience!
Time In is when your child makes an error in judgment and you first make them feel safe and seen. (Feeling safe is regarding physical and emotional safety and will be covered in an upcoming article since too much to uncover there)
For being seen:
- Remember all behavior is driven by an unmet need. (To know more about this click here)
- Listen attentively. Empathize and try and understand their perspective.
- Ask follow-up questions and try and understand the reason behind the outburst.
In my experience, when someone empathized with me I felt far more calmer and could then reflect on my and the other person’s actions and perspective.
Also since parents did not let the situation get to them they role model to the child how to Soothe themselves. So that comes to the final point of the Time In where you soothe them. Teach them to emotionally regulate. This is co-regulation.
Then they are ready to listen and communicate.
5. Dynamite Dinner Table Conversation
Material : Ice cream Sticks, Marker and Jar/ Age: 4 and up
A fun way to fill in dinner waiting time or just having a meaningful yet engaging time. Learning about each others day can stimulate empathy and go a long way in forming deep relationships.
Your conversation starters could be simply on best song, holiday, movie or book or deeper topics likes worst moment, scariest thought, long term goals or emotional turmoil.
The idea is to connect and share. And remind our children that we are a family, a unit and we are there for every little and big celebration and adversity. Another great way is to talk about values.
The Second Idea – Communicate
For children work is play and communication is key. As already mentioned, listening is an essential part of great communication. The other part is that we must talk in a language the listener understands. And that for children is play!
Important Note: As parents will always be parents, children will always think of themselves as children. Meaning when my son turns 12, I suddenly cannot expect him to be like me. Let me give you some facts and ideas:
- Our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for emotional regulation meaning calming ourselves and responding appropriately to triggers does not mature until 25 years. It is also responsible for executive functions like task initiation, focused attention, planning, and organizing.
To understand why the prefrontal cortex development is so important for us please read the article: Why are we overcome with emotions?
So your child is not lazy and angry, s/he actually is just not ready yet!
- The second idea is that ‘everything is not an emergency! If your child is lying down on the sofa does not mean when s/he becomes an adult they will be good for nothing. Parents live in the future and children live in the present.
This means connect don’t correct!
Talk to them about the consequences of their present action. Understand the need behind the behavior. And remember nothing is permanent, everything changes, so will they!
- Thirdly, if your child didn’t do it till now, please do not expect them to start magically and perform like a master only because they turned a certain age. To understand child brain growth better, please click here
Any new activity, rule, or responsibility must be started with foundation steps and can be mastered with practice and your role modeling it.
Progress is measured in years and not months for childrenDr Peg Dawson
Please do give a thought to the ideas above. Our beliefs make up for our own actions and when we change the narrative, we can change our attitude and actions.
Now for the FUN PART!
5 TIPS TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CHILD
1. Set A Timer and Give Choices
Material: Timer/ Age: 4 and up
The easiest thing to understand time management and the consequences of the action is to set a timer. When my kids would get up from TV at the designated time, I would start a 5 min timer. If they did not shut the TV, when the timer rang off, the next day’s screen time is cut by 30 minutes.
I did not take the screen time away, their actions did. They are responsible for the decisions they make. Consequences must always be informed in advance. For more on this idea read: Misbehaviour: Ways to remedy it
The timer is set, the choice and consequences are explained, thus the choice is theirs! Also, regulate your emotions during this. Be the calm in the chaos.
2. Mealtime Choice Chart & Game
Material: Template as shown / Age: 3 to 9 years
Children love to be given a choice. So when you want to make mealtime fun or less stressed for picky eaters, try these two fun games by Dayna Abraham.
Race to the Finish Dinnertime Gameboard
Use this design to make the game board. You can use a bottlecap or toy car to move forward. Laminate for each child and place next to plate. The child moves forward with each bite. On the ‘bam’ they have to pick a new food to try. It can be pre determined or something from the table.
When the child finishes the meal, a small treat in the form of favorite food can be given.
Meal time Decision Boards
These can be made for every meal. So a child gets to pick their breakfast, lunch and dinner combination. You can also do a deal that your child picks 3 and you pick the others so everyone is happy!
3. Deconstructed Meal
Material: All the ingredients of meal/ Age: 4 and up
So when we go to a restaurant and custom make our order, this is a version of that. As adults we get to choose and tailor our food to our palate, so similarly you break down meals.
Firstly, kids love to choose and secondly, they will understand food better and try different combinations. For example, if you want to serve Mac n cheese – you would lay out the boiled pasta, the cheesy sauce, some oregano, parmesan cheese, and chilly flakes if applicable.
Then your child make it less or more saucy and add condiments to taste. You can do similar with burgers, burritos, falafels and noodles. So when they go to a restaurant as they grow up, they can order for themselves.
4. Using an Inanimate Object to communicate
Material : Soft Toy, Sock, Puppet, Doll or Mask / Age: 3 and up
Laughter is definitely the best medicine and more so when you want to ‘refill the cup’ or reestablish the bond. And nothing better to do the job than a cute looking furry object!
You can say a dialogue, make funny voices, do some opera singing or even dance around for dramatic effect. Get your game face on! The idea is to use this object to lighten the atmosphere and communicate in a playful way!
The message could be something serious, important or just to connect, the idea is to do it in a language they understand.
5. When your kids shout, you whisper !
Material – Your Voice/ Age: 5 and up
Have you noticed that someone tends to speak softly, we tend to lean in to listen. When we match vocals with our children when tempers are high, it will just turn into a shouting match with noone listening.
So when the audio levels are going high, you talk in a low, firm voice. At first they may not notice, if there is more than one child but continue and they will notice, stop and lean in to actually listen.
Also, this is a great opportunity to show them emotional regulation which is an essential life and social skill.
The Third Idea – Collaborate
This is definitely a real-world skill and the basis of teamwork. Everything works better when everyone’s ideas are respected and considered. It teaches a combination of empathy, communication, creativity, gratitude, and leadership. All essential life skills.
Your role here is to be a coach. Children want to have a warm relationship with us and we must honor them. Our job is to listen respectfully, make them understand their choices, guide with our experience and then let them take responsibility for their actions.
A football coach would never go in play the actual game! Our job is to stay on the sidelines and let them be the star !
5 TIPS TO COLLABORATE WITH YOUR CHILD
1. What’s next – Break Down the Plan
Material – Chart Paper, Velcro Dots, Pictures of To Do List / Age: 5 and up
The idea here is to break down multiple instructions and make a handy to-do list. So when the job is done, it is time to close that partition. Just like ticking on a to-do list, closing a partition will release dopamine in the brain and feel amazing in the body!
Also, long-term duration tasks are easier when broken down. Another use of this method could be planning revision/homework timetables where you can enlist tasks subject wise.
2. Crumple Away Worries
Material : A clean unused trash basket decorated and identified as “The Worry Eater”/ Age: 6 and up
When bedtime comes and our kids more awake than sleepy, it is time for the The Worry Eater to come alive. Ask your children to write their worries on a piece of paper, crumple it and throw it in the The Worry Eater’s mouth.
This helps in the transition from awake to sleep as our worries are at rest. It could be fear of first day at school, a new project, a new teacher or simply waking up tomorrow on time.
Sometimes excitement cannot make them sleep. So then again they write/draw it and throw it away. If they do not want to show you, that’s okay too. The idea is too complete the feeling and let them send their worries away!
3. Conflict Resolution Spinner
Material: Similar template with same or similar options, DIY spinner/ Age: 6 and up
The perfect antidote for all that sibling rivalry. The idea is find a fair way to deal with conflict. Conflicts between siblings is a part of parent life and when you find yourself in the position of referee, turn to a neutral third umpire.
In the heat of the moment, it is our job to keep the calm. So when your kids are in a relaxed mood, introduce them to this way of solving fights. So next time when they are in flight or fight response, they know what to turn to.
4. Can we make a deal?
Material : Active Listening/ Age: 4 and up
This is for the times when both you and your child are at an impasse. We usually arrive here because we feel there are only two outcomes or options.
So in event of this use, a comprise coupon. That means you go back to the drawing board, literally. On a whiteboard write the two options on either end of the spectrum then make a cut in the middle and start thinking of options.
Negotiation is an essential social and life skill. It makes everyone feel respected and heard. The coupon acts as a white flag when tempers are high. So accept a temporary truce and take a deep breath.
We can think at our creative best when we are calm. Let your imagination run wild together to come up with the best solution!
5. One Time Consultation
Material : Active Listening / Age : 10 and up
Finally, this one is only for the big kids. It embodies the thought of the parent being a consultant. And this consultant only gives advice when asked like when your child is confused about a big decision.
In the event they are going towards unpleasant habits, then this in an intervention consultation. So you appoint a time for this consultation and do your research. Think carefully about all your arguments and back them with facts. Your child will do the same.
Both sides need to listen to the other and understand their point of view. Finally either a negotiation is come to or your child decides to go with their idea. Whatever the result, we need to now let it be their decision.
It may be difficult, but once you have done your best, it’s better to let destiny do the rest!
And finally we conclude with my favorite idea – Consistency is Key! And everything comes to this. Connect, Communicate, Collaborate and be Consistent about it.
And it may take years, but it is always worth it in the end! For more information on how to be happy in the pandemic read the article: How To Stay Happy In COVID – 19
And please drop a comment on which activity you liked best!