Nobody knows exactly what is going on right now, or how long it will be going on for. It is unprecedented. That means a lot of things …
We are all new at this. In my part of the world, we’re two weeks into it. In the “experienced” parts, they’re two months in. None of us can claim expert status on this situation.
Despite our newness at this, research has shown, over and over, that we, humans, do not process uncertainty very well … at all.
At the risk of sounding like I’m telling you what to do … we need to stop telling each other what to do. Other than following protocol put in place by our health leaders as best we can, the way we are handling this inside our homes … is the best we can do right now. And it’s just fine.
When faced with an uncertain situation, humans tend to feel scared. When we feel scared, we cope. What does that mean? We do things, sometimes rational, most times irrational, that help us feel better in the moment. Coping comes in many forms. Some cry, some laugh, some talk about their fears, some go silent. Some abandon all forms of structure, while others cling to any sense of normalcy that may remain. Some deny, while others want all the facts. Some avoid the news, while others tune in obsessively. Some sleep all day, while others lay awake wishing they could sleep. Some clean. Some pray. Some drink wine. Some exercise, some play outside, some find opportunity, some buy lots of toilet paper…
There are parents out there who are spending more time than they ever have with their children, and are discovering they don’t know their children. They feel frightened, and they feel guilt. There are parents out there who must work from home while their children are home too, and want them, and need them. They feel guilt. There are parents who still need to go to work and have to organize their families in impossible ways, feeling they are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk, or neglecting them in some way. They feel guilt. That is but a small subset of scenarios in which people are feeling ill-equipped and inadequate.
Nobody needs to feel that way. You don’t have to have a colour-coded schedule for all your children’s activities. But if having one helps you keep the day more structured and predictable, and that helps you and your children through the day, then that is for you! Keep that. Honour that. You know it works! If it is your belief that all worksheets should be burned during this time of crisis, then stay away from them. They will do you no good. They will do your children no good. If you want a structure, but one that involves no school work, maybe that’s your solution. If you want to do a bit of school, and a lot of play, you can do just that. If the idea of building a schedule and trying to follow it drives you crazy, maybe it’s not for you, and that’s okay too. If you can navigate an all-day free-for-all and not completely lose it on someone, then all the free-for-all power to you!
Personally, I know my kids do well with structure, and the day quickly turns into chaos if they don’t have a sense of what’s next. They also love worksheets, it’s like Zen juice in our house. I’m not great at scheduling, and I’m not great at splitting my attention between the 4 of them. When they all have questions or requests from me at the same time, I feel overwhelmed, and I want to get to all of them instantly. Those are MY problems so those are the things I need solutions to. So far, each kid has a sheet with their name on it, taped to the wall. If they have a question, need me for something, want to do something with me, or think of something they want added to our agenda, and I’m helping another kid, they write it on there. Does it work for us? Amazingly. Could it work for you? Maybe. Does it have to? Absolutely not. That is a solution to something I don’t deal with well. Maybe it’s easy for you to multitask that way, or to simply tell your child you’re busy. It’s okay for you to focus on what YOU need to make this work for YOU.
So in our so far 2 week long sample of this: Do do we have a schedule? We make one every morning together based on what everyone needs to get done and would like to do. Do we follow it? We do our best with the agreement that if we don’t get to all of what’s on it, we put the rest at the top of tomorrow’s schedule. Is it colour-coded? No, it’s chicken scratch on the back of an old worksheet. Do we do school work? Yes. We do grammar and math. Do we read? Lots. Do we play. Lots. And all of that … is ok.
At the end of the day, your children will not remember the colour of their schedule, or the worksheets they did or did not do. They will remember how they felt. Was that lost, terrified, and alone? Or was that loved, supported, and safe? Whether schedules, worksheets, baking cakes, playing outside, watching movies, making puppet shows, etc. helps you and them achieve that feeling of love, support, and safety, the rest is nothing but details. Instead of wondering what everyone else is doing and whether they should be doing it, what if we focused on:
- What helps me honour the commitments that help me serve myself and my loved ones best?
- What makes me feel most loving to myself and to my family?
More than all the suggestions to absolutely do this, and to absolutely not do that, we need support, acceptance, encouragement, tolerance, reassuring, and most of all, LOVE. Judgement, no matter the intention, has never made someone feel loved. By extension, no judgement ever resulted in better action.