Whether you are usually home or generally work out of the house, having children at home for extended periods of time can be challenging. This is true whether it’s a break for Pesach, summer vacation, or any other time. This is even truer when it’s a “forced break” that was unexpected and when we don’t know how long it will last. Add the anxiety that many of us are feeling about the pandemic around us and it makes for a challenging situation for all.
But how our children experience this “vacation” will be largely shaped by the way we frame it for them. While it’s difficult to choose how we feel, we can choose our thoughts. By choosing to put a positive spin on things we can turn a challenging situation into a fun, bonding experience with our children.
The first step is to tell your children how much you’re looking forward to spending more time with them. (Even if you don’t feel it strongly now, the more you say it, the more you’ll feel it.) When children feel that they’re a nuisance, they act accordingly. When they feel wanted, their behavior is drastically different.
Make a family meeting and include the children in creating a schedule for the day. The more input they have, the more likely they are to be invested in making it work. The schedule should include:
- Wake-up time
- Time for free play and times for playing games together
- Physical movement (there are many examples of activities that can be done indoors if/when going out isn’t an option)
- Household chores
Ask the children to collectively come up with a gift they would like once they’ve completed a set amount of schoolwork – or once they’ve done their work each day for a set period of time. Even if your kids are of vastly different ages try to make the learning a team-effort. If your older children are old enough, they can teach or help the younger ones.
Learning can be fun, of course, and there are a lot of group activities that can lead to continuous fun while learning valuable life skills. One example: creating a post office in your home. We do this often in our home. Find an old box – any box will do – and have the children decorate it with the IsraelPost logo and whatever else they would like.
The children should then write letters – to each other and to you – daily, and place them in the mailbox. You can give the children themes of the letters for different days. One day could be to write something nice to each of their siblings. Another day could be to write suggestions or requests to the recipients of the letters. Teach the children how to write the letters properly and how to address them.
The children can then take turns being the mailman. There’s no one who doesn’t enjoy getting mail!
It’s important that children chip in and help with household chores. While this is always the case, there’s so much more to do when everyone is home all day. Make sure that the chores assigned to each child is age-appropriate, but you’ll be amazed at what kids are capable of when they’re taught properly. Once they’ve gained a skill (cleaning, doing the dishes, cooking, laundry) you’ll gain from it immeasurably and your children’s self-esteem will soar.