Working from home under shelter in place orders has changed our daily lives, even for experienced remote workers. At Navitas Data Sciences, many of our team members have been working remotely since our inception 26 years ago, so we have well-appointed home offices or at least a corner of our homes dedicated to working that is off-limits to the rest of the family. We’ve learned to set boundaries and firm schedules that allow us to focus on our work uninterrupted, but even for us, things have really changed.
Since the middle of March, we’ve had to juggle work with entertaining little ones who are usually in daycare during working hours, and homeschooling grammar school kids while talking bored teenagers off the ledge and disinfecting groceries that were left on the front stoop. All of our homes have been transformed into offices, classrooms, and playgrounds that often spiral out of control.
Is this our new normal? When will life return to something that even vaguely resembles “the good-old-days” of 2019? Will anything good come out of all of this? Truthfully, no one really knows the answer to these and a myriad of other questions that we are all anxiously speculating about. For now, we must learn to live day-to-day, doing the best that we can, taking solace in the fact that we are not alone in the struggle – #WeAreAllinThisTogether.
Your toddlers are not the only ones who miss their friends at daycare and are acting up. Child development specialist Claire Lerner, LCSW-C of Psychology Today offers comfort to frustrated parents: “If your child is spiraling out of control more frequently as week after week of this lockdown continues, you are not alone. I am hearing more and more parents describe their child as a "hot mess," she says. Lerner offers a typical example of the kind of behavior many parents are facing:
“Janelle starts reading a bedtime book to her 3-year-old, Sam. One page in, he starts screaming that she isn’t reading the book the right way and insists that daddy (Brent) take over. This flip-flopping goes on for several more rounds until both Janelle and Brent are at their wit's end and Sam wears himself out sobbing and falls asleep.”
Sound familiar? “The seismic shift in children’s worlds due to COVID-19 has led to a precipitous increase in this kind of maddening behavior that is very challenging for even the most patient parents,” Lerner assures us. In the example above, she advised the parents to read to Sam together, taking turns, and the nightly bedtime trauma was thwarted, but to curtail these kinds of scenarios from going on all day, Lerner advises parents to try to curb their anxiety and to talk about emotions with their children on their level.
Grade-school-age children are especially vulnerable to confusion since their vocabulary is sufficient enough to understand scary things on the news, but not sophisticated enough to express their fear and anxiety. The best advice is to shelter them as much as possible from the news and keep them busy with school work and creative activities.
The Manchester Evening News, UK, posted a great article that has already saved many parents: 50 Fun Things to do with the Kids in Lockdown that includes ideas like potato printing, making sock puppets, and building indoor forts. Facebook groups have been formed by parents to help each other through these challenging times. Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas has over a million members and receives over 700 posts a day! The site is chuck-full of fun suggestions like creating these pebble and stick family portraits.
In spite of the difficult juggling of responsibilities, there are a lot of positive things that are emerging from this forced family time. Families are playing board games together, sharing nightly dinners, and having meaningful conversations. In a Mercury News article, Coronavirus: Bay Area Families Find Silver Lining in Home Confinement, by Martha Ross, she quotes a mom, Kate Lee-Leidy, who is discovering that slowing down and taking a break from the busy schedule that has been her family’s norm has some pleasant side effects:
“It’s not often that after dinner, we’d do a slow walk around the neighborhood,” Lee-Leidy said. “We did that last night. We’re also having conversations we might not have had time for before. My daughter and I stayed up for 30 minutes last night, lying in bed, talking about the galaxies and the universe.”
BBC News posted a poignant little video on their Facebook page that is worth a look. It is entitled: Life in lockdown with a four-year-old: Eat. Sleep. Mary Poppins. Repeat. It is shot by a frustrated father in Spain who reflects on the challenges he faces with his wife in a tiny apartment as they cope with being locked-up with an active four-year-old. It summarizes how many of us are feeling right now. “The day is long. Very long,” Pol is heard saying. “During the day, we’ve lost the ability to focus on one single thing,” he adds. “This situation isn’t pleasant for anyone. We can’t wait to hug our friends, our family. But it is true that we’re spending much more time with our daughter.”
So perhaps it is wise to relish this situation that we have been thrust in. Even if we are having to work at midnight after the rest of the family is finally quiet. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. By staying at home, we are keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe, and we are given the rare opportunity to spend quality time together as a family…an opportunity that may have otherwise slipped away from us entirely.