Unexpected Quality Time — A Silver Lining in the Coronavirus Crisis

In city after city, we are hearing of event cancellations in response to the spread of the coronavirus here in the U.S. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to women entrepreneurs about staying connected to their children while building their businesses. I also shared strategies for managing technology usage in the name of preserving family relationships. One participant wondered how to keep kids off devices should schools close and they’re at home all day, for the foreseeable future. At that point in the day, there had been no K-12 school closure announcements in our area, but we explored that scenario. School closures were announced later in the day, so I was glad we did. In her case, both parents are entrepreneurs who work from home. I first pointed out that, while the situation might bring some inconvenience, there might be a silver lining. The family will be safe at home and can greatly reduce their chances of contracting the virus. They will be able to spend more time together, now that a lot of the outside activities they engage in will likely be suspended. If used wisely, this doesn’t have to mean ‘togetherness-overload’ nor does it mean that technology use has to escalate out of control. To make good use of this time, here are some suggestions I offered.

Set some guidelines for how you’ll spend the time. This is a great time to involve your children in brainstorming ideas to figure this out. Schools are likely making provisions for online instruction and assignments. Many employers are already have telework parameters defining schedules and tasks to be performed. Create a schedule that allows for work, breaks, and fun together as a family.

Incorporate fun offline activities in to your day. Survey your home for games, crafts, books, and other resources that you haven’t been using as your family was consumed with other interests and activities all this time. Pull them out and rediscover old passions. Go out and stock up on supplies now if it appears that your school and/or office will be closing.

Teach your children new skills. There are probably several life skills or household jobs that your child could learn that would be particularly helpful during this downtime, and beyond. So often, we put off teaching our children how to cook, clean, repair things, and build things because all of our schedules are jam-packed with ‘more important’ stuff or we parents figure we can just do it faster and better anyway. When we do this, we rob our children of valuable opportunities to acquire skills that will benefit the family and, ultimately, themselves once they leave home to create their own lives.

Find more useful ways to leverage technology. Aside from accessing school work and completing work assignments, another way electronics can be particularly beneficial is for keeping in touch with family and others outside the home. Access to information and entertainment online can also complement offline interests, but should not supplant them. This time at home could be a great way for parents to demonstrate how to balance technology use with life in the ‘real world.’

Finally, just unplug and connect with each other. Parents, carve out one-on-one time with each child every day. As little as 15–20 minutes can be a powerful investment in your relationship with your children. They long to be known by us. Make this time count. In turn, allow them to learn more about you as a person — not just Mom or Dad. What are your hopes and dreams today? How do they compare to when you were your children’s age? What’s your vision for the family? Why not create one together? Use mealtime to engage in interesting conversations. There are several websites and apps that feature questions that can serve as compelling conversation starters.

These are just a few ideas for parents who may find themselves at home with their children until the threat of the coronavirus is eliminated. I recognize this will not be an easy situation for everyone. Some parents will have to scramble to find child care or lose pay to stay home with their children. Thankfully, some employers are ramping up telework options while others are offering financial support to employees who might not otherwise be paid during a workplace shutdown. Hopefully, more employers will find helpful ways to accommodate families affected by this outbreak. In the meantime, ensure that your family plays it safe, practicing good hygiene and health habits to reduce the threat of infection.

Carol Muleta is an author and creator of The Parenting 411® delivering “information parents need from sources they can trust.” www.carolmuleta.com

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