So … we’re all stuck at home.
I want to share today with what’s working for our family, and some of the things that aren’t.
We’re still in quarantine, stuck at home with the kids and have been for weeks, I really hope that you and your family and your loved ones are safe and healthy. And that you’re weathering the storm physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. I know it’s tough on all fronts.
Looking back at the last couple of weeks, and I wanted to share some of the things that we’ve done in our home to try to get some semblance of order and to make some calm out of the chaos with our kids.
We have four kids, our two oldest boys are teenagers. And our twins are 11. (But they act like teenagers.)
As I share some of these things that we’ve learned, they may be age-dependent, based on where you are with your children. But a lot of the principles are applicable to you, regardless of where you are on your twin journey.
The first thing is household chores. Even before the pandemic, we had chores for each of the kids.
And as when they were really young, those chores are very simple. As they’ve gotten older, those chores have become more of a routine and more complex as they’re able to do more things as they grow.
One thing that we’ve made sure that we do is every day is that they still need to stay on top of their chores – whether it’s doing dishes, tidying the bathroom, vacuuming, or sweeping.
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These are things that help build accountability and responsibility in the house. And the fact that all six of us are home all the time now means frankly, the house is getting dirty faster because we’re all here more than we were before.
Before when the kids were at school, they didn’t get quite as messy as now when they are home all day.
It’s important that you involve your children in the chores around the house on a daily basis.
Involve Children in Food Preparation
We noticed that the kids are keener to want to help with food preparations.
We’ve done a lot more baking lately with our kids. One of my twins in particular really loves to bake. So we’ve been exploring new recipes, with her things that she can make on our own, things that we can then double the recipe and freeze for later.
Each day, we’re pulling in one of the kids and say, “Hey, who wants to help us today with dinner?”
Then they get an option of “what do you want to make for dinner? Here’s a list of a bunch of things that we’ve made in the past that you like, which one of these do you think you want to try to make this week?”
We’ll pick something off the list. And then we’ll say, “let’s go look in the pantry. And let’s go look in the freezer to see do we actually have the food that we need?” Because as you probably experienced when you go to the grocery store, they have food but not necessarily the exact thing that you’re looking for.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Sometimes a recipe may need to be altered, or scrapped because you just don’t have all the ingredients that you need.
We’ve been involving the kids in daily meal preparation: from picking the food to helping prepare the food.
That’s been a good experience for them to learn how to cook different things.
Dealing with Distance Learning
Our kids have been doing distance learning for school for a couple of weeks now.
One thing that we have learned is that we have to keep school within bounds. Because what we’ve seen happen is our kids will get on the computer and they’ll seem to be on the computer all day long, even longer than they would actually spend in the classroom at school.
We’ve had to make sure that our kids are taking regular breaks away from the computer and away from the screens.
We keep an eye on what they’re doing so that we know that they’re not just watching random YouTube videos, or chatting endlessly with their friends instead of doing their homework.
We try to keep the school within the bounds of what a regular school day would be.
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If you feel your kids are getting too much work or too many things to do from their teachers, make sure you reach out to the teachers to let them know your kids are feeling overwhelmed. We found the teachers have been very accommodating and making sure this distance learning is working for the kids.
One Parent Always On Duty
Another rule that we’ve had to have between my wife and I is that one parent has to always be available to help the kids during the day.
My wife and I both work out of the house. I’ve worked out of the house for several years now. And my wife has taught piano lessons out of her house. And so at any given time, we can both be working on something, either on a call, or teaching online class, or making preparations for work.
There always needs to be a parent available around the children to help them during the day. That may require that you get a little creative about when you’re actually working during the day. You can stagger that schedule so you can spend time with the kids to take care of them as needed.
Get the Kids Active
Our kids were not getting out of the house and not being active. So we’ve tried to really encourage our kids to get out and get some exercise.
For example, get out and play maybe basketball in our driveway or go in the backyard and play together, or take a walk around the block. This way they can get some fresh air and they can get a little bit of exercise because otherwise, their default behavior is just to sit in front of the screen, whether for school, homework, or screen for entertainment purposes. And of course, that is not really healthy.
We’ve also learned that my wife or I can’t just say, “hey, you should go do this thing.” Or “you should go play outside, you should go for a walk.” We often have to go with them, lead them, guide them, and help them encourage that behavior.
As your kids may be in various different ages, naturally, you’re not going to send your toddler out to walk by his or herself around the block. It’s going to be more of a family affair. As your kids are older, maybe they can be proactive playing by themselves on the patio on the back porch or the driveway.
You still want to be there for supervision and to encourage proper and safe behavior.
Spending Focused Time With Your Kids
I know after being with your kids all day long, you get to a point where you feel like “Okay, I’m done. I can’t, I can’t really do more of this.”
We found that our kids want even more time together! They want to be close to us physically. They want to be able to spend time with us, and they want to talk with us.
Talking with our kids, they have inherent concerns and fears about what’s going on in the bigger world around them. And so they really are attaching to things that are comfortable to them here in the home setting. And that is you as a parent.
After a long day of working, managing the children, managing school, and managing everything, make sure you’re still giving them time to just be a kid and be with you, as a parent. Spend time together.
We’ve seen an increase in movie nights as a family sitting together and just hanging out on the couch watching movies. Because your kids want to spend time with you, even if you feel like you’ve already spent all your time with them (all day long).
They need more time with you to make sure that they feel the world is still going to be okay. All because you’re still there with them.
Talk About the Future with Your Children
We’ve been talking about future plans and, of course, about current events with our children.
We don’t really watch the news with our kids, but they’re well aware of what’s going on outside our house. And that’s concerning to them.
So we do talk a lot about future plans with our kids. What’s going to happen next? And what does this mean for our family?
We’ve had plans, for example, for summer vacation for the summer, which we’re probably going to postpone.
As such, we have been talking through that with the kids about why that would happen, or what they would feel comfortable doing, or should we take this trip?
Involving your children in age-appropriate ways is important. Have them share what their feelings are about something that you’re hoping to do.
Discuss why you can’t do that right now, and why it may need to be postponed.
It’s been very interesting to hear from our children, some of their thoughts of what they think we should do
Out of the mouth of babes comes some profound truths – which is pretty interesting.
So as you counsel together as a family, you may get some new insights as to things that you should or shouldn’t be doing based on the perspective of your children.
My twin girls switched things up a bit last week. They swapped beds for a week.
Each girl just grabbed her blankets and stuffed animals and switched beds for the week.
They were able to enjoy time in relatively new surroundings. (Even though they share opposite sides of the same bedroom.)
They were able to swap and get a little bit of a variety in their life.
If there’s something that you can switch up at home to give your kids a new experience for a night, day, or week – do it!
Something that may seem small or trivial could really make a big difference and help brighten their day and their week.
Bring Back the Hobbies
Now has been a time for our family to rekindle hobbies.
One of the things that my wife and I have loved to do over the years is to garden. Frankly, we’ve kind of let that slide by the wayside. It was since we were busy with work, and with our family.
But this spring, we made a conscious effort to work together as a family to get our garden ready to plant seeds to tend to the garden to water and to take care of it. And we’re starting to see the benefits of that already. And that’s been pretty exciting to see the impact of the things that we as a family are doing that the kids are helping with as well.
If you can rekindle an old hobby that is family-friendly, or can involve the children, now’s a great time to do that.
This will not only build skills for the kids but rekindle some of that the joy that you’ve had in hobbies that you had to let go by the wayside because you didn’t have time to do those in the past.
I’ve talked a lot in the past about the importance of open and honest communication with your spouse.
Now more than ever, that is super important, particularly if you’re all cramped together in the house all day long with the children.
One thing that my wife and I have done, that’s helped us out is to coordinate our schedules.
Like I mentioned, my wife teaches piano, out of the house, all of her in-person classes are now moved to online classes. And I’m working on the house. And so oftentimes, we have to just lay out the schedule: I’m going to be on a call at one o’clock. And you have my wife say she has a class two, three, and four. Making sure that we have someone who’s able to help the kids.
When all four of our kids are on distance learning online at the same time, and my wife is teaching a piano class and I’m working online, our bandwidth seems to slow to a crawl. So one thing I’ve had to do is be kind of the internet monitor. I have to make sure if my wife’s teaching online class for example, she gets priority of internet usage. The kids can use alternate activities or stop streaming mindless YouTube videos.
What Has Worked for You?
So there are some things that we’ve learned to help us manage life a little bit more easily here at home during the lockdown period.
Hopefully, some of these have been helpful to you and give you some ideas of things you can do together with your partner, and with your children.
I’d love to hear how things are going for you and how you’ve managed the craziness at home. Leave a comment below about what has worked for you.
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