How Can Parents Survive the Pandemic and Beyond?
Routines, Routines, Routines
James L. Casale
The current state of affairs has plunged ordinary households into an abyss of chaos, confusion, bewilderment, curiosity, and panic, aka “What the hell do we do now?” Parents didn’t sign up for this “school stuff.” We pay taxes, and some of us pay both taxes and tuition to have professionals teach our kids away from home.
It’s no longer: “I’d rather be fishing.” It’s: “I’d rather be at work, mowing the lawn, or food shopping rather than staying home with these insatiable, selfish, grumpy, attention-seeking, irresponsible, and always-hungry munchkins.”
Equip parents now and forever on how to maintain some semblance of sanity and civility while avoiding the necessity of hiring a mental health professional. Provide at least one strategy that will ease the parenting journey through this pandemic, the next pandemic, and beyond if a private school in Switzerland is not an option.
- I promise not to weep when someone suggests that you must “stay positive.”
- I promise not to wince or run away when you are told, “You are in charge.”
- I promise not to hire a tutor or any other professional even if they dress in radioactive gear.
- I promise not to call Dr. Fauci for advice or my parents for babysitting.
Routines, Routines, Routines
If your home is devoid of structure, expectations, and routines, expect chaos, confusion, and constipation. You are trying to row your boat without oars, to fly without wings. A sign in Mr. Dawson’s mechanical drawing class at Harrison High School in Harrison, NY read, “Plan your work; work your plan.” You are required to have a plan that all house members embrace. That plan is based on routines such as: we all routinely speak kindly and respectfully to each other. We routinely care about each other and accept our responsibilities as family members.
If the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location, then the three most important words for your family school are routines, routines, routines. Hold on to routines like a life raft. While maintaining high expectations, accept even the smallest improvement as a win.
James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits, reminds us that small improvements have meaning and “the difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding.” For example, telling a child to clean up her room has many components: make the bed, pick up your clothes from the floor and deliver them to the laundry room, vacuum the floor, dust, etc. But if a child starts with making the bed (my personal favorite) that is an improvement. By the way, that does not mean you are expected to pick up those dirty crusty clothes off the floor. Don’t do it.
Routines make sure that things get done. Thus, the home environment is more relaxed and less stressful. A sense of accomplishment ensues for both parents and kids. These accomplishments are part of the effective parenting paradigm.
Good News/Bad News
The good news-I hope- is that you already have household routines. The bad news, for some or most parents, is that your new pandemic duties -if your children are home-require you to be the Board of Education, superintendent of schools, principal, assistant principal, teacher, mentor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, curriculum director, nurse, aide, secretary, aka administrative assistant, bus driver, and maintenance supervisor. This may be a tad overwhelming.
Routines in Place
Routines in your household already exist. They vary based on the age of your children. Infants and toddlers require more of your time and energy. Or maybe not. If none of the following are familiar, you may have to seek counseling and pay for it. Or abandon your family completely and move to Costa Rica.
- Going to bed/napping (not you). Be consistent here.
- Waking up/getting out of bed. This is a requirement for all healthy parents.
- Brushing teeth, showering, combing hair, etc. (Hair and nail salons may not be open. If they are, expect Black Friday crowds.)
- Making beds (ha-ha). If not, teach them.
- Tidying up their quarters and helping around the house and yard.
- It’s an excellent academic exercise: language arts/math/science. And they can use it when they grow up.
- All items for the washer and dryer must be brought to the laundry room by their owner.
- Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner (no booze until all kids are tucked away).
- Ordering take-out. You need a break, but not every night
- Walking the dog. Includes picking up his poop.
- Playing outside.
- Playing inside. No fighting or throwing things.
- Watching TV or using entertainment electronics (but not in their rooms).
- Not watching TV and not using any entertainment electronics.
- Family discussions.
- Family disagreements.
- Homework from those online courses
- Praying some more that your house of worship opens soon.
- If you have any other useful/normal family routines, please send them to me at email@example.com.
PS: If none of these exist in your household, I suggest you move your family off the grid, seek advice from the Alaskan Bush People, and start all over by building a shelter and locating food sources. The necessary routines will easily present themselves.
If your household boasts even a modicum of the routines, you already have a blueprint for survival. Keep the ones you have if you are satisfied with them and haven’t yet called for the men in white coats and lose the ones that are causing you angst as well as upsetting the dog.
Yes, you are the leader. Please don’t wince. Stephen R. Covey points out in his stellar book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that the human interaction in your home can be a win/win that “seeks mutual benefit”. And that’s how routines work.
While schools remain closed and distance learning rules, the work schedules and routines dictated by the school may continue. My high school grandchildren attend to their distance learning at specific times. That’s called a routine. My college grandchildren have more freedom and choices and sometimes choose the times they will sit in front of a computer and learn stuff, unless it was a Zoom class, which has a specific time slot.
If parents build their family culture on a variety of routines and schedules and sprinkle in major doses of love, kindness, common sense, high expectations, responsibility, accurate information, modeling, leadership, and nutritional food, positive outcomes will follow. Oh, prayers help, too.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr.Casale is a state and national award-winning educator. In 1974, he was selected as the Florida Teacher of the Year, the first male teacher to receive this recognition. While serving as principal of Purchase School in Harrison, New York, in 1988, his school was selected by the United States Department of Education as a National School of Excellence. He is the author of three parenting books. www.theparentsolutions.com