Home All Day with A Preschooler? Tips for Navigating Social Distancing with Little Ones
Social distancing with little ones is less than ideal, for many reasons. Young children naturally have shorter attention spans, they seek adult attention regularly, and lack independence in many ways. Balancing all of this while maintaining YOUR schedule - working from home or otherwise - can feel demanding and overwhelming.
There is quite a bit of content floating around proclaiming what social distancing “could” or “should” look like for families with young children (think structured daily schedules or pinterest-worthy activities). If any of that content resonates with you, awesome! There is nothing wrong with trying to find a way to structure your days to support your family’s needs. But, if structure doesn’t appeal to you - if it just creates a bigger feeling of overwhelm - in no way do you need to implement perfectly structured schedules or beautifully crafted activities.
In these stressful and uncertain times (or at any time, for that matter), one of the most valuable things you can do is create a positive, loving home experience for your children, no fancy toys or materials required.
Let’s walk through some options to consider as you figure out what is best for YOUR family.
Schedules and Routines
Since we started discussing the different schools of thought on scheduling, let’s dive a bit deeper into this topic. There are essentially two approaches you can take to navigate your days at home: create a structured schedule or take a flexible, day-by-day approach. My advice is to take the approach that feels best for YOU and sets YOU, the parent, up for success. It is important to prioritize your needs here. When you feel confident and calm in your approach to each day, your child will feel confident and calm as well.
Creating a structured schedule. For some, a structured schedule works wonders. Having set times each day where you know what the plan is and what to have prepared puts your mind at ease. If your mind is at ease, your child’s mind will be at ease, too. I will caution, though, to be open and prepared for some adjustments and flexibility, as this is inevitable :).
One example of a structured schedule: 7:00am: wake up/TV show; 8:00am: breakfast; 8:45am: change out of pajamas, free play; 9:30am: One parent takes the kids for a walk/outdoor play while the other parent works; 10:30am: Parent switch off for snack time, etc. (Note: structured schedules can be customized in a variety of ways to fit your family’s unique circumstances).
Following a day-by-day approach. If you know that creating a set schedule is just setting you and your kids up for failure, don’t. You can have routines that are flexible, and you may have days that don’t follow any semblance of an organized routine. Your job here is to focus on doing your best in each moment and when you can, create a special memory with your child.
One example of a flexible, day-by-day approach: Wake-up, snuggles, ease into the day; Once you/the kids are ready, move on to breakfast; Before moving on, change out of pajamas; Check-in with how the kids’ energy levels are, when ready to move on and opt for calm indoor play (building blocks, reading stories) or outdoor play; When you feel like you need a breather, put on a movie or TV show and offer a snack, co-watch with the kids or sit near them while getting some work done, etc.
This is a tough one, especially in this situation when it comes to balancing multiple schedules. Extra screen time may ignite anxiety and guilt in parents even though it is a (totally suitable) way to allow themselves time and space to get things done. My biggest piece of advice: give yourself grace. Do what you need to do to get through the day. If that means playing your child’s favorite movie on repeat because you have a work deadline approaching, do not worry.
Alternatively, if you prefer to avoid tons of additional screen time at home, that’s okay, too. Engage in collaborative play with your kids and slowly encourage them to play independently. In some instances, “quiet time” is a great alternative to screen time - this may look like free time for a child to play or rest in their room, independent coloring, or independent play in a family space.
For some additional tips on navigating decisions around screen time, check out this post by our Trustle coach, Nancy.
Yes, YOU! Social distancing is a massive adjustment for you, too and you deserve self-care now more than ever. It likely feels impossible to create time for self-care, but there are some creative ways to make this happen. If you’re lucky enough to be working from home with a partner, take the kid responsibilities in batches; switch off time with the kids as needed. If you’re home with the kids by yourself all day, put on a movie or audiobook for the little ones and encourage blocks of quiet play time. Feel free to involve your kids in self-care activities! Do a living room Mommy-and-me workout in the living room or take a family nap. If you need a moment of calm, guide your kids through taking some big, deep breaths along with you.
There will never be a perfect way to manage the heavy load that comes along with social distancing with young children. Be prepared for setbacks, unexpected hiccups, or moments that go not-as-planned (but such is life with children, right?). Do the best you can. Every day, your best may look different. Some days, your best may be just barely scraping by, and you are not alone in this. Sending all of you so much love, and the Trustle team is here to offer a listening ear, a supportive partner, or specific strategies if you feel you need it!