If you are like us, the news of mandatory school closings for three weeks (it may end up being more…) was met with multiple reactions. On the one hand, we were thankful to be relieved of the worry that our children may become exposed to Covid-19 at school and that steps were being taken to curb the potential spread of the virus.

However, on the other hand we were perhaps even more panic stricken. Three weeks?!? Three weeks at home with three children – the oldest being a 4th grader – and public settings stepping over themselves to close down before the others and businesses being mandated to close by state government. What are we going to do and is it even possible that our house will still be standing?

Please bear in mind that as a clinical psychologist, I pride myself on presenting a calm exterior while also owning a quiet interior. But three weeks?!?

Anyways, below are some quick thoughts on managing this imposition. Some are based on science, others on practicality and still others on pure whimsy. If you believe that our family will be able to accomplish all of these with consistency on a daily basis, then I thank you for your goodwill and naivety. That said, I would suggest to:

  • Maintain a semblance of a schedule. These are not 21+ consecutive weekend days. Your kids are used to a routine and a schedule, and so are you. Get dressed and brush teeth before coming downstairs, etc.
  • However, you are not running a shadow or a parallel school. Don’t set yourself up to think that you will or should be able to maintain the same systematic and coherent schedule as our wonderful teachers and schools do.
  • Create a space for learning. We are all creatures of habit and we all learn by association. Setting up space specifically designated for learning will help all involved to settle into that routine.
  • Set time frames. Establish that your children will work for a given amount of time (I would suggest no more than 40 minutes on a subject for middle and high schoolers and no more than 30 minutes for elementary students) then receive a break. Also, to be clear, a seven to eight hour school day is not even a remote possibility in this situation.
  • Theme your days. Use materials in the home to establish and teach lessons. Stuffed animals and animal books for learning about nature, cooking demonstrations and experiments for science…
  • Set expectations for your time – particularly important if you are also working from home. Line up your schedule with theirs so that you can at least get a few minutes of uninterrupted time.
  • Get outside. Just because schools (and everything else) are closed does not mean that the outdoors are closed. The zoo may not be open, but the parks are – as well as the sidewalks. Grab or order a copy of a birding, insect or tree identification book and take the learning outside while also getting a break from cabin fever and soaking in some all important Vitamin D.
  • Lastly and most importantly, give yourself a break. These next three-plus weeks (sorry to emphasize the likely extended time, but it’s better to see the train approaching so that you can get out of the way…) will be trying. You won’t get everything done you plan to accomplish. Your kids won’t behave perfectly or refrain from fighting and bickering. But, your house will still be standing and so will you and your children. This will become a shared experience that bonds your family and that all involved will reflect on and laugh about at future family get-togethers. So, take a deep breath, relax and do the best you can – because your children are already awake.

I will keep you posted on our journey along the way, with lessons learned, things not to do and small victories along the way.

Please reach out with any ideas or if you, your children or your family need any help along the way. We are trained mental health professionals after all (and may be more similar than you think)…