First, let’s give the standards their due. We might as well aim high, but we need to be able to miss without feeling bad about it. Some of what I’m telling you, you already know, but it bears repeating.
Limit exposure to the news, for yourself and for your kids. As is always true with screens, it helps when parents practice what they preach. Don’t get sucked in by the 24-hour news cycle, and of course, be aware that news can be coming through phones and computer screens. When they do watch, watch with them, talk about it, and this applies to older children and adolescents as well. Being alone with the news now is not good for anyone’s well-being.
You know what I’m going to say about being home with school-age children. I’m going to tell you to plan your day, to keep some structures in place, to establish routines. I’m going to tell you that even if you relax some of your normal rules about screen time, you still need to try to be aware of what your children are doing and watching, and make sure that nobody’s life becomes only about screens, though you absolutely shouldn’t be beating yourself up for lapses. And yes, the more you can help children use those screens to feel connected with the teachers and classmates and grandparents they’re missing, the better.
The screens are incredibly valuable for keeping us connected right now, but we all need breaks to keep us healthy. Remember some of the ways of passing time with children that reach back before screens: board games, charades, recitations. Consider a long but gripping book to read aloud in small increments.
But I’m also going to suggest something else, and this is in the making-memories department. I’m going to suggest silly family rituals, dumb jokes, and maybe even foolish-song-singalongs at the start of family online contacts. I’m going to suggest reading books that were beloved by small children to those same children when they’re older. If you have the occasional ambitious moment, I’m even going to suggest creating a family diary (or calendar or video montage or storybook, depending on your proclivities) that tracks the small events of this time at home, recognizing that even if day by day not much is happening, it’s still going to be a time that all these children will look back to all their lives.
So no, I’m certainly not saying that you should embark on some massive family educational endeavor (let’s all learn Swedish!) or creative project (welcome to our family production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream!”) — or that you should feel inadequate if you don’t. Most of us are never going to be the Trapp Family Singers — though if those of you who are would like to post the video, we’ll certainly watch you in your dirndls and applaud.
I’m just saying that part of being the grown-ups, sometimes, is being willing to put ourselves out there a little and experiment with family patterns — to venture forth in the arenas where we feel least confident, to put into words the emotions and hopes and fears which make us shy and self-conscious. You know this, but I’ll say it anyway: We need to tell the people we love how much we love them, and tell them often. We need to thank the people who are taking risks to keep us safe. Our children will see all of this, and they will remember it, I promise.