It’s a safe assumption that you have spent more time at home with your family in 2020 than ever before. An international pandemic snowballed into working from home, virtual school, plus closed shops and hair salons and public spaces.
At first it was like a refreshing breeze on a sweltering day. Family dinners and an open calendar. Even the plethora of digital communications made it easy to stay in touch with everyone. (Thank you Zoom, our relational superhero.)
But after a while, staying home began to feel like hurricane-force winds. It no longer felt optional. Extensive time under your roof stirred “normal” life into a cup of sour milk.
All the while, your relationships suffered. Tensions grew within your family. Kids grew lonely. You grew to loathe video calls. Fatigue and fear grew into commonplace.
Thankfully, life has equipped you with some basic coping skills. You noticed your need to get outside, be physically active, take up a hobby just for fun, or to get creative with your relationships.
Your kids, on the other hand, don’t have such refined coping mechanisms.
- Have you noticed that your son will burst into a rage at the smallest inconvenience?
- Does your daughter dissipate into tears anytime something feels frustrating?
- Do they spend more time alone in their room or glued to a screen?
- What do they talk about over dinner?
- How are they progressing academically and relationally?
- Is boredom eating away at your child’s lighthearted nature?
If that sounds familiar, we can help. Here are a handful of comforting conversation starters to spark helpful discussions between you and your child(ren).
- Acknowledge that this season is difficult.
Just like you, your child has also lost a lot since lockdowns began. You’ve accrued years of your lifetime and understand that this too shall pass. Yet this year is a giant fraction of your child’s lifetime.
A kindergartener has just started to grasp the concept of time beyond day-by-day. A fifth grader has only been in school five years before Covid hit. Even a high school student has a slim view of time because, as a teenager, every single moment is precious and should be lived to its full capacity.
Tell your child, “I know that this season is hard. I know it’s tough and difficult and long. I know you want life to go back to normal.”
While you carry your burden, acknowledge your child’s too. On particularly taxing days, speak these words to your child. Show your kids that you notice, that you care. Remind them that they are not the only one who feels this way and that they are not alone.
- Ask for highs and lows.
Has your family ever played the High-Low Game? The rules are simple: everyone states a high (the best thing) and a low (the worst thing) from their day.
For example, Mom could say a high was finishing work early so she could take a walk, and a low was having a headache. Your teen might say a high was having virtual lunch with her friend, but her low was taking a math exam. A young child could answer with a high of having chocolate cereal for breakfast and his low was scraping his knee.
Engaging in this simple game reveals what your child is thinking and feeling on a deeper level. Use their answers as a launch for further discussion. “How do you think you did on your math exam? Are you struggling to learn online? Can I help you study next time?”
Option: Apply the High-Low Game to days, weeks, months, or seasons. Most families use this method as a nightly dinner table discussion. But it would work for a weekly Sunday night routine, a monthly family meeting, or even a seasonal activity (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall).
- Discover the number one thing that they miss the most.
Comfort your child by remembering the past well. Ask your children what they miss the most. Is it seeing friends at school, going out for ice cream, having dinner with grandparents, recreational activities, sleepovers and birthday parties, or something else?
Reminisce over fun memories. Look back at photographs or videos. Tell stories that make you laugh until you cry. Enjoy the history.
And then, if possible, try to make that happen again for your child. Unfortunately some things may be out of your control. Thankfully, you can creatively make other ideas come to life! Here are some suggestions:
- Purchase individual cups of ice cream (the kind with the wooden spoons). Invite friends to the park for a socially distanced ice cream party.
- Meet grandparents at a fast food restaurant. You eat in your car with the windows rolled down. Grandma and Grandpa are parked nearby, eating in their car with the windows rolled down. That’s a social distanced meal and conversation!
- Adjust a recreational activity to make it possible for your child and one or two of their best friends. Your boys could wear masks and play contactless soccer in the yard. Girls can run through the sprinkler or take turns bouncing on a trampoline. Roller blading, bike rides, scooters, etc. are easy options as well.
- Have one friend sleepover. Maybe they don’t share a bed, but they can still watch a movie and eat snacks and stay up late together.
- Discuss hope.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine life returning to the way it was. Don’t you agree? Your kids feel that too.
Remind your child that this season will not last forever. Schedule specific things to look forward to so that your child (and you too) can remain hopeful. Need ideas? Here are a handful to plan (that probably won’t get canceled):
- Go for a hike.
- Have a picnic.
- Take a bike ride.
- Plan a movie night at home. (Rent a movie, have popcorn and candy, snuggle on the couch together)
- Buy a new game and play it as a family.
- Bake special treats. (Bonus: Deliver these to family and friends by dropping on the front porch, ringing the doorbell, and talking briefly to each other socially-distanced in the front yard).
- Decorate for the upcoming holiday. (New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, back-to-school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas)
- Find a new normal.
Kids are like the Energizer Bunny, right? Endless vigor, gusto, passion. Constantly moving and steeping with imagination.
Sitting in front of a screen hinders every ounce of energy in their body. Establish a routine that stimulates their mind, body, heart, and imagination. The result will automatically enhance your family life because your child will be more joyful and respectful.
- Establish solid wake up and bed times.
- Set aside time for schoolwork.
- Schedule periodic breaks for physical activity. Take a short walk/bike/scooter ride. Play the Wii. Have a dance party. Jump on the trampoline. Anything to get active for 5-10 minutes.
- Encourage their imagination. Create crafts, write stories, play make-believe.
- Ask heart-provoking questions to stay in tune with their emotions. (See the High-Low Game above!)
- Don’t avoid boredom. It actually enhances creativity!
Need more help?
Parenting has always been a joyful challenge. If staying at home has left your kids struggling to cope, we can help. If you are losing hope in this season of a full house under one roof, we are here for you.
Call us today. We want to help your entire family thrive during this difficult season!
SOCIAL MEDIA CAPTION
Staying home equals more screen time and less relational time, right?
As adults, we know this pandemic is just a season, we know it will eventually end. But your children cannot grasp that same truth.
These 5 comforting conversation starters will help your kids thrive.
Hint: one of them is actually a fun family game!