COLUMBUS (WCMH) — One day you and your spouse are punching a clock as the kids are learning in school or being cared for in a daycare; and the next day you’re all jammed into the same house trying to figure out how to make this new reality work without losing your cool or your sanity.
That was a month ago. How’s it been going? For some it’s been great, good, or even alright. Others have found the experience to be less so.
If that is the boat you find yourself in, the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund has some suggestions that might help. Executive Director Lindsay Williams has four kids of her own and knows how tough it can be to settle into being around your family all of the time.
“I have days where I’m wanting to pull my hair out over this,” said Williams. “One of the biggest things you can do at home that can help both the parents and the children is to kind of come up with a daily routine for your family,” said Williams
She says, that will provide structure. Building off of that, Williams recommends having lunch at the same time every day and scheduling breaks from work to interact with your kids by creating something or exploring art in some way.
“If you have children that are really struggling with aspects of this [pandemic], doing artwork and having them draw and write kind of about what they are experiencing and what life is like for them could definitely be helpful,” said Williams.
And she says, you will benefit from it too. Many of us have been programed to be in work mode during business hours, and sometimes afterward. Allowing yourself to come back to a world where work is secondary, if only for a few moments, can help relieve stress you may be feeling, according to Williams.
To be sure, there will be times when work is work and it must get done, and the last thing you need is for children to disturb that process and add to the stress of accomplishing the work that puts food on your table.
In these situations, Williams says, scheduling play is another huge role.
“If you know you’re gonna have a work call or a conference call or something that you need to be on, maybe that’s the 30 minutes during the day that grandma is gonna Facetime with the kiddos and read a book to them,” said Williams.
This will give you the peace of mind to be able to concentrate on important work issues.
Grandparents aren’t just saving the day when it comes to distracting the kids for your conference calls, they and other family and friends can also take the load off during other parts of the day.
“I see a lot of grandparents too doing bedtime stories, or even cooking and teaching recipes to grandkids virtually, so those are definitely options,” said Williams.
When your kids do get the opportunity to spend time with you, they might spend it asking you questions; they’ve been known to do that from time to time. Those questions might be about what is going on right now, and while fielding the questions may be difficult or tricky, Williams says you shouldn’t be afraid to explain things.
“You want to be as honest and as accurate as possible, and you want to make sure that you’re speaking to the children at a level that is appropriate for their age and their understanding,” said Williams.
For a three-year old that might mean telling them that there are germs outside that can make people sick and that it is really important that we always wash our hands and not to touch our faces.
The message is clearly different for teens, and you may end up focusing your efforts on the importance of wearing masks, or for explaining why they can’t go hang out with their friends.
Finding time to spend doing things together, while maintaining structure Monday through Friday is great, but don’t forget to clearly delineate Saturday and Sunday as the weekend. This will help give your kids, and yourself, a sense of normalcy. Williams says, do things on the weekend that are just for the weekend.
She also recommends they/we document what is going on in and around us right now.
“Some day our kids and our grandkids are going to think back to this pandemic of 2020 and what that was like, so let’s write a journal or lets do a time capsule,” said Williams. “Those are all really different and exciting things but they can also help with the child’s social and emotional development as well.”
For some families tensions will rise, and arguments may occur. Some situations may escalate beyond that.
The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund wants to remind us all that April is Child Abuse Awareness month and that since Mid-March reports of child abuse have dropped off a cliff. Not because it has stopped happening all of the sudden; but because those who would be reporting the signs are not seeing, or hearing, or interacting with the children who are in danger.
They are asking if you are concerned for a child, to reach out to the family if you are comfortable. You could tell them you are just checking in on the child because you missed hearing their voice or seeing their smiling face.
You could ask to hear them, or see them via any internet connected device. If you know the family is struggling and you have the means, Williams says you could offer to help them in some way.
“I think random acts of kindness are so neat and so appreciated, and I think that we’re in a point in time where that’s so special and that means so much to a family,” said Williams. “You never know the impact that you are having in the life of a family or in a child by being able to do that.”
If you do suspect a child is being abused you can call 1-855-OH-CHILD and be connected with a local state agency who can help them. That is 1-855-642-4453.