"Stuck at home in unprecedented times."
That's the reality all of us are facing during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Many families, including mine, have had little or no time to transition to the new restrictions. No unnecessary travel, no eating out, no exercising or physical activity in public areas, no going to school or enrichment classes. Normal routines were going to be disrupted and with these changes, I remembered that my stress rose to an uncomfortable level. What can we do to cope with the "new norm"?
It's been three weeks since the MCO was enacted and after speaking with other families, I thought I'd share some practical tips that have been used to not only cope with the changes, but use it to our advantage.
5 Practical Tips For Families During the MCO
Tip #1 Print or Draw A Weekly Timetable
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Print or draw out a daily/weekly timetable for your children so they know what they have to look forward to. Timetables gives them comfort in knowing what to expect each day and helps you as a parent plan your time as well. This will include any online class time scheduled by their school, planned activities time, as well as free-play time. As a rule of thumb, make sure their homework is done first before moving on to other tasks or activities they want to do.
Tip #2 Have A Balance of Online and Offline Activities
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Create a list of activities together as a family, from cooking together to movie times. This is important to ensure different facets of the brain and body are engaged and activated in the day. One idea, especially for those families with pre-teens and teenagers, you could also schedule in time where they are allowed to have online hangouts with their friends. They do miss their friends and this is their way to keep connected. Let them do this in a quiet BUT public area of the home, not in their room with a closed door. If they need to do it from their rooms, the door should not be closed.
Tip #3 Talk About Your Work
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Take the opportunity to talk about your work with your child. For those of us who work in offices, this may be the first time your child sees you at work. You could be pleasantly surprised that they do have an interest in what you do for a living. One parent shared that her daughter was watching her do her work of providing help to low-income families during this MCO period and was inspired to want to work in a similar organisation when she grows up.
Tip #4 Plan Fun Activities
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Search for fun ideas to do while staying home, adapt what seems doable for your family and then have fun. Allow your children to be in charge of planning activities for the family as well. For my family, we found ideas involving balls and buckets, and also brought out Board and Cards games I forgot we had. Take time to engage with your children that do not involve devices or screens (including TV).
Tip #5 Plan Weekly Meals Together
For families with older children, this is a wonderful idea as it takes the pressure off of parents to have to decide for every mealtime. It is a simple, yet engaging way to let our children have their say, choose their favorite food for some meals and also enjoy each other's meal suggestions as a family.
In short, this prolonged period spent together at home allows us to define new norms for our families. And in a modern world where speed is of the essence and permeates everything we do, slowing down may just be what all of us need to create deeper connections and strengthen relationships within the family.