Are your kids getting dragged down by this “new normal”? Whether it’s being stuck at home doing virtual school for weeks or months on end, missing grandparents and friends, or following all the extra rules that come with an in-person school routine like testing or temperature checks, wearing masks, and not hanging out in the hallway or cafeteria, there’s a lot that kids are just tired of dealing with week after week.
Understandably, many parents may also be bogged down by lost wages, endless Zoom meetings, lack of safe childcare options, or not being able to just run out and do things. But if you and your kids are stuck in a negative mindset at the beginning of each week, it becomes a cycle that is hard to break out of, leading to more arguments and frustration in the household.
While things may feel different and depressing right now and for the foreseeable future, it’s important to find sources of joy to help your family get through it all. Here are some ideas for setting a more positive tone for the week. These certainly won’t erase the challenges of living in a pandemic, but they can help balance them out.
Uncover small treasures
Think of one positive thing to look forward to for each day of the week, even if it’s something tiny. Don’t create bribes that’ll set unrealistic expectations—simply find the hidden treasures that are already there.
Kids can help come up with positive things to add, and even make a list or schedule to check off and remind themselves what they have to look forward to as the week goes on. Here are some examples:
- Monday: Nice weather—family walk
- Tuesday: Taco dinner
- Wednesday: FaceTime with Grandma & Grandpa
- Thursday: Mom gets home early from work
- Friday: Board game night
Add some spirit
If you’re all doing remote school/work and need something to break up the monotony, come up with “Spirit Week” or “Wacky Wednesday” themes for your household. Think: stripes-and-polka-dots day, mismatched sock day, sports fan day, etc. Have the whole family come up with some silly but realistic themes that you can all follow.
Adding a little excitement to the routine can help kids get through basic things that they might be dragging their feet on, like getting dressed in the morning. Once you start, you’re bound to think of more ways to spice up the routine.
Report on the positives
Every night at dinner time or bedtime, have each family member report on one positive thing or one favorite thing from their day. If kids are having trouble thinking of something, ask questions like, “What made you laugh or smile today?” “Did anything taste good? Smell good? Sound good?”
Reporting on the positives doesn’t mean you have to gloss over the negatives or shut down the venting at the dinner table. But reminding everyone that you do have things to feel grateful for can lighten the load of stress that you’re all probably feeling.
Set out to learn something
When school, work, basic routines and, well, everything feels difficult, think of it as a fun challenge to take on. Have every family member set a small, doable goal for the week and write it down. The goals could be related to any aspect of life, whether it’s academic or work, physical or mental health, or just something fun.
Examples of goals:
- Turn off phone for 30 minutes each day
- Do 20 jumping jacks every day
- Finish reading a book
- Do a 5-minute sketch every day
- Participate 3 times in class/team meeting
- Add 5 new songs to a playlist for a friend
- Don’t say the word “stupid”
Then, you can check in a few times throughout the week to see how everyone’s doing on their goals. Even if you slip up and don’t complete a goal, sharing your challenges and breakthroughs with each other can give you insights into how to support each other better.
For more ideas, see this list of family mindfulness activities and choose one to do together each week. Adding some of these tools to your parenting repertoire will help you and your children not only get through these challenging times—and future challenging times—but come out of the other side stronger.