When the announcement came through that all of NZ was going into Level 4 lockdown, I thought the same that you probably did: how are we going to cope? Being at home, with two kids (aged 5 & 8), whilst my husband and I both try to work seemed unimaginable. I’m an introvert, a planner, and I really like my own space. Having people around 24/7, even if they’re people I love, without being able to control the situation, seemed a daunting prospect to say the least. What follows is our experience of Week 1!
Expectations vs. Reality
My instincts led me to draw up a plan. The prospect of an entire unstructured day at home, let alone four weeks or more, seemed too big to contemplate. I know routine is good for children, and it’s good for me, so I set about putting some structure in place. Turns out, reality didn’t quite fit into my neat expectations!
8.30 – 10.30am
The Plan: Exercise time. Mum, Dad and kids exercise together to kick start the day. I looked at a few Facebook videos to see that it can be done: the people in the video even looked like they were having fun! Followed by free play (called wā kitea at our kids’ school) and an option from the choice board (a collection of ideas I wrote on a piece of paper and stuck to the fridge).
The Reality: On Day 1, family exercise time lasted 5 mins. The kids jumped over and under Dad doing press ups and moved a ball from their ankles over their head while laying on their backs Then it all fell apart. Cue moaning, Mum and Dad trying to carry on their noble efforts while grunting “Don’t touch that!” and “Keep it away from my feet!”. Eventually the kids started entertaining themselves with the train track and the adults managed to do a 7 minute exercise routine twice.
This was followed, quite surprisingly, by an hour of children successfully playing by themselves – commandeering all the blankets, cushions, bean bags and dress ups in the house to build a hut. Turns out, all you need to do is call free play ‘home-schooling wā kitea time” and they play freely pretty well!
Next up, morning tea!
11 – 12.30pm
The Plan: Armed with my Facebook ‘research’, the plan was to sit down with the kids and do some writing and maths. My ideas included writing a letter to the grandparents (oh how the grandparents would love hearing from their darling grandkids, this was going to be great!), learning some new big words and writing them on the mirror, quizzing my 8-year-old on addition, maths games on the chromebook, and cutting out letters and making words with them.
The Reality: By this time on Day 1 I’d remembered that I also have a paid job and figured that I should try and get some work done, so I sectioned myself off in the study and focused for a couple of hours. My husband, who’d done the same in the previous two-hour block, took over the writing and maths tutorials. I returned to find a couple of the activities ticked off and our 8-year-old astounding us with some pretty complex subtraction he had done in his head. Bonus – we wouldn’t have really know what he was capable of if he’d been at school! Over the week we also utilised the multitude of interactive reading and maths sites that our school’s teachers sent through: IXL, Sumdog, Reading Eggs, Prodigy, Sunshine Books and our school’s online learning hub.
Next up, lunch!
2 – 3.30pm
The Plan: Quiet play, reading, crafts, podcasts or audiobooks, screen time. With the morning spent in some semblance of educational activity, I was happy for screen time to come into play in the afternoon. I anticipated that I’d be pretty tired by this time of the day anyway, and needing a break.
The Reality: Yup, by the time 2pm rolls around we totally appreciate the fact that nothing too arduous or structured is planned for the afternoons. There are so many creative ways to use technology, too. We’ve been watching and listening to Storytime with Mr. Tim, Goodnight Kiwi, Te Reo singalong at home, authors reading their books, audio books on Audible or Libby (Auckland Libraries e-books app), watching zoos online and nature/animal documentaries, and having zoom chats with friends and grandparents. I highly recommend getting an up-for-it relative on Facetime, putting the volume on loud, hiding the phone somewhere in the house and playing virtual ‘hide and seek’!
We’ve also found some great podcasts, including ‘Short & Curly’, ‘Imagine This’, ‘The Beanies’ and ‘The Big Life Kids Podcast’. Of course, plonking the kids in front of the television with cartoons is a great last-minute ‘Oops I forgot I had a zoom meeting starting in two minutes’ plan.
Next up, afternoon tea!
4 – 5.30pm
The Plan: Free play or help cook dinner. My 5-year-old daughter loves ‘cooking’, but I often resist her ‘help’ because, let’s be honest, cooking or baking with kids can test the nerves! With four weeks at home stretching out in front of us like a long sheet of pasta, I realised this is the ideal time to teach the kids some cooking skills.
The Reality: Dinner prep has taken way longer and Lucy’s been banished from the kitchen a couple of times, but – on the whole – it’s been really satisfying to have my little girl by my side at the bench. Helping her grate carrots, stir the contents of a hot pan without getting burnt, and do the dishes afterwards is actually lovely quality time together and if I think about the long game, she’s learning life-long cooking skills. But, just saying – I reckon I’ve earned a few nights of takeaways at the end of this lockdown situation.
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So what have we learned after a week in lockdown?
These three things have really helped at our place:
- Having a plan and routine. By 8am that first day I thought I was done. The kids were bickering over their breakfast and it looked like my hope for a peaceful and playful day was flying out the window! But then I brought out the schedule I’d roughly written up the night before and showed it to the kids. They responded immediately: I think they felt assured by evidence that Mum had a plan. We’ve stuck it on the fridge, along with the choice board. Caveat to this point – the routine is fluid. Things happen and the plan changes, but having it there in the background still helps. If things got derailed, which they often did, each new day (sometimes each new hour) was a chance to reset and start again.
- Talking and sharing expectations. We’re spending lots more time together as a family, and that’s a good thing! I’d love for this lockdown to make us stronger as a family, for having gone through it together. But there have been plenty of frustrating moments! I’ve found myself irritable, snappy, distracted, overwhelmed and not sure whether I wanted to scream or cry. Lockdown life requires me being kind to myself, and communicating my needs to my husband and my kids so they know what’s going on.
- Being productive. Getting something (anything!) done felt way better than spending all day going between managing kids, checking the news and checking the Facebook feed. I like drawing so I’ve been hiding away for half an hour each day and getting pencil to paper.
- Recalling great parenting advice! I’ve really been drawing on the all the empowering and helpful parenting tips I’ve heard over the years. Truths like we are our children’s safe place. And calm breeds calm. I know I can lend my children my calm, even if sometimes I have to work quite hard to present a brave, calm face!
My hope is that you get some calm in your house in the coming weeks. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Stay strong, stay courageous, stay steadfast.
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