We’re a little over a month into the COVID-19 lock-down situation, and it’s sounding like the Springfield area may be able to resume some normal functions with restrictions. We are certainly praying for our leaders as they make these important decisions, and are anxious to resume “normal life” as soon as it is safe to do so. But should we go entirely back to normal? God has given us some tremendous gifts during this lock-down time. It has been such a challenge to halt our regular activities, and yet we have learned some valuable lessons.
Many families are finding that without their extra-curricular activities, they are enjoying meaningful family time together. It’s a huge balance for parents to find the right spot between giving children every opportunity possible and finding no spare time in the schedule because of those opportunities. Take this time to evaluate your family priorities and decide what truly matters. Are your children missing their activities? Is this an important part of your family culture? Or are you finding that staying home and eating dinner together most nights is rewarding? You will NEVER regret the time you spend together as a family, and that time is so fleeting.
During this time of lock-down, many families have begun hiking together and doing other adventures as a family. This is so important! Finding adventures teaches your children about calculated risk, allows for uninterrupted conversations, builds memories, and bonds one another together with laughter. By not being in the car constantly to go to activities, you find ways to stretch and grow as a family. Take time to adventure. Even memories of when things didn’t go as planned can end up being a loving memory of time together as a family unit.
Work, Work, Work
With less on the schedule, many families find that their child is actually ready and able to do more physical labor. These activities build strength, help children gain new skills, and teach them responsibility and independence. Parents are finding that their child is more than able to do the dishes, mow the lawn, and increase chore responsibilities around the house. Don’t forget the benefit of group labor as well. Working together in the garden, completing projects as a family, and requiring your children to run errands with you, without a screen in the car or a phone handed over, again provides you time to have conversations, teach life skills, and build memories together as a family. My father took me to the hardware store with him constantly. We had some awesome conversations in the car together, I learned about tools, and the smell of a hardware store today makes me tear up with memories of my now-deceased father. I treasure those times.
A Captive Audience Truly Listens
This uninterrupted time together has allowed many parents to see their children as a “captive audience.” Children who are captive audiences with no other distractions are much more likely to listen to parents as they talk about God, relationships, human growth and development, family expectations, and intimate relationships. These conversations are critically important and should happen often – not just one time of THE BIG TALK. Find times in the car, laying around the house, hiking, walking the dog, or other creative ways to talk about these important items. It’s so important to have age-appropriate, regular dialogue with children about key items – even with young children. Not only will you grow more comfortable talking about challenging items, your children will grow more comfortable listening. They will know that you are open to asking questions and coming to you about things. Even when we aren’t stuck at home, find times to create a “captive audience” and keep those conversations going!
Keep Screens OUT!
Screen time is almost unavoidable. Many families are finding that because screens are so important for home-based learning and work, it makes it easier to enforce recreational screen time schedules and limit times on screens. Don’t fall into old patterns of screen time! Have screens in the car? Disable them except for long trips! Kids have a phone? Force them to leave it at home when you go places! Kids used to watching screens before bed? Enforce a two hour screen-free time before bed. Put the phones away at dinner time. Turn off the TV. Put limits on Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services. Don’t let your child’s precious childhood speed away in front of a screen. Make face time and family time a priority in the future.
Thank you, God, for the beautiful family time during this challenge. You are so good to us, and we are grateful for the reminders to put our spiritual health, family health, and mental health above the other distractions.