A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR STAYING AT HOME WITH YOUR CHILDREN DURING A LOCK DOWN WITHOUT LOSING YOUR COOL.

INTRODUCTION
The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced a lockdown in most countries in the world. Everyone is to stay at home (indoors) for 24hrs for the next few weeks to stay safe and to stop the spread of the virus.
Having children at home without being emotionally, mentally and physically prepared can be disastrous and stressful, however, when you are equipped with the right tools and information it can be fun, fulfilling and rewarding.
This is a practical guide on how to enjoy your stay with your children during this long vacation or lockdown.
Due to the expediency and urgency to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people were not emotionally and mentally prepared for this lockdown even if they have the house fully stocked with food and essentials. The children are not used to staying indoors 24/7 for a long period. This might cause a bit of irritation and frustration for them and even you the parents, your daily routine and schedules have been disrupted, anxiety, mild depression or extreme frustrations might also set in if emotions are not properly checked.
So what can you do, what are the things you need to know or need to have to be fully prepared to make the best of your time at home with your children? Below I have written a few tips you can adapt to survive this lockdown.

FAMILY MEETING
First thing first, you need to have a family meeting with your children where you will need to have a detailed discussion with them about what is happening and what is expected of each family members.
Encourage each child to discuss his fears, worries and expectations. Please note that your child’s emotions are valid and should not be dismissed as not relevant. You need to be more empathetic during this period. When I had this discussion with my children, my older son was not happy because his final exams in high school were being moved indefinitely and it meant his stay in high school was extended. His emotions were valid and I had to assure him that immediately the lockdown was over, we should be getting more information about the examination. Let them know that you are available to talk with them.

As an individual you also need to asses your own emotions, how exactly do you feel about the lockdown? Would you need to talk with someone about it (your spouse, friend or a therapist)? You must be in the right emotional state for you to cope properly and connect with your children effectively during this stay at home period.

CONNECTION AND BONDING
While at home with your children during this lockdown, ensure to engage and connect with each one of them individually. Use this time to spend quality time with them and to build on your relationship.
Build rapport, Look for activities you all can do as a family to make this period fun. Teach your family values, learn new tasks together. You can make a list of activities you could do together. Like baking, making crafts, bible reading challenge, teach them how to sew, how to make a certain meal, to fix things around the house etc. You can start the sex talk during this period too.
There are so many activities you can all do together, have a discussion with them and let them come up with stuff too.CREATING A NEW

STRUCTURE
Like I stated in the introduction, your daily routine and structure will be disrupted so you now need to create a new daily routine and schedule to make life easier.
I have had parents telling me that they are scared about having their children with them 24/7 and not knowing what to do and how to keep them occupied. The best thing to do is to come up with a routine and a daily schedule, this will give everyone a sense of purpose and also let them know what to expect per time. Uncertainty can cause a form of anxiety for both parents and children.
So speak with your children, let everyone come up with the activities they would like to do daily and fix a time for these activities. The secret to surviving this lockdown is to do fun activities.

FOOD & NUTRITION
The children will be eating a lot during this period, you need to have a meal plan to guide what they eat . Due to the reason of this lockdown, you need to boost everyone’s immunity, therefore ensure you give nutritious meals and snacks that can boost their immunity, meals rich in vitamin C like fruits and vegetables. This period can also be used to teach your child how to prepare wholesome meals. You can also make smoothies, salads and juice with your fruits. Remember you have to keep them hydrated, let them get used to drinking water and not packed drinks.

PHYSICAL EXERCISE
Exercise is very important during this period because you need to keep moving and not be sedentary. Plan a time for either individual or group exercise. In my home, we have a group exercise every evening where we all have a skipping competition. The boys have their tissue challenge where they kick a roll of tissue. Make the exercise session fun for each member. My daughter and I indulge in dancing and sit-ups. Ensure you are moving your body. This is an avenue to release pent up energy and tension.

STUDY/ HOMESCHOOLING
Some schools have not concluded their curriculum for this term and might resort to online teaching for your children for the next few weeks.
So, you have to start homeschooling your children during this period which might be something new and strange to both you and your child.
Below are a few tips you can put in place to get ready for homeschooling.

1) Create a conducive work/study station with the essential materials for your child.

2) Create a proper reading schedule and routine for your child so he knows when it’s time to study.

3) Spend time with your children individually to identify their learning styles.

4) Work with the teacher to get the best out of the curriculum.

5) Remember you are both new to this style of learning please be patient and make it fun.

PERSONAL SPACE
To remain sane during this period, ensure everyone gets to have their personal space and privacy. Especially the parent, you will need to have daily ‘’me time’’ where you can get to pray, think, meditate, read a book, fix your hair or have your beauty regime. You have to do something for yourself to get in touch with your inner self. Do not neglect self-care it is very important. Same goes for your children, encourage them to have their time and space.

DISCIPLINE
Being locked in the house together for 24 hours daily over the next few weeks will bring up some emotions, children misbehaving, tempers flying, sibling squabbles etc. I want you to know that your child misbehaviour might have nothing to do with you, they just might be irritated and frustrated for being in the house not being able to go to school, the park or visit friends. So do not take it personally. You need to have a grip on your emotions, practice self-regulation and some emotional intelligence techniques. Discipline is not you hitting, beating or screaming at your children but it involves you setting boundaries and expectations, teaching, guiding and leading your children. This is the best time to exercise the fruit of the spirit. Love, patience, self-control, kindness, joy, gentleness just to mention a few. Especially patience and kindness.
Remember the family meeting I discussed earlier? You will need to be having these meetings regularly at least once weekly. This is to let your children know what is expected of them and also look for teachable moments to correct.

PRAYERS
This is the most important of all the tips given. Having hope in God takes away all forms of anxieties and worries during this period. Ensure you pray, have devotions with your children and also read some promises from the bible to encourage yourselves. Do not panic but put your trust in God.

Thank you for reading, remember to stay at home, stop the spread of the virus and stay safe.
For more parenting tips, follow me on Facebook or Instagram @oluwatoyinogunkanmi

OLUWATOYIN OGUNKANMI
SMART PARENTING COACH/AUTHOR
PARENTING SUPPORT SYSTEM LTD.