Top tips for families to stay sane while they're staying home

If you’re worried about how you’ll manage at home with kids as Manitoba’s schools shut down, you’re not alone.  Here are some suggestions with a caveat; stay flexible! Use what works for your household.

Even though it may feel like a vacation, we all have a really important job ahead

Tips for staying sane while staying home during COVID-19; Practise gratitude. Count your blessings. (Shutterstock / Jeremie86HUN)

If you're worried about how you'll manage at home with kids as Manitoba's schools shut down, you're not alone. 

When Ontario closed schools, I saw one parent post online, saying jokingly, "There is not enough booze in the world for this news …"   

So, how to get through this time without the booze? 

Here are some suggestions with a caveat — stay flexible! Use what works for your household. Share your successes.

Let's keep our sanity as we work together to flatten the curve by working, learning and most importantly, staying home.

1. Make a routine

For many of us, time off means sleeping late, eating different foods and wearing our pyjamas all day! 

But even though it may feel like a vacation, we all have a really important job ahead.

We need to focus on staying healthy and keeping others from getting sick, so we don't overwhelm our health care system.

Eat healthy to stay healthy; avoid the temptation to dig into the sweets during those family days at home, Joanne Seiff suggests. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

With this in mind, set your alarm, go to sleep and wake up on time, eat a good breakfast, and please, please, in this situation — and, for that matter, all the time — we need to keep washing our hands and staying clean.

2. Keep up with learning

If you've got kids, part of their routine may be online learning.

However, if you can't set this up or it doesn't work out for some reason, they still need to learn.

Set aside time every day as part of your routine.

Do age-appropriate level school work. Have them read, write stories, do math drills, learn geography by studying maps and planning imaginary road trips … whatever it takes. This will require some work for parents as well as kids.

While online resources help enormously, don't leave it all to a screen. Sharpen pencils, get out your scrap paper and learn together.

3. Master some life skills

If you've been putting off teaching your kids the things that matter, now's the time!

Can your kids wash dishes, tie their shoes, sew on buttons, make themselves lunch or dinner, clean the bathroom, change the sheets and change the tire on a car? 

If they don't, here's their chance to change that. 

Pick one thing to do together each day. Remember to do review afterwards. (And really, there are no tests for many life skills until well, life happens.)

Work on creating functional adults!

Everyone should know how to make lunch, clean or change a tire on a lonesome country road. You've got time to start practising now.

4. Schedule alone time

We all need breaks from each other.

Your kids may not take naps after lunch anymore. You may claim that you really love each other, but families living together in close quarters for weeks on end can really get on each other's nerves! 

Encourage everyone to go to separate spaces and do quiet activities on their own for set stretches of time each day.

For kids who are too young to read, audio books (download them from the library!) are a great resource.

For older children who can play, do school work, or read on their own, set up times for them to do this.

Then establish your expectations so that your kids know you mean business. You deserve safe breaks and quiet moments to be on your own, as do they. 

5. Exercise and go outside

If possible, help everyone continue exercising.

Got a dog? Walk it! (While still practising social distancing.)

Feeling anxious? Do yoga, tai chi, meditation or whatever works for your household.

Got a dog? Walk (or run) it, suggests Joanne Seiff. (Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

Got a yard? Bring your kids out to play in it. 

And if the weather's bad, turn on dance music (I recommend the cable music channels, switching at random!) and have a dance party in the living room.

6. Have fun

It may sound crazy, but a long stretch of enforced routine means that every treat or change is more enjoyable for everyone involved.

This might be the time to make creative desserts, face time on the computer with relatives, play board games or pursue favourite hobbies.

Schedule movie nights, play jacks or tell each other stories.

7. Practise gratitude

While we struggle through this, we can count our blessings. Most of us have access to internet, running water, heat, secure housing and food.

And remember, if you're reading this and you're feeling healthy, it could always be worse. Count yourself lucky!

This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Joanne Seiff is the author of several books, including Knit Green, about textile sustainability. She works in Winnipeg as a freelance writer.