Cooped Up with the Kids
A huge historic blizzard is raging in the Washington, D.C., area where I live. In a city that prides itself on being known as the most important city in the world, it’s a beautiful and humorous reminder that man is not in charge.
From the important people on Capitol Hill to the important moms in the homes, everyone is feeling a bit out of control as the snow piles up, the government is shut down, and the schools are closed yet again.
Last night, several of my young mom friends managed to dig out of their drives and gather at my house for supper. When I asked if we should cancel because of the treacherous conditions, one replied, “No way. If I don’t get out of my house, there’s no telling what I might do to my kids!” Now there’s an honest mom for you!
It is wearying to be shut up inside with a bunch of toddlers and young elementary kids for days on end — especially when you are used to a mother’s day out, preschool, or regular school. You may have awakened this morning dreading another day of whining, sibling rivalry, boredom, and a trashed house, and wondering how you could get through the day (the next hour?) without losing your cool. Take comfort. You are not alone, and you are normal.
Here are a few things that might help if you, too, are cooped up with kids, whether it’s the weather, sick kids, or simply your season in life:
- Pretend that you are running a “family camp.” Draw up a schedule for the next several days. Think in terms of one-to-two hour blocks: a craft block, a reading block, a quiet/nap time block, a play together block, and a free play alone block. For the “free play alone” block, organize different toys into separate stations. You can set a timer and have kids rotate from station to station. You may need to have the kids help you clean out, throw out, and organize the toys. I once realized that my toys were all jumbled together, and when I sent the kids to play, they couldn’t find parts and quickly became bored. Cleaning out and separating the toys helped, and they actually got interested again in old things. Kids respond to structure. It gives them a sense of security because they know what to expect. They will fight less. And you’ll have an emotional lift because you have a plan.
- Be creative with unusual ideas. One of my favorites is to go to an appliance store or the local bike shop and get a large box. Cut out windows and doors, hand out crayons and stickers, and let the kids decorate. Smaller boxes also work for train cars for little kids, and each child loves to have his or her own. Here are some more ideas: cover a table with a blanket or sheet for a fort; finger paint in the bath tub; watch old family movies; look at old family pictures together; gather kids to help clean out a closet you’ve been avoiding; cook together; play dress up (put paper grocery bags over heads with cutouts and decorate!); or put on music and have a dance party. If you need fresh ideas, call a friend up and compile a list together. When you have some unusual things planned, you’ll create a sense of “fun” instead of merely endurance, And you’ll use the TV, videos, and the computer less and instead encourage your child’s creativity.
- Schedule some “alone time” for yourself. Work out a trade with your spouse or a neighbor so that each of you can have at least one-and-a-half hours alone while the other takes the kids. Lock your bedroom door, put on headphones, or walk to a coffee shop. It’s best to plan early so you’ll know your turn for peace is coming! If you discover that all the neighborhood kids are “living” at your house, you may need to put a sign on your front door for part of the day that says, “Family rest time — please come back later,” so you can have a break. Yes, your kids will object, but do it anyway. You all need a little peace. If you know you are going to have that time alone, your attitude will change when you are with the kids!
- Do something for someone else. Shovel a neighbor’s walk, get coffee for the snowplow drivers, cook for a neighbor, bake cookies for your mailman or trash collector, or send cards and pictures to family members or shut-ins. We want to raise kids who are “others-centered” rather than “self-centered.” When we start feeling bored or sorry for ourselves, it’s a great time to do something specific for someone else.