Hi. My name is Sarah. I have 4 kids, and I am two months away from having my fifth. My husband and I have been working at home since mid-March, and we have no plans to send any of our kids to school in the fall. We are, to put it mildly, in the thick of pandemic parenting.
My heart tells me that someday, when I am an empty nester, I will look back at these cozy months at home, all 6 (soon to be 7!) of us crammed in a small house together ALL DAY LONG and think they were the best times of our lives because memory does that, you know? Erases the fighting and worry and amplifies the family dinners that were never interrupted by sportsball and makes you picture all those movie nights through the perfect rosy mental preset. But right now, my brain tells me that if I break up one more Animal Crossing squabble or go too many more weeks cooking 3 meals a day, I might never recover.
So, believe me when I say I NEED THESE PANDEMIC PARENTING LIFE HACKS, and I hope that you can use them, too.
- Start a book club with your kids. I have three boys ages 8, 12, and 14, and we started a pandemic book club in April. First, just the two older boys read Z Is for Zachariah, a creepy YA dystopian novel that I read in middle school and retained haunting memories of. We met every 5 chapters or so to discuss the book, and it was really fun to have a common text to bond over. Our next selection was Armada, and my 8 year-old joined the club by listening to the book on Audible because it was slightly above his reading level. We saved our book club meeting for the end of the novel, and we had s’mores by the backyard fire while puzzling together over the publisher’s discussion questions. Our current read is Where the Red Fern Grows, a book I have read to my older boys and they are excited to read again (on their own this time). It’s a just right book for my rising third grader, who really loves being on the same page as his brothers. We go slow, just a chapter each day, and I reread the book, too, so I can ask little questions along the way checking for completion and comprehension.
- Pick a Special Person every week. My youngest child, a seven-year-old daughter, LOVES this one, but the boys get a charge out of it, too. The Special Person gets to choose all the music when we are in the car and for meals. She gets to choose the game on game night, the movie on rainy afternoons. If there is an argument, the Special Person is right. If we are having ice cream, the Special Person gets the first bowl. Going for a hike? Special Person picks the place or the path— you get the idea. I even get the Special Person to help me plan dinners by suggesting their pick a couple of meals. Everyone looks forward to their Special Person week, and things seem a bit more harmonious. I stole this idea from Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, and it has certainly made us happier.
- Let Alexa decide. Need to choose an order for something or only need one kid to help you, but they all volunteer? Make them all pick a number between 1-10 and ask Alexa to choose one as well. Bam! The AI is the bad guy—not you!
- When in doubt, blow up a giant unicorn sprinkler. Trust me.
- Throw in a little summer school to break up all that screen time. We do writing prompts every day (Special Person gets to pick the topic), and because I teach public speaking, all the kids present their writing out loud and practice being good audience members. They are even working on writing (supremely terrible) jokes, which kills me. The boys do their book club reading while my daughter reads Junie B. Jones, her current book crush. Everyone does a little Kahn Academy, and I just ordered a slew of cursive writing books.
- Remember, quiet time is not just for nappers. I need some downtime in the afternoon, so, after lunch, everyone retreats to their own corner for a little while, and I usually end up taking a nap on my daughter’s bed while she plays Calico Critters (happy golden days, indeed).
- Too tired (of your kids) for movie night? Try movie afternoon. It’s the perfect way to fill the crabby 3-5pm time slot. Snacks, blankets, extra A/C— perfection!
- Pretend like you are at Disney World, and every time someone is crabby, eat ice cream. This probably works best when you’re pregnant.
Welp. There you have it—some pandemic parenting hacks so you can embrace chaos and survive these days at home with your whole fam damily under one roof. What about you? Any good tips for pandemic parenting?