A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the importance of co-parenting effectively in high conflict divorce cases, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. As always, remaining child-centric℠ regarding all decisions impacting your children, should be first and foremost on both parent’s minds.
Remaining child-centric℠ does not only apply to high conflict parenting situations; it applies to all matters that affect our minor children. The closing of schools was announced today, in Michigan. In light of this development, remaining child-focused applies to all families as they work to navigate this strange time. I, myself, have a very active 14-year-old daughter. The online homework her public middle school is currently requiring her to complete, does not fill even one day of her week. As such, I created my own plan for my daughter, India, that has received such positive feedback, that I have decided to share it with others.
First, I believe we all do better with some form of routine and, more importantly, a sense of purpose. Based upon those two principles, here is the Plan:
Every day, India works on 4 areas of her life. Those four areas of focus include the mind, body, spirit and social action work.
I started this mission by asking my daughter to watch the original episode of the 1970s series, Mission Impossible. My daughter loves anything from the 1970s and 1980s, so this made sense, in my home, as a first step. Because (you guessed it) I created more of what I would call a “mission” for her to adhere to during the pandemic, rather than a boring old plan. You can certainly start off your child’s mission with any age appropriate movie or show that gets them fired up and sets the stage for the creation of extra structure and purpose during this unprecedented time.
Mind: The first day of the mission, I had India pick an inspiring book and dedicate an hour to reading it. The second day, I asked her to write down how she felt about being quarantined at home. The third day, she wrote letters to her grandmother and her best friend. You get the idea. Write about what you’re grateful for, which helps to keep your focus on the positives, instead of the uncertainty. You might even suggest that your child keep a journal to express his or her thoughts and feelings.
Body: Every day India exercises. In my house, this is not something that requires my direction. India is a competitive rock-climber, who is actually the one who gets me off the couch. Obviously, exercise should be age appropriate and varied to hold your child’s attention. An hour a day is a great goal. Depending on the age of your child, there have emerged many free guided workout and dance sessions on YouTube for kids.
Spirit: When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the United States, my daughter was having trouble sleeping. Our children are like sponges; they pick up on our stress, no matter how much we try to keep the information we share with them from being too frightening for their age. In order to help India before bed, we started doing a guided meditation or a bedtime story, designed to aid with sleep. I personally use the Calm app. LeBron James has a sleep series and there is also a story narrated by Matthew McConaughey! The app further includes guided sleep meditations, and some are specifically geared toward assisting with anxiety.
Social Action: Every day at dinner time, we discuss a way we can make things better during this troubling time for others. This part of the project is for the whole family! We have donated to Go Fund Me projects that are making masks and PPE for healthcare workers. Sometimes our social action plan may be as simple as driving by a friend’s home to honk and wish him/her a happy birthday while we blast our favorite birthday song out the car window. Social action, big and small, makes us feel good, connected and, most importantly, reminds us that what is happening in our world, at the moment, is not all about us.
Lastly, I tied my child’s mission to something she can look forward to when all of this craziness is reduced to a bad memory. When this is over, I am taking my daughter on a trip to Toronto to see her best friend, Lauren, whom she met 6 years ago at Camp Arowhon, in Algonquin Park, Canada. Hope truly does float! Until then, this is a perfect time to create new and meaningful rituals that might even continue long after life returns to “normal”, such as a weekly family game night.
The mission I have described has been in place since the day after school was first cancelled. The effect on my child has been nothing but positive. I also have to admit, for all of us working parents out there like myself, I feel a little less guilty working when my daughter is also working with structure and purpose. Since every child is different and they all have a wide variety of interests and motivations, there are a ton of resources online, from free drawing classes, to virtual tours of museums and zoos around the world, not to mention so many parents who are in the same, isolated boat as you, sharing a multitude of ideas.