How to survive self-isolation with your family

Kathy Carter


With parents off work or working from home, schools closing to most children, and individuals self-isolating, now is prime time to embrace this golden opportunity to bond with our beautiful children, find insta-worthy some family time, and make wonderful memories. But wait – with YOUR children!? Can you really get through this period without your little darlings angrily self-isolating in separate rooms? Here are some ideas on getting through the days with a smile on your faces.

Create a work from home window

This is new territory; employers must accept that the service workers provide may change if it’s conducted from home. Brits won’t forget the hilarious moment American academic Robert Kelly was interviewed by BBC World News about Korea, when his four-year-old daughter swaggered into the room, followed by his son, in a baby walker.

If you’re juggling kids and work, there needs to be rules about ‘Mummy or Daddy’s work time’, especially if it involves liaising with colleagues on the phone or via video calls. This depends on your physical set-up, but ideally you need quieter areas in which to work, and a deal brokered with your children about respecting boundaries and ‘work windows’. There can be rewards for everyone if the house rules are adhered to.

The TV babysitter will probably be required; this may involve Disney re-runs, a daily kids’ ‘film time’, or scheduled educational resources on TV or online. Naturally, it probably works best to keep these windows ‘little and often’, rather than whole chunks of time.

Collaborate on a book club

This idea can work well for your nearest and dearest who are not in the house, e.g. who live away from you. Ideally, you would all read the same book, or listen to the same story being read (even if it is a children’s book), to compare notes. If this isn’t feasible, then everyone just checks in every day at the same time for a half-hour book club (e.g. on Skype) to share their thoughts on their recent read (or listen!) and chat with the family.

You can all keep a diary of the books you’re reading (or listening to), and write up your notes, with pictures. The UK’s National Literary Trust has, for example, created activity charts, reading resources and multi-media links that all family members (no matter where they’re based geographically) can access. There are drawing resources too, from illustrators.

Go forest schooling

This does depend on the restrictions in place in your territory, and your local amenities, but for those who are able to, getting outside is key. You could, for example, build a forest school kit bag with a microscope, camera, rope, small tents, tools – anything that will allow you to spend time outdoors, building dens and swings, or searching for bugs.

Create a diary of the forest school experience – if you can’t get to a forest, most green spaces with fauna would work - and include school-related elements, e.g. relating to numeracy and writing.

Other ideas include wax crayon rubbings, taking photos of bugs (to research later), and making a ‘journey stick’; a memento of a nature day that starts life as a cardboard inner tune or a piece of card. Simply stick on fallen items like leaves and feathers with double-sided sticky tape to display at home.

Don’t rely on the TV

This may contradict the first point, but while the TV is a wonderful resource for kids spending more time at home, it perhaps shouldn’t be over-used. The key is perhaps to create windows and schedules – e.g. Daddy’s work time/Kids’ film time, cookery or craft time, school-work time, and TV time in moderation. It would be easy to slip into a regime of gaming or watching YouTubers cavorting, but our brain cells do need boosting!

Instead, look into other elements – you can watch the latest Broadway shows or virtually visit the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, all from the comfort of your sofa. Don’t forget to document the experience via a scrapbook or diary!

Try to talk

How often do families sit together and converse, with today’s busy lifestyles? Turn this concerning global situation around, and get to know your child some more during increased ‘home time’. See if they can get to know you, as well – why not interview each other, and edit the interviews into a podcast for the family? This is an ideal project to send to self-isolating grandparents.

Importantly, use the time to support your children’s mental health – they will undoubtedly be finding this period unsettling and scary, and worrying about their own family’s health. Try to keep upbeat about the health connotations in your territory when in the children’s company, to help limit the negativity that they will absorb.

Plan your next holiday

This won’t last forever. Create a scrapbook with the kids on your chosen destination – you can also watch relevant travel TV shows, cook national dishes, and research the big vacation event, ahead of when it actually happens!

There are many resources available online to help us learn a new language, and you can do all of these travel-related elements to a much larger extent at home than the child would experience if at school.

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