Self-isolation with little ones – making plans and holding it together

Well life’s suddenly got a bit strange hasn’t it? So many of you with chronic illness (or without) will be social distancing, self-isolating and doing everything you can to avoid exposure to this freak virus. My seven year-old Small has renamed it ‘Corona-poop’, which I think is an entirely appropriate name.

I had ‘normal’ flu or something similar last week, so I’m already a bit stir-crazy! The thought of being at home for another 12 weeks isn’t a pretty one, but if that’s what we need to, we’ll do it as fully as we are able. When I was quite sad last night, my husband pointed out that the situation won’t last forever (and nearly got a punch). Although he is right, we will need to adapt to a new ‘normal’ for the next while.

Today we made the difficult decision to keep the children home from school. I’m trying to self-isolate, and it seemed silly sending two slimy germ-magnets into the classroom and the playground every day. It’s only day 1 with them at home and I can see the struggle this will entail for all of us!

So this morning we sat down, Small, Tiny and me, and we made a list of all the fun things we’d like to do and put together a routine we can follow each day. I thought I’d share some of our tactics to tackle the weeks and months we may have ahead of us with the kids at home all the time.

  1. Plan a routine
    We’ve made a simple, flexible plan. I’m hoping we’ll be able to access online learning from the school. I’ve asked Small if he has any ideas for projects we can research and do all together. I’m sure we’ll run out of steam at some point, but if we can keep to a routine, I’m sure it ill benefit us.
  2. Help them process fear and worry
    Tiny (4) is responding very differently to Small (7), and that’s to be expected. So I’m trying to think of ways to help them talk about the things that are making them sad. I’ve got a special diary for Small that I’ll encourage him to write in each day. I’ve told him he can be the next Samuel Pepys – although Covid-19 is an awful thing, it’s quite a remarkable time to be alive.
  3. Get creative with treats
    Small wanted to go to the zoo – although that ain’t gonna happen, maybe we could make our own zoo? We’re also planning a remote talent competition for his friends and to sew a superhero cape for Tiny. It’s actually quite fun thinking outside the box!
  4. Find a space for your own worries, away from the children
    Last night I was very anxious about the new recommendations from the Government. I felt swamped and was short-tempered with the children. Although this is bound to happen sometimes, I’ve realised I will need a place to process things myself and work hard on keeping level when I with the children. That will involve making sure I’m talking to people about how I feel and dedicating time to praying and writing each and every day.
  5. Practise thankfulness
    I know it’s cheesy, but finding things to be thankful for really does change your mindset. Today I am thankful that the compost in my bin turned out well, and for the lovely rabbits who calm everyone down. We’ll spend some time with the kids each day finding out what they are thankful for.
  6. Find some open space
    If you have a garden, great stuff, the garden will be your best friend. If not, you might have to go out at interesting times and to novel places to find a bit of outdoor space. We’re planning to go to a local country park every weekend to run around for a bit. Already this has become a source of excitement and anticipation. Last week, this would not have seemed like a big treat, but our frame of reference has already shifted. I have a feeling that small joys will feel expansive over the coming weeks.
  7. Get regular exercise
    I’m not a great fan of exercise, but can see it’s going to be necessary for the next while. I’m envisaging family Pilates and circuits in the garden, which I’m imagining will provide as much laughter as it does fitness.
  8. Reinvent the phonecall
    I have a strong dislike of being on the phone, as do many of my friends. But last night we spent an hour on the phone to my husband’s family on a group WatsApp call and you know what, it was so much fun! I’m going to call a friend for a chat tonight rather than just messaging and I can’t remember the last time I did that. I’m hoping we can set up phone play-dates for the children and their friends. Phonecalls might be making a retro comeback.
  9. Do what you can to keep your distance and keep clean
    This one is so hard – children need hugs and physical contact to know they are loved. Keeping a metre away from them is proving challenging. But I’m trying to hug from the side, blow kisses and discourage ‘clambering’ (something that will be especially tricky for Tiny, who treats me like a human climbing frame). In the end though, the risk of catching Covid-19 has to be weighed against their real need for contact and affection, particularly at a very unsettling time. Although they’re not at school, we’re keeping up rigorous handwashing (to the tune of ‘Yum yum, breakfast burrito’ – Spotify it, I dare you).

I’d love to hear suggestions of approaches to take for self-isolation with kids. You might be in it now, or you might be gearing up for it in the next few weeks. I found this Guardian article based on the experience of people in lockdown in Italy very helpful.

Let’s share our ideas and resources, worries and tears and make this Corona-poop situation as OK as we can for each other?

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