So you have a routine, now what?

A child paints

Written by Stella Hecht

Colorado has shifted from a stay-at-home order to a safer-at-home order, but many parents are still multitasking as they work from home and take care of their children. Two months have passed, and routines have been set. Yet, families are still struggling to navigate their new lives.

The CSU Early Childhood Center and the CSU Department of Occupational Therapy have put tips together to help you maintain your new normal during the safer-at-home order. 

I’m having trouble getting work done with young children around.

Consider if you can rearrange your schedule to work early in the morning before children wake up. Make some coffee and turn this into a nice time to be alone and productive. 

Take advantage of nap times as work times, and try alternating work times with your partner when possible. 

Set up 15-30 minute blocks of time where your child is set up with an activity where they can be mostly self-sufficient. Some activities include virtual field trips, sorting silverware, dusting, and art projects. 

Give yourself permission to allow screen time. This can be a valuable tool to allow you to work with fewer distractions. 

Remember to give your child a lot of attention when you aren’t working. This is a stressful time for children as well, spending special time together each day is important! 

My child is having big feelings.

Remember that this pandemic has disrupted everyone’s routines. This can be especially challenging for children who rely on familiar routines for feelings of safety and control. 

These behaviors can be a child’s way of trying to communicate their feeling with you. Feeling like anger, boredom, frustration, and tiredness might be your child expressing sadness about COVID-19. Try to respond gently and understand the stress your child may be experiencing. 

Try finding areas where you can give your child some control, like choosing what they want to wear or helping you plan what the family should eat for dinner. 

My child has so much energy.

If your child is having a hard time sitting for meals or staying calm for other quiet activities throughout the day, make sure they are getting the opportunity to let their energy out.

Organize activities throughout the day where your child can be loud, run, and jump, especially if you notice they are seeking out these types of activities inside. Let them know the expectations for returning to quiet activities later on. 

Try to allow your child to do something active before asking them to sit at the table or play quietly. Some ideas are a leap from, pillow fights, tug of war, dancing, and crab walking. Encourage your child to come up with some. 

My family is having a hard time following our new routines.

Try and keep your new daily routine consistent but flexible. Is it worth a meltdown to insist that your child get dressed for the day? Try adapting your expectation to this new normal and pick your battles based on priorities.

Make sure you set aside time to exercise together every day. This can be an excellent way to relieve stress for everyone in the family. Walks, bike rides, and other outdoor activities are a great way to break up the day with some outside time. 

Reassess your routine. Is what you’re expecting your child to do realistic for their age? Have you included too many things in your routine? Try modifying or simplifying it. 

There is no way to know what will work best for your family until you try. Remember, we are all dealing with uncertainty right now, and children are no exception. Give yourself and your family permission to make mistakes and spend time figuring out how to modify your current routine until you find one that works best for you.

These tips were prepared by the CSU Department of Occupational Therapy in partnership with the CSU Early Childhood Center. Both are a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.