I'm an entrepreneur and single mom. What that translates to is my children always thinking that I'm available to them, even during what most would call normal business hours. The most interesting part is that, most times, I am. I can do my work anytime, but moments with our little ones cannot be replaced. My children and I are very close. We do everything together, talk about everything, share the good and the bad of life.
So, when the COVID-19 quarantine was set into place, it didn't disrupt much for us— at first. We went about our routine, came together to make sure that all lessons were done for my youngest's remote learning, and even took turns going to the grocery store so that we could all get some time to ourselves. As much as we loved each other, time apart was necessary.
The one thing that we didn't prepare for, was the lonely eight-year-old being taken out of the social construct that she was used to. Having interactions with peers her age, recess, cheer practice, being able to go to the park after school were just as important to her mental health as being taken care of and treated well at home. The more time she spent locked in the house, the more antsy she became. We tried everything: playtime, fun activities in the house, and even Skyping with family members. But, there was only so much YouTubing, playing MineCraft, reading, coloring, and toe polishing that a person could do. It was evident that she was missing her friends and people her own age to interact with. Her sister’s a teenager and I’m in my late 30’s, so no matter how hard we tried, keeping up with her bottled up energy was impossible. I found myself at a loss. How do you balance the dangers of infection with a deadly virus with the depression and cabin fever that quarantine presents?
Honestly, I got to the point where even I missed human interaction, so I tried to imagine how she felt. Talking to her confirmed my assumptions, and there was no easy fix. Anyone that she could have played with lived in a different household, came into contact with parents who may have had to work outside the home, and even family members from other households that they encountered on a regular basis. There's a new cause for the virus every day, and you never know how others clean themselves, their homes, or what preventative actions they utilize. Then there's the matter of people being asymptomatic. The worst feeling in the world, for a parent, is seeing your child wanting to interact with others her age, missing school, summer camps, and friends, and having to admit that there's nothing you can do about it.
With all the health issues that COVID presents, they didn't prepare us for the health issues that lack of sunlight and socializing would cause. So, as a parent. I took the proactive approach, asking friends and loved ones for suggestions for safe play for my youngest daughter. One recommendation was Zoom play dates with others her age. This could include tea parties, reading books, and watching movies together. Counseling was also very important, because it gave her an objective outlet for her feelings, where she doesn't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings or getting in trouble for her personal thoughts. We schedule playtime outside, and she goes with us to the store, just so she can get out into the world. We have had to get creative, and be flexible.
Listening to her requests and what she wants to do to be okay made a difference. No one likes being lonely, and that's even more the case being a rambunctious adolescent. So if I had an advice, it would be to let your children know that you understand that this is hard for them. Even in keeping them safe, they are experiencing a lifestyle change, too. Let them know that they matter, and you care that they are okay. Then, get some water guns, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, and tap into your inner child. Look at it as bonding, rather than a burden. You'll be surprised how great getting outside and playing will make you feel, and the bond that will be forged with your little ones when they see that their needs matter to you, too.