Parenting During the COVID-19 Lockdown

By on 03-20-2020

Ideas to help your family stay calm and screen-free

In many countries around the world, schools are closed, travel is restricted and the immediate future is unpredictable. There’s no denying that life as we know it is going to be quite different for a while. We encourage you to implement any changes you consider essential to you and your family’s well being. But we’d also like to remind you that in uncertain times, a routine can be what we crave. As we all do our best to adapt to the current exceptional circumstances, it’s time to get used to a new kind of normal. 

We’re all about family at Qustodio, and that’s why our entire team has been working from home since last week, in line with WHO recommendations for social distancing. We’re working together by staying apart - but that certainly doesn’t mean being disconnected! One of the first things we did was to share our tips for digital parenting during a pandemic with each other – and now we’d like to share them with you! 

It’s so easy to fall into the lure of extra screen time (for both kids and parents!), and our data shows a huge surge in Italian children’s screen time since their country-wide lockdown was implemented. However, we know from research that when it comes to screen time, consistency is key

We know how difficult it can be – we’re parents too! But giving in now will make it incredibly hard to go back to stricter rules later. “Children are already going through confusing and major changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” says Maria Guerrero, Family Psychologist. “Consistency in screen time rules will not only contribute to their digital safety and wellbeing, but will also give them a much-needed sense of normalcy.”

Find your family’s “new normal”

While a couple of days of chaotic, wild living in pajamas might be fun, it’s definitely not sustainable or conducive to getting work done. Most of us with kids at home agree that drawing up a schedule is the best way to maintain some sort of order. 

First off, it’s important to recognize that temporary homeschooling is not the same as regular school and not to stress about kids being less focused as they would be in regular classes. That said, having your kids draw up their daily timetable gives them a sense of ownership and helps them work on their own time management skills. Building in designated “tech time” will help keep screen time in check too. We suggest helping your child with a basic framework that they can complete themselves. For example, you can block specific times for exercise each day while they choose from a list of activities you’ve decided on together. Filling out their timetable for the next day can also become another daily activity!

We’ve created a downloadable, printable template that you can use to get started :)

Take it to the kitchen

Being at home means having access to the most exciting room in the house - plus everyone is going to need feeding! If your kids are old enough, they can help with daily meal planning and preparation, while younger kids will love to get stuck into anything that’s both messy and delicious! A quick survey round the (virtual) Qustodio office proved that anything kitchen–based is a tried and tested hit. Start the day with a bang by whipping up pancakes together for a family breakfast like our Frontend Developer Florin. Or why not try a pizza-making competition like our Creative Lead Marc and his family? Still not convinced? Take it from an expert in digital parenting - “Cooking’s always a winner!” says Qustodio CEO and founder Eduardo.

We love The Spruce Eats’ collection of recipes for cooking with kids!

Don’t wait to create!

Staying at home is a great opportunity to focus on the activities that tend to get less emphasis on the average school curriculum. If your kid is a budding Picasso, the COVID lockdown is the perfect time to nurture those talents! 

Art is also a great way for children to express any emotions they might be feeling. Our Social Media Manager Rosie previously worked as an art teacher and suggested a musical activity to help kids connect with their inner artist: 

Prepare a playlist of different types of music to represent different moods and allow children to paint freely while listening, noticing the feelings that come up, and the different colors they choose. Later, you can chat together about what they think their paintings represent.

For younger children, painting is always a good excuse to get messy! Our Head of Marketing David loves hand painting with his young son. High five! And if you want to have a go at making something both beautiful and functional, why not try this fun homemade rainbow soap project or this recipe for DIY hand sanitizer – you can’t get more practical than that! 

For more great creative activities check out art teacher Cassie Stephens on Instagram who is sharing loads of amazing resources to help parents get through the quarantine period.

Move it

We all know how important it is that kids are physically active every day. Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services say that adolescents and children age 6 and older need at least an hour a day of physical activity, while children ages 3 to 5 should be physically active throughout the day to enhance their growth and development. Before you panic, it’s easier than you might think to fit that into your new stay-at-home routine. Classic party games like musical statues and musical chairs are surprisingly tiring, while you can create obstacle courses using everyday household objects such as cushions and plastic cups. This list of 87 Energy Busting Indoor Games from What Moms Love has enough ideas to keep cabin fever at bay till Christmas! It won’t be that long until life is back to normal, but we do advise you to stock up on some colored tape – you’ll be amazed at all the things you can do with it! 

When it’s time to turn down the energy level or you just need a bit of family zen-time, yoga is the perfect activity to destress and relax. Qustodio’s VP of Brand Jen uses these printable kids’ yoga stories with her two boys to unwind.

Mindful moments

There’s no doubt about it – we are living through unprecedented times. Whether they show it or not, our children will certainly be feeling the weight of the situation. The practice of mindfulness, which has been growing in popularity, calls for us to simply be in the present moment and carries a host of benefits for children and adults alike. You’ll probably find explaining the concept trickier than just jumping straight in with a few activities.

Start by having your kids sit or lie down quietly with their eyes closed and paying careful attention to all the sounds they hear. Another technique that’s always popular is trying to hold a square of chocolate in the mouth and letting it melt without chewing it. It’s harder than it sounds! Here are 4 more easy to implement mindfulness activities to cultivate calm.

Bring your kid to work

Ok, we know it’s not practical to always have a small person by your side while you work, but older kids in particular will love to learn about what it is you actually do all day. Teach them the basics and get them to be your assistant by giving them a few tasks to do. Our UX Designer Marian shared one of her favorite childhood memories:

“My grandpa was a photographer and I loved when he took me out to take photos with him!”  

If your children are too young (or just unwilling) to assist you, you can always let them play with toys related to your vocation while you get on with it. QA Manager Laia loves scientific toys like Meccano, Knex and rock and mineral or circuit kits, while our VP of Product Development Manuel proves he likes to keep innovation in the family by building Lego robots with his daughter. Check out Wired’s list of the best STEM toys for kids for more inspiration!

Go analog!

Are you forever telling your kids about the good old days? Now’s your chance to convince them how good things really were by taking a trip back in time to life before digital. Traditional board games were the clear winner within the Qustodio team. Frontend Lead Victor enjoys quality time with his 6-year-old niece playing chess, while other popular suggestions include Risk, Twister (a homemade version using an old sheet!) and Monopoly. Extra time at home also means more time to explore… have you got some old tech lurking in the basement? Maybe you can dig out your favorite old records and listen to them together, or use that cassette recorder to tape a family radio show!

And there are some things (like playing dress up, building a den or having an indoor picnic) that never go out of fashion! There’s also plenty of time to work on those survival skills for when we do finally get back out into nature. Learn how to tie 10 essential scouting knots or make these fun semaphore flags. Get more throwback inspiration here (simply swap the outdoor camping for indoors - it’s just as fun!).

Community spirit

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the importance of being part of a community - it’s what will get us through this! Schools should have measures in place so that your children don’t fall behind on coursework, but one positive thing to come out of the Corona-chaos is that so many of us are sharing resources online and building communities. 

“We're all in this crazy situation together, so why not continue to be creative and create community by being creative and sharing?”

Emilie Delcourt, who runs a creative learning space in Barcelona, started a C-19 Creative Challenge within days of hearing about the school closures. “We're all in this crazy situation together” she says, “so why not continue to be creative and create community by being creative and sharing?” She’s regularly sending out creative prompts and daily reminders via social media to inspire families to paint, draw, cook, dance, write and experiment.

Meanwhile, communities around the world have been using high and low tech solutions to band together and help each other however they can. As we, like you, do our best to hold it all together - working, parenting, balancing - it’s heartening to see an overwhelmingly positive use of technology to support each other throughout such trying times, so let’s keep it going!

Join us over on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where we’ll continue to share the latest information, innovations and  inspiration to help you parent with more confidence during the Covid-19 crisis. Everything will be alright!

Qustodio’s Smart Parenting Tips newsletter is designed to help you stay informed as a parent and raise your children in the digital age with a bit more confidence. No scaremongering. Nothing trendy. Just the best advice from real experts.

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