• Jody Kussin

In Times Like These #17 3-31-2020

We’re gonna try something new

Don’t worry about the old rules that governed your household. In these times, we all need to do whatever it takes to stay safe and sane. If you used to have a ‘no tv on the weekdays’ rule with your children, consider throwing that out the window. If you used to have a ‘no screen time after 6pm’ consider replacing that with a ‘we’ll play it by ear every day and see how it goes.’ Do not worry about ‘after these times’ at this moment. When the all clear whistle is rung, you can slowly return to your routine and structure and reinstate. For now, if helping your preschooler find peace and calm includes time on dad’s tablet, go for it. You are all wise parents, I’m sure, so of course you do not have to go overboard. You can still set limits, but you can also loosen limits on a case by case basis. No cell phones at dinner is always a good rule, whether you are sheltering in place or on vacation at a tropical location. On the other hand, if you have an agitated, surly teen, you may want to consider changing even that.

This is not a good time for power struggles nor is it a good time to throw up your hands and say, ‘oh well, let total chaos ensue.’ We can find the middle ground.

This applies to kids across the developmental range, as well as us adults.

Teens do not need to be given constant directives in these times. Y’all used to have at least eight hours’ break from one another, where they had the freedom to figure out how to navigate their world. Consider attempting an eight-hour window of NOT telling them what to do. You can do it before and after if you can’t help yourself, but…. we do not like anyone issuing commands at US all day long, and, guess what, neither do they! While theoretically this could be ‘a good time to…. write essays for college applications for the class of 2025 or finish an honors thesis or practice SAT and ACT flashcards, it’s also possible that this is NOT actually a good time. It’s not a good time for us, as parents, and it’s not a good time for our teens. In our attempts to manage our anxiety, there is a pretty good chance we are micro-managing perfectly capable adolescents. You know what happens next? 1- They get mad and 2- They withdraw and 3- They regress. So you may or may not get a draft out of them for their personal statement that may or may not be good enough to submit next October to some colleges, but you almost for sure will agitate your child, which in turn, will agitate you. Your good intentions thus, will not have a good outcome.

So – when possible – with children of all ages – repeat after me: RELAX the RULES and DECREASE the DIRECTIVES.

If need, write those down on your hand (but use sharpies because given how often we’re washing these days, the words will disappear quickly.)

And by the way, this also applies to us. Same deal. This is not the time to be overly critical of ourselves. You are doing the best you can, under challenging circumstances, which likely are going to get worser before they get worse. Relax your self-imposed rules. Decrease the directives and relax the rules you’ve created for yourself.

Rather than counting steps, count laughs. If you are not laughing at minimum hourly, make that a goal. And instead of worrying about watching too much tv, search out funny old things to watch, with your children, partner, or by yourself…those oldies but goodies – I Love Lucy is timeless and do your children know who Alex P. Keaton is? Find him.

In these times, make sure to celebrate the little things – did someone in your household:

Get fully dressed?

Trim their toenails? Trim the dog’s toenails?

Weed a garden?

Surpass the laundry loads per week record?

Have their daily meltdown in the bedroom and not at the dinner table?

Make everyone crack up at a really bad joke?

Remember to put the seat down and close the kitchen pantry door?

Collect some caterpillars?

Start on decorations for Passover? Easter? April family birthdays?

Play with a sibling?

Relax. Decrease. Celebrate little things.


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