Rebuilding a New Normal from the Ground Up: For Families

I was talking to my Mom on Mother’s Day and, like our usual conversations, we talked about everything. The weather. Our jobs. What we’re making for dinner. What we’re doing to try to stay healthy and in shape during quarantine. What movies we’ve seen or TV shows that are worthy of a binge watch. And, of course, what my kids are up to that day.

After sharing some of the most recent funny and outrageous stories parents of young kids can relate to, she mentioned she’s eagerly awaiting the day when we can all get together again, hopefully before cold and flu season picks up.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation. I got stuck on “cold and flu season.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my stomach dropped when she said that phrase. I felt myself getting anxious. I started creating scenarios in my head, asking myself a lot of the anxiety-driven unproductive “what if” questions:

  • What if everyone gets sick when the kids go back to school in the fall?
  • What if COVID-19-related hospitalizations spike again when everyone’s back in the same crowded spaces together?
  • What if we have to go back into quarantine?
  • What if my husband’s job isn’t so understanding about a split workday as we divide childcare so we both have time to work?
  • What if there really aren’t enough hours in the day to work, take care of the kids, maintain the house, maintain our health, maintain some semblance of normalcy? What will suffer? What will I have to sacrifice? What will my family have to sacrifice?

I felt myself getting nervous. Anxious. Scared. Things I do when I let my mind take over and don’t manage the flow of negative news always coming our way.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself those were all unproductive emotions. I didn’t judge the emotions or berate myself for feeling them. Quite the opposite: I acknowledged them. This is important because these feelings, when left unchecked, can inspire (unproductive) actions. The best way to diffuse emotions is to acknowledge them. By recognizing what I was feeling – and understanding why – I remembered that nothing comes from being worried or anxious about the what ifs.

Reality check: I know I’m not the only parent right now worrying about the what ifs. In fact, there have been countless articles talking about the psychological impact on people as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine (read: no one is sleeping, or at least not well).

But operating in a constant state of worry and anxiety is unproductive and unhealthy. And as the world slowly starts to reopen and we’re challenged to create a new normal, you will have to be present enough (not in a worry or anxious state) to wisely review and consider options for a new normal for you and your family.

Here are my suggestions to start navigating the new normal as a family:

  1. Start with a family meeting. We talked about the value of having a family meeting (or whatever you want to call it) to get everyone on the same page, regardless of what external factors are in play. Ensure everyone in the family is heard, has input and is included in the plan. Get in the habit of reviewing and planning together every morning or every evening.
  2. Talk about What’s Working and What’s Not. At the family meeting, talk about what is working and not working in the return to a new normal. No complaints, just the facts. Applaud the things that worked and encourage ways to continue them. For the things that didn’t work, identify why they didn’t work then brainstorm together to come up with ideas to try to make things better. This way all issues are dealt with and everyone has a voice, ownership and responsibility for their part.  Keep reviewing this list every few weeks to see how things are improving. Watch how this improves a productive approach to communication among the entire family.
  3. Play the Imagine Game. During the family meeting, ask everyone to imagine what life will be like when we go back to school. Challenge the family to think outside the traditional approach to the back to school season. For example, start by asking, what if you could never go back to the school building? Or, what if you had to learn in local small groups in our neighborhood? Or how could we make our remote learning sessions better/more productive? There are so many unknowns right now and we know that when we finally create the new normal, it will not look like what it used to be.
  4. Commit to your one thing. Life has a funny way of challenging our greatest plans. Though your family’s efforts to define and commit to living their safe, healthy and happy new normal, life may have other plans. So consider committing to just one thing. What is one thing that you would like to have happen – as a family – regardless of what the future brings? Maybe it’s family game night or movie night. Maybe it’s having dinner together as a family every night (or at least on school nights). Maybe it’s committing to learning how to do something new together once a month. Regardless of what life shares that may further challenge our definition of normal, this is the one thing you can commit to doing together.
  5. Ask questions. When we shift to the new normal, remember to check in with each other. It’s easy to fall into old ways if new habits aren’t practiced routinely. To keep relationships growing and productive, ask each other questions that encourage discussion, not just one-word or closed questions. For example, instead of “how was your day?” ask “what is one new thing you learned today?” or “what was your favorite part of the day?” Engaging each other keeps us sharing our thoughts. Feeling heard and involved is an important part of staying mentally healthy in changing times.

Take Action
Creating a new normal as a family doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This is your opportunity to create a new approach to how you want life as a family to be. Stop and notice what worked and didn’t work in the way things used to be. Do more of what worked, and replace what didn’t work with new ideas.

Imagine. Brainstorm. Create. It is yours to invent, so invent something better. Then work together to make it happen.

Define your new normal as a family.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day ???

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day ???

I have this little page-a-day memory book my husband gave me when my boys were born that lets me write down one thing they each did every day (if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift, I highly recommend this). Every night before bed, I reflect on the day and write down one thing for each of my kids. It could be something funny, a big milestone or something particularly challenging that we’re working through. Just one thing.

And as I’ve been writing down memories, I’ve been keeping track of the number of days in quarantine. When I realized we were at day 45, I made the intentional decision to stop writing it down. As I wrote “Day 45” in my memory book, it suddenly felt like I was making tick marks on the wall, like a prisoner would.

But that feeling of being trapped is far from what I’ve been feeling. I sat there with the pen in my hand, allowing myself the moment to reflect on what the last nearly 2 months have been like. There have been so many lessons learned, so many new memories, so much growth.

Big things, like watching my boys figure out how to solve disagreements on their own, with WORDS. Sure, there’s plenty of yelling and pushing and wrestling, but I’m hearing more discussion before, during and after the brawl. Progress! (Which, by the way, is also a lesson that big progress is the sum of regular and recurring small progress.)

My boys are learning how to recognize the importance of being self-managed. That just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you can be mean or rude to others (read: hangry is a thing that happens to Mom and none of you like it). That just because you’re tired doesn’t mean it’s ok to hit or scream because anything else is too hard. That just because you want something doesn’t mean you can just take it. Forced to be in the same space, these lessons are rising to the top and we are dealing with them at an accelerated rate compared to what we would have been doing in the old normal.

Even I have learned so much, like the importance of accepting the fact that I can’t do it all at 100% all day, every day. That the kids need me to be as tuned in to them as they are to me, so it’s important to take that block of time for self-care so I can be present for them. That the days may sometimes feel long and challenging, but it’s just a fleeting moment and at the end of the day, it’s a chance to spend time with my family in a way we likely never will be able to again. “This moment matters” is something I now find I regularly tell myself (even if it’s sometimes done through gritted teeth).

But I think the most incredible lesson I’ve learned that I want to share with you as a parenting coach is that talking goes a long way.

I often share with my clients the importance of asking questions to really understand what’s being said to you. And kids are naturally good at this. They’re so curious about what’s happening around them, they ask questions ALL DAY LONG to get more information to make sense of their world.

So I started taking advantage of this.

I ask them questions, too. I ask them to tell me what they see as we’re out for a walk with the dog (basically a game of I Spy). I ask them about things we’re seeing on TV or in books. And I encourage them to ask me lots of questions because not only are they learning about the world for themselves, they’re showing it to me through their own eyes.

Ask yourself: how could you lean in to those questions from your kids instead of ignoring them or telling them to wait until you’re less busy? A question is an opportunity for discussion. And maybe this moment is the only moment you will hear this question and create this conversation possibility. How could you adjust your approach to discussions to stop talking so much and listen instead?

April showers bring May flowers. That better be true because April came in like an overtired and underdressed toddler in New England this year. We’ve had more rainy, cold days than nice ones, forcing everyone to stay inside more than we’d like. And since I really don’t like having my kids in front of the TV all day, I’ve learned how to leverage the movies and shows we do watch as teachable moments. To lean in to the questions to encourage greater conversations about what we can learn from what we’re seeing.

So, I’m going to shift the Quarantine Diaries slightly to focus on lessons in movies. Because let me tell you, when you take the time to stop and notice what messages are being shared in any movie, you get a faster view of the bigger picture – you don’t have to wait for life to send it in its own terms. This creates the space and the opportunity to actively listen and engage instead of passively hear and ignore. You learn how to start a conversation with others – including your kids – to encourage them to see the bigger picture, talk about it and even get a little creative with it.

So stay tuned for the first installment of Lessons in Movies, coming soon.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28

Ok, I’m going to get real. The last week has been… bizarre. We’re in this weird little routine that feels normal most days and then something happens that throws everyone off kilter. For example:

  • On Tuesday, the oldest refused to sit still during rest time and, as a result, was a basket case by 4pm, resulting in an epic tantrum about what color popsicle he had. This encouraged the middle one to consistently and loudly point out that he was listening and was behaving. That went over really well, as you can imagine.
  • On Wednesday, we all just got back into the house after a walk and, as I was getting the dog situated, the middle one bolted out the front door and into the middle of our street as I tried to delicately run to catch him with the baby still in the carrier attached to my chest. This was all done to the soundtrack of the dog barking at another dog walking by and the cackling of my oldest who thought this was the height of comedy.
  • And on Thursday, the baby spit up every time I looked away (I think he did it on purpose) and was working through teething pains and a growth spurt. This made for a very tricky day for the older two because my usual attempt at equally dividing attention was not possible and, as a result, I found the middle one proudly showing off his new artwork after he was left alone for a short time: crayon on the wall behind his bed.

I have no idea where the crayon came from since crayons are not allowed in the bedrooms FOR. THIS. VERY. REASON.

These are just some of the big things that happened this week. And as I cleaned up after the boys went to bed and got the house ready for the next day, I found myself feeling really down. I know my triggers. I’m self-aware enough to know when I need a minute to regroup. But it has been an unrelenting requirement for me to be 100% on every day for the last 28 days. And it caught up to me this week. And it caught up to the boys, too.

And like I said, I was really down on myself for being so grumpy with the boys, confused about their behavior and why they felt the need to test me on everything all day, every day.

And then I stumbled on this article about regression in kids. And man was it eye-opening.

“Stress and anxiety can show up in all kinds of ways in children: irritability, defiance, clinginess. But one of the most common responses is regression. Sleep regression and toddler potty training regressions are common, but psychologists say all children (and adults) may regress in times of stress.”


Stressed. The kids were stressed. And anxious. How could they not be? Our routine changed literally overnight. We haven’t seen anyone different in weeks. Only Daddy can run out to go to Target or the grocery store. There are masks and gloves involved when he leaves. We wash our hands ALL. THE. TIME.

I’ve been having strange dreams and not sleeping well. Why would it be any different for my children who, though young, are still oddly aware of what’s going on around them?

So, though I normally share a few lessons as part of my Quarantine Diaries posts, today, I’m just going to share one: tune out to tune in.

We’ve talked about this on our blog quite a bit and we share this bit of wisdom with our clients. Here’s the gist: you cannot be clear about who you are, like what gets you excited and what triggers you, unless you take the time to tune out the noise of the world and tune in to you.

So, this is really a two-pronged lesson.

#1) Tune out the world to tune in to yourself. If you’re feeling irritable, take some time to figure out why. When things are going particularly well, allow yourself time to reflect. Do more of what’s working, what feels good. Figure out where or how to improve on the things that aren’t going so well. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Stay ahead of the triggers and stressors that change your mood and temperament.

#2) Tune out the world and the voice in your head telling you what you’re doing wrong (or not good enough) and tune in to what your kids are telling you. It could be quite literally what they’re telling you. It could be body language or specific behaviors. It may be a message hidden in the words they’re actually using (intentionally or not). Pay attention to what they’re saying and doing. Quite often, you’ll find a seemingly simple mannerism is actually speaking volumes.

Some Activities

  • Science Experiments – Check out some easy DIY science experiments and tie it into the weather. Plant seeds and watch them grow. Use shaving cream in a glass of water with food dye to resemble rain from the clouds. Vinegar and baking soda for the sizzle effect (add food coloring to create a rainbow). Get creative and help your kids make connections and draw correlations to what’s going on.
  • Get Moving –Teach the kids the Electric Slide or the Macarena. I tried to teach my boys Cotton Eyed Joe and they stood still, staring at me with this half smirk, half terrified expression (yup, achievement unlocked. I am well on my way to being an embarrassing mom). Have them join you for a short workout (like one of my favorites, 8-minute abs) or turn on a Kids Yoga channel on YouTube. Just start moving. It not only helps get extra energy out, but it also helps to clear the mind of any negative energy and thoughts.
  • Talk – I mentioned this in my last Quarantine Diaries entry: make time to talk. I sat down with my oldest every night this week to try to talk about the day with him. Thursday night was the first time I was able to get him to articulate what’s going on: he misses school and his friends, but he likes being home. He wants some space but wants to play with his brothers. He wants some “mommy time” but also wants to be with his brothers and his dad. He’s confused and he doesn’t know how else to explore or fully experience that emotion. He doesn’t know how to navigate this emotion on his own, but after talking to him, I now know how I can help guide him to better understanding a more productive way to respond to this emotion and the corresponding frustration that comes with it.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

If you feel like relationships are getting strained due to the quarantine, join me for my FREE 30-minute webinar on Wednesday, April 15 at 8:30pmET to learn how to have your relationship(s) survive quarantine.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

The days have honestly been blending together because it’s the same routine over and over. But honestly, I’ve found my groove. I’ve always been aware of my kids’ schedules – especially when we approach that hangry timeframe – but I’ve been more in tune to their behaviors over the last 17 days because I’m with them all the time. Though I thought I really knew them, spending so much time with them has helped me know them at an even deeper level.

I know when a minor nuisance will be brushed off and when it will escalate (and how quickly).

Yard work with Mom

I know when my 3-year old starts to ignore me (I mean intentionally tuning me out), especially when I’m telling him to stop, slow down or just a flat-out “no,” he’s tired.

I know when my 2-year old starts to run around like a Tasmanian devil with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc, it’s because he’s tired.

And I know when my 5-month old burps, 9 times out of 10, it will be followed by a surprising amount of spit-up.

I am seeing their strengths and challenges appear more clearly. I am seeing their passions and interest developing. I am seeing them start to share who they really are.

And I have to say it’s been amazing. My first real “break” from it all came yesterday, day 17. My husband was able to monitor work emails from his phone while he ran point on childcare and I took care of my own work and things around the house. It wasn’t without interruption, but the extra hands and eyes helped me tackle a significant to do list.

But as I got the boys ready for bed, I realized something: my day felt off. I didn’t get to be part of their days the way I was for the last 16 days. I didn’t get to read with them, play with them or find new activities for them to stay busy with. I didn’t have to break up (many) fights. I was the back-up.

And it made me realize how important this role is to me. Sure, it’s tiring, but when it wasn’t there, I missed it.

I am now aware that I’m going to miss the crazies. I’m going to miss the giggles and running around in circles. I’m going to miss hearing the boys get each other riled up. I’m going to miss having this happen all day, every day when things get back to “normal.”

It took a solid 2 weeks for all of us to get our footing, but once I got into a groove with my new reality, I had an enlightening moment: I see that as the moments of life, I am starting to be okay with whatever it sends. This new normal suits me just fine. Truth be told, I stood in the kitchen completely unsure of what to do with myself when I realized the baby was taking his nap and the big two were entertained and supervised. I’m usually so pressed for time, I didn’t know where to start on my to do list. And then I found myself wondering what I’m going to do when the big two are back in school and everything goes back to the old routine.

Brief meeting

But that’s another topic for another day…

My Top Lessons

  1. Treasure the moments, however they show up. Because in a blink of an eye, they are changed. See the amazing in the tough situations. Appreciate when a moment of growth has given you even a moment of peace and quiet. Don’t want more of it. Don’t lament that it’s happening (so fast). Just appreciate what you get. All too quickly, things return to their “normal” and those moments will be gone. Take a mental snapshot and feel grateful. That moment when everyone is sitting together at the dinner table? Take a mental snapshot. That moment when you find them sitting quietly together reading or playing? Take a mental snapshot. That moment when you realize they look cute but may be in cahoots and what might follow may be absolute mayhem? Take a mental snapshot.
  2. You cannot do everything. I’m going to say this again for the people in the back. YOU. CANNOT. DO. EVERYTHING. And even if you do somehow manage it, you will not be able to physically or mentally give 100% to everything. That in and of itself was a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t like doing anything half way, so I often felt frustrated, tired and defeated every night when I fell into bed. Realizing that I can’t do everything I wanted to, was a significant mindset shift that drastically changed the intention of the day.
  3. Journal. I have a journal I write in every night. I write one big thing that happened that day for each of my boys. That’s it. That’s my journal entry. But it allows me to remember both the big moments and the small moments that would otherwise be lost in the bustle of every day. Flipping back through it will absolutely bring a smile to your face as you remember something little, like when your 5-month old started driving his toy car across his play mat, or something big, like when your 2-year old asked to stop using diapers or your 3-year old has a brilliant idea to use a fork when painting pasta to avoid getting paint on his hands (*mind blown*). Big or small, write it down.

Some Activities

  • Weather – We had a variety of weather over the last few days in New England. We got outside when it was nice and talked about the blue sky and the clouds. We talked about the wind and we talked about rain. We used the moment to talk about the things around us that in other moments, we would have passed right by.
  • Yard work – This was a first for me: I let my 3-year old help with some spring garden clean-up. We were only out for about an hour, but the physical activity, combined with the guided focus took a lot out of him. He was so excited to be the helper, carrying rakes and shovels out to the garden. He talked about it for the next 24-hours and got my 2-year old excited to help next time. He felt productive and proud that he was able to contribute to something on my to do list. In his eyes, he helped Mommy do something that would otherwise have been something I’d have to do without them. And, we got some important things in the yard done.
  • Read a book and do an activity – We started finding things to do that we read about in a book. For example, If You Give a Moose a Muffin is a recent fan favorite, so as we read it, we picked out a few things the moose does: eats muffins, makes sock puppets, paints a scene, tries on his Halloween costume. We picked one thing (paints a scene) and set off to do our own painting adventure.
  • Talk – To your kids. To your partner or spouse. To your friends. To your neighbors. To your family. Talk to people. Whether it’s the lack of human contact or that the pandemic has made people realize the importance of relationships, tap into your ability to just talk to people. Listen to what they have to say. Share your own stories, concerns, lessons learned. My favorite is asking everyone, including your kids, “What is the best thing that has happened to you so far, today?” or at the dinner table, “What was your favorite part of the day today?”

COVID-19 created a new reality for us, one that we were thrown into without the chance to truly digest. Each day has its own unique challenges as we navigate working and parenting (and teaching and staying healthy and taking time for ourselves) in a 24-hour day. But it’s possible. It just requires a mindset shift – one that accepts our reality and uses our energy to be happy, safe and productive in it.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

If you feel like you’re struggling to find an approach to working, parenting, teaching and staying healthy in a 24-hour day, join me for my 1-hour Group Coaching Class on Wednesday, April 1 at 8pmET to learn how to implement a health mindset shift to find success in every element of your day. No guilt. No frustrations. Just productive action.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

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Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

Our days are frequently filled with important commitments in our business. From connecting with customers and clients, developing employees, addressing challenges and implementing our strategic plans, we rarely have a moment to think. That is until COVID-19 opened up our schedules.

As a Coach and speaker to CEOs and HR professionals, much of my life is on the road. But last week, this changed. Now my no-longer-fully-booked March and April has me almost feeling like I am either on vacation or a sabbatical.

It’s easy to lose momentum this way. It’s easy to feel defeated. So it requires a mindset shift to ensure you staying productive and purposeful.

If you are in a similar place where you have found yourself with more time than you normally have, it will take some intention to redefine how you want your days to be. A couple of leisurely mornings feel good, but without a plan, you may find your screen and Netflix time increasing with no other reason than to fill time.

To stay productive in your changed workday, planning and intention will be your best allies. Consider these ideas to help you stay focused, grounded and performing.

  1. Define your priorities. What is important to accomplish in the next week, 2 weeks or month? What do you want or need to do for work? What do you want to learn or develop? What do you want or need to do in your leisure time? Once you’ve spent some time thoughtfully answering these questions, break the priorities down into meaningful and productive weekly and daily goals. Without clarity, the days – then weeks – will run away from you and you will not have made any of the progress you intended to make.
  2. Create a daily schedule. With a clear set of goals or things you want to achieve, create a daily schedule, including times. Achievement requires structure. What time are you getting up? What time do you work out, read, work, connect with others, learn/grow? What time do you connect with family, make time for yourself, do your planning and centering? Having a daily schedule provides you with the structure and focus you need to ensure you achieve your goals.
  3. Eat wisely. Sleep intentionally. If you are normally out of the house and now find yourself at home, be intentional about what food you bring into the house. Extra time and the wrong food at home is a recipe for future challenges. Plan your meals and snacks. Keep the junk food out of the house. The same intention is required with your bedtime. Don’t allow yourself to drift off to sleep on the couch in front of Netflix. Plan what you want to watch and go to bed each night at a committed bedtime. Keeping your sleep pattern regular in this period of less structure will help you stay energized during the day so the days are productive (and will help you more easily slip back into the out-of-the-house routine when it starts back up again).
  4. Engage an accountability partner. When our calendars were filled, others kept us on track. Now without the blocks on our calendars, the days can quickly go by without much happening. If you know you will struggle living to your daily schedule, engage a coach, friend or colleague to hold you accountable to what you defined as your goals. Having someone you are accountable to can shift you from wandering during the day to staying on your schedule and achieving what you want to achieve.

Soon, we will all be back to our busy days with schedules that allow us too little time. Having a lot of time now may feel good at the moment but will quickly get away from us unless we take control and build in some structure.

Take Action
Stop and notice how successful you are with an open schedule. Based on what you notice, determine how to use these four steps to help you create structure, goals and organization around your days. This will help you keep your success routine regardless of whatever changes the world sends your way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

The last time you heard from me was the Day 6 recap – the completion of nearly one full week in quarantine. Coming to you a few days later, I can confidently say we’re doing well. We made it through the weekend and as I slammed into Monday morning, I found myself repeating my new mantra: “What day is it?”

This wasn’t the normal groggy Monday morning wake-up where you have to remind yourself that yes, you have to get up with your alarm. No, this was the “will the day be any different than it’s been for the last 10 days?” question.

Admittedly, if I wasn’t keeping a journal to mark days in quarantine and what life looked like for the family at home together, I probably wouldn’t even know what day of the week it is, never mind the number of days in quarantine.

So, in honor of my “what day is it?” mantra (because honestly the last few days have blurred together), I’m going to give you a high-level summary of how things went:

  • We went for walks. Apparently, this was a big activity of choice for many in New England as we were given a few very nice, unseasonably warm days. I was outside in a t-shirt with the kids and was NOT cold. That never happens in March!
  • We attempted organized activities. Some of them went well (like dot paints) and some of them did not (like a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood).
  • We tried changing things up. Normally, I’m very strict about keeping toys in the playroom. That is the room designed for all the playthings, so I encourage my kids to keep the toys – especially the small ones or the millions-of-little-pieces things (i.e. Legos) in there. There’s a less likely chance of losing anything and I don’t need to worry about what the baby and/or pets will try to eat. But we changed it up this past weekend, at least a bit: I told the kids they could take some of those off-limits-outside-of-the-playroom-toys out. Some of it went well, other parts did not.
  • Planned meals. I normally create a meal plan for the week to ensure that we aren’t wasting time figuring out what people want to eat and having about 100 different ideas and then no one eating what’s actually made. I was a bit too loose on this over the last week so I implemented the planning again. We saw significantly fewer refusals and the boys ate right away (instead of goofing off or slipping into a hangry spiral that got too far out of control).
  • Potty training. Part of me is still not entirely sure adding this level of stress and frustration to the current situation made a ton of sense, but then again, we’re home and we have zero interruptions. Now makes sense. As of this writing, we’re on day 3 and the process has been… what you can expect. I swear, this is the part of parenting I was woefully unprepared for. The patience. The time it takes for this to really sink in. The anger from the independent and stubborn children when you tell them it’s time to go back to the potty to try again. The confusion when they don’t listen and stand up soaking wet…

My Top Lessons

  1. Make the little decisions – I know there’s a lot of guidance readily available about helping toddlers feel like they can make their own decisions and that by doing so it helps inspire and build independence. Let me tell you something: pick your battles. If you know letting them pick what they want for breakfast could result in a 30-minute discussion that eventually leads to a break down because they’re now starving, just make something for them and put it in front of them. They’ll eat it. Let them exercise those independence muscles elsewhere, like what to watch on TV or what shirt they want to wear.
  2. Pick your battles – Similar to the process of making little decisions to just make family things go more smoothly, sometimes, you just need to decide when it’s worth arguing about. My rule is that the playroom always needs to be cleaned up when we sit down to eat – whether it’s a snack or a meal. This is something I won’t budge on. Same with wearing shoes in the house; they come off when you walk in the door. But I’m picking my battles about other things, like changing their pajamas a few times before actually getting into bed or letting them eat their yogurt pouch while on the couch (*cringe*). Some things are just ok to turn the other cheek to. Sometimes.
  3. Be aware of you – I realized mid-disciplining moment that I went from 0 to 60 much faster than was necessary for that specific situation all because I was hungry. I was literally in the middle of reprimanding and my mind said to me, “dude, you’re hungry. This is so not the battle to pick.”Instant guilt and complete frustration with myself. I needed to just take a few minutes to take care of myself when all day it was about everyone else. I realized in that moment I hadn’t eaten anything since 11 a.m. – it was 5:45 p.m.
  4. Remember to appreciate the moments – Whether big or small, you’re bound to experience some pretty epic moments during this time. Don’t forget to stop and really experience it. For example, in the last 48 hours, my 5-month old started hugging, doing the baby kiss, sitting up nearly on his own and crawling (it’s the early stages of crawling, but he’s getting to where he wants to go pretty efficiently). These are big moments that could easily be overlooked by the stress and bustle associated with everyone being at home. But there have also been some amazing “little” moments too, like when my independent 2-year old told me he just “needed a quick hug” and my 3-year old hugged me after dinner saying, “I just love you so much.” Recognize the big and little moments and remember to appreciate each of them.
Some activities with Painter’s Tape

Some Activities

  • Painter’s Tape – This can be used in so many ways for so many activities. Try putting it on some paper and let your kids paint around it. After the paint dries, slowly remove the tape to see the design or words they made. You can also put it on the floor and create a ladder, a game of hopscotch, “balance beams” or roads. We used it as a ladder at first, then I created numbers to allow for additional games, like number identification, small addition work, and using the squares to do color identification and matching (see image).
  • Sidewalk Chalk – We haven’t used sidewalk chalk very much (there always seems to be an injury or the chalk becomes a weapon of some sort), but the boys were excited about something different outside. We set parameters to keep them in the safe part of the driveway (“don’t cross these lines”), which of course became a game and a required starting point for all artwork. I think a lot of people had a similar idea to do something intentional outside, especially after seeing the social engagement idea to write messages to neighbors on your driveway in sidewalk chalk.
  • Run it Out – My kids love to run. They run in circles inside the house, they run up and down the hallway and they run forever when they’re outside. So we set up races: “run to the edge of the fence and back to me as fast as you can… go!” “Run to the shed and back to me as fast as you can… go!” It got some pent-up energy out while making it a game and adding a bit of competition.
  • Mindful Practices – My 3-year old does some yoga poses at school and his teacher was kind enough to share those with the parents. So, we’ve been doing them together and teaching some to my 2-year old. Let me tell you: “take a yoga breath” has done WONDERS to stop an outburst in its tracks. Do the same for yourself. When you feel a meltdown coming – warranted or not – take a yoga breath. I like saying that much better than “count to 3.”

Share your ideas on what’s working and not working for you. Tell us how you are doing and what you are experiencing. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us. All of us are learning as we go and the more we share, the faster we learn.

Hang in there everyone. We’ve got this.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6

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The Power of Journaling

One of the best self-awareness and self-management tools we encourage our coaching clients to use is journaling. Journaling provides the ability to sit down and write what you’re thinking and feeling with no judgement; the impact is clarifying, enlightening and freeing. Sometimes, the ability to tune out the rest of the world and just be honest with yourself can open your eyes to greater awareness, information and realizations you may have missed or ignored. It can help you get clear to be able to make wise decisions, small or large. It can help you transition through challenging times. It can take a weight off your shoulders.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, changing the way we see and live our lives, I’ve noticed many parents are encouraging their kids to keep a journal. And this isn’t an age specific activity, either. I’ve seen parents sharing this idea with their teens right down to their toddlers. In fact, I recently saw a post from a parent who shared that her young daughter had trouble explaining the big emotions she was feeling. After she encouraged her to write things down, both of them had an easier time communicating with each other.

I’ve also heard of parents who are encouraging their toddlers – the kids who can’t write for themselves – to tell them what they’re thinking and feeling, and parents are writing it down for them.

And I’ve heard of parents who are encouraging their older children – especially those in college who were sent home to finish their year through online courses from the comfort of their childhood bedrooms – to journal to help them understand and channel their big emotions in a productive way.

We’re loving this use of journaling. There’s a power in writing things down, to create a visual representation of what you’re thinking and feeling. It makes it real. It also clears it out of your mind so it stops the continual pinging and distracting thoughts. Left unattended, our thoughts will run around our head, disrupting our concentration, affecting our mood and influencing our behaviors (sometimes not in the most productive ways). Addressing them by giving yourself time and space to release them and see them creates the ability to be a wiser, calmer person.

So if you’re struggling to find the right words to discuss this big event with your kids, considering journaling for yourself. To start, get in a quiet place. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself a question like, “What I am feeling right now?” or “What is the thing that seems to be getting my attention?” Write what comes to mind. Don’t judge it. Just write. When you feel you are done (you will know), review what you wrote and reflect on it. Allow yourself to experience whatever is going on with you. Journaling gives it words. With these, you can then better use the information to quiet your mind and make more intentional decisions.  

This is a big, scary event for everyone. The best way to prevent panic is to ensure you take time to get centered and present. Your family needs you to be informed, calm and responsive, not anxious and reactive. Journaling can help you find your moment of Zen in a noisy and changing world.

Take Action
Take 5 minutes today to write down how you’re feeling in whatever format works best for you, whether it’s a list of words, a formal journal entry or even a drawing. Write down the emotions you’re feeling right now. How does this help you see things more clearly? How can you use journaling to help you step outside the internal spiral you might be feeling or experiencing so you are able to relax, keep perspective and continue to make wise decisions?

If journaling can help you, consider how it can help your kids who are still learning – and possibly just starting to see – how this pandemic will change their world.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Current Events?

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6

Parents, how are you holding up?

I admit, I went into the first full week with rose colored glasses. I had lesson plans, arts & crafts, a schedule. I was ready.

Here’s the truth: I was not ready.

Seemed to be a theme with other parents I talked to, as well. They had great plans to get their kids excited, engaged and keep them learning without leaning on the TV. But apparently every kid decided it was their mission to make us question our ability to handle working from home, raising our kids and playing teacher.

And man was that a wake up call.

Let’s recap the last three days:

Monday, Day 4: The moods my kids woke up in foreshadowed what the day would be like, but I naively overlooked them, hoping to make it a great day for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, there were great moments, but overall, I’d give the day a 5/10.

The first tantrum was a mere 5 minutes after breakfast. Then my 3-year old (the one who demanded circle time on Saturday) could not have been any less interested. My 2-year old, however, wanted to read book after book and had a meltdown when, after 30 minutes, the baby had had enough.

But you don’t need to know all the details. Here’s the summary: lots of tears, lots of fights, a few great little moments. A challenging day that I didn’t expect to be so challenging.

Tuesday, Day 5: Walked into the day a little more cautious than the day before, but with big plans for the morning. I even set up their little table just for arts & crafts, playdough and anything else they wanted to do. For the most part, they were pretty good and relatively content in their day. My 2-year old asked me throughout the day why it was a school day and we were at home. My rehearsed response wasn’t enough for him, so I expanded it a bit. Instead of saying “we need to stay home so we don’t get sick,” I said, “we need to stay home so we don’t get sick, but it means we get to play with all our toys and read all of our books and maybe we can even pick a movie later!” That worked.

But it also reminded me how nasty kids can get when they watch too much TV in one sitting…

Wednesday, Day 6: They have officially lost interest in circle time. I tried to change it up a bit and encouraged them to bring a show-and-tell item to talk about (i.e. one toy from the playroom). That started out great until they both grabbed a shark toy and it turned into an epic battle of “BITE!!!” as they wrestled with each other and I tried to calmly – but quickly – move the coffee table out of their way. I tried to get their attention again by teaching them some fun party dance songs, like the Electric Slide and the Macarena. All three boys stared at me in disbelief and embarrassment. So, I guess that’s starting already.

Once I let go of the rigidity of how I defined “circle time,” things got infinitely better. They cleaned up the playroom the first time I asked to move on to the next activity. They played quietly and nicely with each other for almost 90 minutes with kinetic sand. They were thrilled to have a productive outlet that required focus and independence (I had them clean the grout in the kitchen floor; more on that later). And they were thrilled to have the ability to choose their snacks and go get them by themselves.

Grout cleaning

My Top Lessons

  1. Take a Drive – If the weather doesn’t allow you to get outside for fresh air, put everyone in the car and go for a ride. Just drive. 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an attempt at getting everyone to close their eyes and recharge for a bit – just go.
  2. Be flexible – The activities I had planned either didn’t go as expected or were met with hesitation or disinterest. Honestly, this caught me off guard; my kids are normally excited for the various things we work on together or different experiments we try out. They weren’t having any of it. And I felt upset and discouraged and frustrated (level 1 for those who are interested in our Energy Funnel). So I took a breath, reminded myself that it’s ok for them to not be interested in what I put together and found other things to do. In fact, as soon as I stopped trying to force activities in front of them and instead inspired creativity, the big two took off to the playroom where they created an entire storyline to act out and happily played together for nearly an hour while the baby napped. Being flexible comes with being aware of yourself and what’s going on around you – once you’re aware, you can receive and review more information and then use that information to make an intentional decision about what’s the next best move.
  3. Watch for your kids’ signs – You know which ones I mean. The ones that tell you they’re tired but won’t put themselves to bed. The ones that tell you hangry is fast approaching, but they haven’t communicated to you that they’re hungry or, perhaps worse, they’ve already reached the hungry point where nothing looks or sounds appetizing. Be aware of what your kids’ body language is telling you and work with them. Consider setting up a snack section in the kitchen with healthy and easy to grab foods.
  4. Think big – Sometimes, we forget that learning is often done best when it’s not called learning. It could be called playing, doing experiments, fixing things, trying something new – it’s all learning in various ways. So, in thinking big, I took a step back and thought about everything I was reading and hearing about continuing kids’ education while they’re at home. I decided to give my boys a productive task: helping me clean the grout on the kitchen floor. We made the homemade grout cleaner together, found extra toothbrushes and got to work. Voila! My lesson plan for the day: achieved. Science, check. Sensory, check. Cause and effect, check. Responsibility, check. Fine motor skills, check. Following directions, check. A seemingly simple task was comprised of lots of little pieces.
  5. Spend time with myself. I know I have to be my best self to help everyone around me who need and want my attention. I find that if I am all about them and not intentional about taking care of myself, then I don’t have the energy, focus, resilience and patience I need to make the days happen in a successful way. I have learned I don’t need a lot of time, but I do need some time. Time to think, journal, shower, breathe, exercise, make a call, write a blog. Don’t deny yourself some time to do what you need to do for you so you can be there for them.

Some Activities

  • Use a Book – One of the best activities we did was building a leprechaun trap, an idea that was spontaneously decided on as a result of reading a book called “How to Catch a Lephrachaun.” Read a book with your kids and see what type of creativity it inspires.
  • Assign a task – This sounds more intense than it actually is. I recently read that kids like to have tasks assigned to them, particularly the toddler/pre-K ages. They like to feel purpose and stretch those independence muscles. So I gave my boys a task: go fix it. Here’s the instruction I gave them: “Get your toolboxes, pick out a dump truck and a tractor. Ok, your dump truck and tractors are broken and we need to get them fixed quickly because [pause for your kids to tell you why they need them working again].” The boys jumped right to it and were so excited to be assigned a specific task it allowed me the 30 minutes I needed to get dinner on the table.
  • Experiments – I did a quick search for some easy, kid-friendly experiments you can do at home (with some simple, likely-to-have-on-hand-already supplies) and found a slew that I’m hoping to try. Check out the lemon volcano and the rainbow baking soda + vinegar to start.
  • The Zen moment – At least once a day, work with everyone in the house to have a quiet moment of reflection, stretching, yoga poses, meditation or quiet play. Put on some easy listening music. Set the timer. Insist that the house take zen breaks during the day to help everyone center, manage their emotions and feel a sense of calm in this strange moment of time. My toddlers love doing “yoga breaths” to help us all calm down and reset.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 3

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How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Current Events?

The world is a crazy, loud place. And it seems to have gotten even more crazy over the last few weeks. COVID-19 is scaring everyone, possibly because we don’t totally seem able to grasp how real and severe it could be.

For as confusing and scary and big as this is for us, just imagine how this feels for our kids.

I recently went Live on Facebook to ask our followers how they’re talking about this with their kids. How do you calmly and wisely keep your kids updated about what’s happening in the world instead of inciting panic? How do you answer their questions honestly and rationally, without inserting your own emotions, fears or worries into the conversation?

Most of you know I have three young boys: a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a 5 month old. The baby is easy; no questions there. The 2-year old is tricky; he’s aware of a change but isn’t able to communicate the realization and doesn’t know how to ask real questions (yet). My 3 year old, however, is extremely astute. He knows something is different. He knows we’ve altered from our routine. But the dead giveaway for my boys is that my husband is working from home during the busiest time of the year for him (tax season).

So the questions have come up:

  • Why can’t we just run to Target to get more diapers?
  • Why are you ordering more stuff online?
  • Why can’t we go to the grocery store?
  • Why aren’t we going to school?

And I’ve answered them all the same way: “There are a lot of people who are very sick right now, so we’re staying home so we don’t get sick and they can get better faster.”

For now, that seems to be enough of an answer.

And for many who shared their own approaches with their kids, it seems to be a similar theme: don’t volunteer too much information. Explain in the most basic terms what’s happening and then wait for more questions.

This has been an approach that has worked well for younger kids.

But what about older kids? Kids who are old enough to be aware of a little more change and why that change is happening? Kids who are old enough to have jobs and this news is impacting their ability to work, whether they’ve been told to not come in for an extended period of time or that they are working extra shifts at grocery stores or pharmacies.

Though I haven’t heard much from parents about what they’re doing with the older age groups, my guidance is as follows: be honest. Be calm. Check your emotions and anxiety at the door. Don’t be dismissive of their concerns; actively listen to what they’re saying or asking and be confident in your response, even if your answer is “I don’t know.”

Be human. Be their parent.

Take Action
Be sure to take a moment for yourself in all of this, too. It’s not possible to be calm, check your emotions and be anxious. We know what we have to do, we just don’t always know how.

Start by taking a deep breath then find someone to talk to. Whether it’s a friend, partner or coach, talking through things can be extremely helpful. Sometimes you just need to hear your worries out loud to start to control them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 3

The quarantine is real. And it’s here. In an effort to flatten the curve, many are following orders to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

For so many people, the opportunity to work from home has allowed daily routines to continue almost as usual.

For others, they’re aware of the need to find ways to earn their paycheck while keeping themselves – and others – safe.

And then there’s the group of people who are still required to work and parent. In just the first few hours of the quarantine, I received texts saying it was going to be a long three weeks. I saw countless social media posts saying “this was a record yelling day” or “kids for sale” or “how are we going to survive three weeks of this!?”

I see you. I hear you. And this blog series is for you. It’s an opportunity to remember you’re not alone. It’s a chance to reflect on your own behaviors to determine how tomorrow could be better. It’s a chance to get a few ideas that might work for entertaining your kids (and a few of my thoughts on what did not work). We are in this together. Our collective mindfulness and genius will get us through it and maybe even make us better because of it.

So here we go.

First, some context so you know where I’m coming from. I’m a mom to three young boys: a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a 5 month old. Sometimes, our house is amazingly quiet in a “wow, look how nice they’re all playing!” kind of way. And sometimes, our house is very loud. The loud ranges from “wow, they are really physical” or “huh, I guess I should move that [breakable item] into storage” to “OH MY GOD STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER WITH THAT BOOK!” or “THE LITTER BOX IS NOT AN INDOOR SANDBOX STOP PLAYING IN IT!”

Basically, my house sounds like most houses with kids.

My two oldest are in daycare 3 days a week. I’m home with the baby all the time. And I fit in my work as a Life Coach whenever I can. Fridays are what my oldest calls “home day” and my middle one calls “mommy days.” Fridays are the chance for them to decompress from their busy weeks. We spend the morning running errands and then play and read and watch TV over the remainder of the day. Weekends tend to include the occasional trip to visit family or friends, a fun activity or hosting play dates. And Mondays are just like Fridays.

That’s our old normal.

Now, we’re all at home. Together. For three weeks (minimum). Add to the mix a husband who is working from home during the busiest time of his year (he’s in tax) and take into account the fact the human food vacuums my children already are at their young ages and you can imagine the hilarity of our situation.

So let’s recap the first three days of quarantine.

Friday, Day 1: We didn’t go grocery shopping and Daddy was home. OH BOY. There was no physical break from each other because we were all in the house. There was no mental break or change of scenery because we didn’t leave the house. It was loud. There were tears. It was a rough day.

As my husband and I tucked the boys into bed, we agreed we’re going to need to define a new normal, create a new routine, to keep the house – and our relationships – intact over the next few weeks.

Circle Time

Saturday, Day 2: Better. Partly because we started the day with an intentional mindset, partly because it was just better than the day before. We started the day with a family breakfast and then my husband “went” to work. We didn’t see him until dinner. We had circle time, just like the big two do at school, where we read a few books and sang a few songs. We even got the baby involved which made it that much more fun.

We had gorgeous weather, so I took the boys outside for most of the day. It’s a little challenging running after the big two when you’re wearing the baby in a carrier, but we made it work. We played in the sandbox. We took out ALL the yard toys. We blew bubbles. We went on a rock hunt to get rocks out of the yard before we need to mow for the first time (more on this later). It was so nice out I let them play a little longer than I should have and we rapidly approached lunch time. That’s when I remembered that they’re still too young to go off schedule when it comes to food. The hangry was real. And it was loud. And it was messy. By the time I got lunch on the table (a mere 15 minutes later than usual), there were MOODS.

Nap time was too short and there were more tears and grumpy attitudes when the little two woke up. But all was made right with a snack (yogurt with sprinkles!) and back outside we went. We played for a while again and came inside for dinner, just in time.

And then I realized that my fun promises of taco night never included double checking we had taco seasoning. So while my husband and I laughed about the fake taco night we were having, the boys never knew the difference. They still built their own tacos on nachos (instead of shells) and preferred to mix everything in with some rice. We unintentionally made rice bowls. It worked.

Sunday, Day 3: A glimpse of the old normal. Family breakfast. Play time. Music and dancing. Reading. Legos. All the legos. Even getting introduced to an old movie with Daddy (Space Jam. It’s on Netflix, people! And I’m so glad I was able to give a thorough summary of the movie to my boys, including remember the aliens were the Monstars, but have trouble remembering if I moved a load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer before I went to bed).

Though much colder than the last few days, we were lucky to get outside again. I was even able to escape with the baby and dog for a quick walk to stretch the dog’s legs. Just like every Sunday, the day flew by.

Does this sound like your first few days? Here’s what I learned:

My 5 Lessons from Days 1-3

  1. Get outside. Even if it’s for just a few minutes, the fresh air does you a lot of good. It resets you and helps your kids burn off energy. It’s also a great change of environment, which helps alter how you feel, usually for the better.
  2. Define your new normal. “Normal” is not in anyone’s vocabulary right now. So take some time to identify what needs to happen now, especially if you’re a parent working at home over the next few weeks. With everyone at home, there’s no real chance to focus 100% on work or parenting. It’s going to be a combination of the two and you’ll likely find that you will need to shift things on a regular basis. Sometimes work will win out. Sometimes parenting will. Be flexible and resilient. And cut yourself some slack. You’re in a new situation trying to get a lot done. Watch the irritation and aggravation that may surface as you confront what you want to happen compared to what can actually happen. Remember to breath, relax and roll with what happens.
  3. Create a routine. Once you figure out what has to happen, create a routine. Maybe the morning is for school work and the afternoon is for play. Maybe the morning is when you focus on your work and your kids are asked to entertain themselves. Maybe you work at night after they’ve gone to bed. (I’ve included our new schedule below for anyone looking for an idea, especially for parents with young kids.) Figure out what works for you and your family. Creating a routine helps the entire family feel grounded. And in a period of constant change, feeling grounded can help calm parents and kids.
  4. Communication with your partner. My husband and I realized in the first 48 hours that the next few weeks are going to be different. We can become victimized to it and let it stress us and test us, or we can realize that we will need to find ways to stay calmer and less confrontational when things start to stress us. Determine up front how you will talk to and with your partner, how you will express frustration and how you will share when you are at your wits end, so the other one can support, encourage and rescue. It is in this that the two of you will handle the challenges. Be on the same side. See each other as a loving ally.
  5. Be positive. Your kids are picking up everything you’re throwing down. If you’re giving off vibes of panic, frustration, uncertainty, etc., your kids will start to do the same. Be aware of your own emotions and response to it before it starts to impact your behavior, your kids’ behavior and the relationships between everyone in your house. We all have to build our own mindfulness practice – the things we do to stay calm when we feel like screaming. Having a go-to move (i.e. breathing, reading, telling a joke, having a favorite snack, taking 10 minutes) can be enough of an interruption so you can find your inner calm and come back to your situation positive and supportive. It’s when you do this that you can effectively share and guide your kids in how to navigate a constantly changing world.

As we embark on the next few weeks of drastic change, it’s important to remember that life will be very different. In the coming weeks, I’ll share with you some activities that have worked well with my boys, as well as some things that did not go over well. I encourage you to share any ideas you have or things you’ve done (with or without success), as well!

Our Fun & Games

Here are a few things we tried over the first three days (and things we’ve done in the past) that work well with our boys.

Rock Hunting

Outside Fun

  • Rock / Acorn / Stick Hunting – Give your kids a bucket and challenge them to pick up as many rocks / acorns / sticks they can find. Not only does this entertain them and give them a purpose, but it also helps you get your yard ready for the first time you need to mow. This worked wonders – my boys were enthralled, and our yard looks much better than before. PRO TIP: if you promise a prize for the one with the most in their bucket, be prepared to deliver!
  • Nature Walk – Talk a walk and help your kids see things in their own backyard they may not have noticed before. Point out the size and shapes of rocks. Point out the different types of trees. Help them see things like squirrels nests or dead branches or the early signs of spring. TIP: For older kids, encourage them to create a story about what they find. For example, if you find a large branch in the yard, create a story prompt and have your kids continue the story. “This isn’t just a branch. No, this was once part of a ship from a long time ago, a ship that carried hundreds of pounds of [insert object here]! How do you think it ended up here…?” (and let them finish the story)
  • Racing – This is obvious: set up a race. You can do the obvious race (running). You can do wheelbarrow races. You can do crab walk races. You can see who can kick the ball the farthest/fastest when you kick balls at the same time. Get creative.

Inside Activities

  • Kinetic Sand / Playdough – Let them do what they will with it, or give them some guidance on what they can create. Make it part of a story. Ask them to create their favorite food. Have them build something they’d like to see one day. Consider letting them use some cookie cutters, as well.
  • Science Experiments – There are a slew of science experiments you can find online. To start, we did “Dancing Raisins” (raisins into a glass cup of seltzer water; watch them rise and fall as a result of the bubbles) and melting cardboard (dip cardboard into water and watch it slowly dissolve; did this with regular paper, tissues and paper towel, too).
  • Baking – I’m a baker so baking has become one of my favorite things to do with my boys. Chocolate chip cookies are our go-to, but we’ve also done pancakes, waffles, banana bread and sugar cookies. PRO TIP: If you make sugar cookie dough with the kids, and use cookie cutters to make the cookies later, you’ve created two activities for the day. You an add a third activity with cookie decorating (frosting and sprinkles are the easy options; depending on age, you can also add a variety of candies).

Our New Schedule

I’ve seen a few suggested schedules for parents floating around social media over the last 24 hours, but here’s the schedule I’ve found works well for us. Feel free to use as a starting point or use entirely!

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Hiring a Parenting Coach Doesn’t Mean You’re Failing

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