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How Parents Around The World Are Keeping Their Kids Occupied At Home

HuffPost UK logo HuffPost UK 25/03/2020 Amy Packham
Getty © Getty Getty

In the coronavirus pandemic, nothing seems normal. We no longer commute to work, we can’t just “pop” to the shops, and we have to limit gatherings outside. But for parents, one of the biggest changes, perhaps, is having the kids at home. ALL. THE. TIME.

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So how are they coping? From countries who have had their kids at home for weeks, to those who are still adjusting to this new routine, we spoke to parents about what they’re doing to stay positive – and occupy the littl’uns – during this tricky time.

  a group of people sitting at a table: Geoffroy Clavel's children © HuffPost UK Geoffroy Clavel's children

Do get organised. Geoffroy Clavel, a science and tech journalist at HuffPost France, has been working at home with his two kids – Eve, 10, and Nathanael, five, – since last Monday. “Rituals are important and kids need them more than ever when their daily routine is upside down. My wife and I signed a ‘contract’ with our kids stipulating the hours where everyone must work, when we eat, when we play, when we have a little bit of exercise.”

Do communicate and maintain positivity. Antonia Daniek, from Germany, has three children aged 12, 15, and 16. “We organised our daily structure towards quiet focus time in the mornings where they sleep in and then study on their own, plus intense family time with a lot of communication in the afternoons where we talk, learn and have time to play. To support all of us to stay positive we enjoy inventing creative projects and spending time in our beautiful garden, we breathe and smile doing everything we can to stay calm and optimistic.”

a little girl sitting in a living room: Geoffroy Clavel's children © HuffPost UK Geoffroy Clavel's children

Do be sure to separate weekdays from the weekend. “Since we are all stuck at home and unable to go out, its very important to make a difference between workdays and the days where we can all lay back and chill, play games, cook together, watch a movie,” added Geoffroy Clavel.

a young boy looking at the camera: Jenny Johnson's son © HuffPost UK Jenny Johnson's son

Do lots of drawing. Giulia Belardelli, a reporter for HuffPost Italy, has two children aged one and three. They’ve been stuck in their apartment in Rome for more than two weeks now. “During the day we play, draw, read, dance and play music. We see one or two cartoons a day, but we try to limit the use of electronic devices. In Italy some teachers invited all the children to draw a rainbow on the sheet with the words ‘everything will be fine’. This is our sheet, which is now hanging outside on the balcony.”

Do take each day as it comes. Valerie Howes, Parents editor of HuffPost Canada, has two teenagers. “Week one of the quarantine in Canada was actually March Break, so we didn’t try to homeschool, and we’re waiting for online classes to start from their school, because I know I can’t handle work, stress and being their teacher. For now, I’ve got the kids cooking and baking for the family more and we do a dog walk together in the evening, respecting social distancing rules, just so everyone gets some fresh air and vitamin D. Pre-quarantine rules have gone out the window, but that’s not working out so well for us. May need to try a vague schedule next week?”

Giulia Belardelli's children © HuffPost UK Giulia Belardelli's children

Do try to invent games. “We try to stimulate the imagination and satisfy the children’s need to move by inventing games. The children are happy to be all this with us, but they begin to miss their peers and especially the outdoor games. In Italy all the parks have been closed and in large cities it is very rare to have a garden. Luckily we have a balcony in the sun: if the weather is good, we spend a couple of hours outside playing every day,” says Giulia Belardelli, Italy.

Don’t try to turn into super parent. “Instead, tune into Mo Willems’ lunchtime drawing sessions on YouTube or live stream animals at various zoos around the country (I’m sure you can find your local ones on Facebook). And take a deep breath. Be well!” Kate Auletta, US

Jenny Johnson © HuffPost UK Jenny Johnson

Don’t let your kids rule the roost. Jenny Johnson, from the US, has two kids aged 12 and 10. “Kids need and want clear boundaries (and so do you, believe me). Set a daily schedule that provides structure, and keep it flexible. Set ‘expectations’ that you discuss and review frequently. Set consequences for when expectations aren’t met – include the kids when you’re doing this.” 

a laptop computer sitting on top of a bed: Jenny Johnson © HuffPost UK Jenny Johnson

Don’t try and teach what you don’t know. “Still don’t understand mixed fractions? Me neither. Leave that to their teachers and focus on things that you know and love to do. We’ve played pickleball, learned how to create a budget, and have Catan [a game] battles every night. When I’m having fun, they are too. Until teachers decide how they’re going to execute online schooling , these activities are keeping mine busy in the mean time: Looking at old pictures/photo albums, daily journaling, virtual lessons (painting, music, dance), learning to sew, baking and  create your own dessert, board games, video chats with friends, walks (so many walks), building forts, and movie marathons,” says Jenny Johnson, US

a group of people sitting at a table: Jenny Johnson © HuffPost UK Jenny Johnson

Don’t expect it to be all hearts and roses. “We are sick of the sight of each other and sometimes bickering, but everyone is still alive, so I guess that’s the main thing,” says Valerie Howes.

a group of people sitting at a table: Supplied © HuffPost UK Supplied

Do make this confinement an experience to remember. “I generally tell my kids that although these might be uncertain times, this is a one in a lifetime opportunity to spend more time together and bond. Although everyone is entitled to his privacy and alone time (parents included), we try to share things altogether through activities. Since my kids can no longer see their friends, I can see them getting closer and sharing more games and activities,” says Geoffroy Clavel, France.


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