I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal. When we got word that our kids would be home indefinitely, I made sure we were set for essentials, then I looked for the silver lining. I landed on it being a good time to teach them some life skills. They are 7 & 9 and will be home learning and playing while I continue to work full-time (from home) and my husband works full-time (outside the home, in an essential line of work).
Here are the 5 life skills we settled on: organization, different types of communication, time management, problem-solving, and kid-friendly home economics. I’m going to briefly discuss each of them below.
- Organization – this has been a BIG one for them. They are now responsible for ensuring their devices are ready in the morning to learn, that their work areas are tidy and learning-ready, and that they are (kind of) keeping track of their learning schedule. Since their work areas are in their bedrooms, this means making sure that their rooms are clean enough not to be a distraction to their lessons. It’s no longer parent-led, but now, it’s mostly kid-led. Sure, we remind them, but they need to do the legwork to be ready. I’m happy to report that a week in, and we have already seen improvements after a few days of trial and error.
- Different types of communication – since their regular school learning is all face-to-face, switching to online has been an adventure. They are learning to video and online chat with teachers and peers, which has led to conversations about being prepared, the importance of good grammar, and knowing when to take a break. They will be emailing with teachers as well, so we have very lightly touched on etiquette in written communication. We are hoping to move onto written letters soon, at which point we will also discuss penmanship. Our kids have not previously texted or video-chatted with friends, but since this is their primary way to keep in touch, we have also discussed what is and is not appropriate content, guidelines for the time of day for chatting, and some household rules to show respect to everyone else in the home when you are chatting.
- Time management – this one is tricky, for me and for them. We are working to find the time to fit in everything they need to work on for school around full-time work schedules for Hubby and I, then we are working with them on managing their time to get their school work done, virtual meetings with class, have time to be social/downtime, and get things done around the house that they need to accomplish. Our biggest “hack” has been a daily schedule and flexibility. I have set a regular schedule, and we revisit it often to make adjustments for moved meetings, adding or adjusting content, etc. At the start of a new time segment, I let them know how long they have, what they need to get completed (if it’s a chore or schoolwork), then they have a 5 or 10 min warning near the end to wrap up. One day last week, my younger kiddo spent all of her “free play/screen time” doing an activity I knew she would be unhappy with when her time was up, but she insisted. When I gave her the 10-minute warning, she became very upset that she had “wasted” her time on this activity, and I reminded her that this was how she chose to spend her time, so if she wanted to do something else next time she was welcome to do so, but that this time was ending, regardless. This is forcing them to be more deliberate about how they spend their free time.
- Problem-solving – this has been less tangible. “Mom, where is my shoe?”, or “Mom, can you call my iPad to help me find it?” used to result in us stepping in quickly to help so we could move onto our next activity since we were always on the go (wasn’t everyone?). Well, now we are in less of a hurry, and I have them retrace their steps, first. I know, it sounds so basic, but it’s also making them more aware of where they set things down, and how they organize their bedrooms and workspace. A sibling argument no longer involves Hubby and I stepping in to mediate – it’s now encouraged that they work it out… and generally, they do. With we 3 ladies being home 24/7 together, sometimes we really just need a break, which is also important to learn. Yesterday, we worked on recognizing the need for your own space and taking it.
- Kid-friendly home economics – They have been learning more chores around the house to contribute, which has been great. They’ve stepped in to learn about taking out trash/recycling, having assigned pet chores, loading/unloading the dishwasher, sorting laundry, etc. We have also been working with them on preparing simple (non-stove) meals as well as what constitutes the makings of a healthy meal (ie: not just crackers and lemonade), and this week, they started seedlings for veggies.
You may be thinking, “Well, my kids have done all of these “life skills” for ages! This is nothing new.” and I’m glad for you, but it hasn’t been this way for us, and I know it hasn’t been that way for many people I know.
This has also been a learning opportunity for Hubby and me – we realized we were doing too much for them, and that we needed to teach them more about being self-sufficient. We were still partially in “little kid” mode, and we needed to transition our thinking, too. We can’t treat them like 5-year-olds and expect them to act like they are 7 & 9. We are forcing ourselves to identify these needed life skills and lessons, and we are taking the time to teach instead of fix.
It hasn’t been perfect – it’s a very fluid situation with frequent adjustments and lots of patience, but I feel like things are getting easier each day as we go.
Have younger kids? Check out this post: Appropriate Chores for a Preschooler
What “extra” stuff are you teaching your kids during this time together? Tell us in the comments!!