I’m a parent coach, and one of the biggest issues affecting parents during this pandemic is the issue of screen usage. Children are mostly remote learning and sitting in front of screens for more hours a day than ever. The majority of parents are still working from home and still need to be productive, while trying to coordinate their schedules with those of their child’s remote learning. Parents have been challenged with finding a balance. However, most of us haven’t been able to navigate this balance and instead are taking the easier route by “plugging in” more and tuning each other out.
This awareness has led me to create a webinar on screen time usage. I was wondering what would be most relevant and helpful for parents? Most know of the potential dangers associated with too much screen time on the developing brain & it’s effect on social/emotional & physical development. Parents are concerned and craving answers.
The biggest realization I came to was that I wasn’t following my own cautionary advice as it related to screens. I had become too lax on the rules. I have a teenage daughter who is self directed and independent. She is doing as well as a teenage girl can within the confines of the pandemic. However, the endless hours of Netflix binging, Tik Tok sharing and Instagram still needed to be curbed. I knew there was opportunity to find other sources of entertainment that would be more productive and enriching. I wasn’t enforcing the balance in my own home that I preach to my clients.
The beginning of the pandemic my daughter found drawing & painting again, designing friendship bracelets, baking and lots of walks in the park. Now that it’s getting colder and there are greater school demands, less time is spent on activities that require more effort.
This led me to the question of how do we as parents become more creative in finding activities for ourselves & our kids during this time?
First, it’s important for us to understand the needs of children to counteract so much screen time. They need a wide variety of activities to be more balanced. The types of activities to incorporate are; exercise, allowing time for creativity, social interactions (distanced visits with friends or family), adventure play, relaxation (reading, meditation, yoga) and activities that are just pure fun. Many of these things have been missing for kids during this time.
Parents can start being more intentional about assisting their kids with different kinds of activities that can incorporate these missing elements.
For young kids, one way to get started is to create an activity jar. You can create an activity jar where everyone in the family gets to put ideas in the jar. The kids can have fun pulling out the pieces of paper when it’s time for the next activity.
I’ve recommended to some of my clients to post their daily schedule somewhere in their home. The calendar should include parents and children’s work and school schedule including lunch breaks and activity breaks. You can include an activity chart by day of the week, almost like the after school schedule they used to have.
Try taking mini breaks in between class time, such as stretching and a few minutes of fresh air. You can even incorporate a snack break as a natural break between classes for younger kids. If there is a break during lunch time encourage this time to be used for more physical breaks, like the recess that they’re used to during the day. They can ride their bikes, or scooter, and throw a ball around. For those without access to backyards (or live in a city) try yoga for kids, scooter time or ball throwing in a rec room or even in the hallway.
Other activities, or breaks can be in the time range of a half hour to an hour. These can be board games, art or science projects, cards, painting a picture, reading a book. It’s helpful to create an area within your home; easily accessible to your kids. You can call it the “activity” corner”. Family activities or longer projects such as baking, pizza making, longer hikes, or bike rides can be saved for the weekend. You can even encourage your kids to call relatives, or write cards and notes to grandparents, other family members and friends.
I encourage many families to start a regular activity of “Family Night”. This is usually best for a Friday or Saturday night. This can be used for movies, games & special foods. Kids love taking turns choosing the movie, the game and even the dinner. It’s been something we’ve done in our family since my daughter has been young. Even though she’s a teenager, on most Friday or Saturday nights when she’s not with her friends, she still loves this cherished tradition.
I can’t promise that adding in these activities to your schedule on a regular basis will be easy at first, but I do promise with a little creative ingenuity and resolve, more family interaction mixed with fun activities of all kinds will make for a happier, healthier family in the end.