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Self-Care for the Whole Family in the Time of COVID-19
by Cheree Hayes
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April 30, 2020

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12 Minute Read

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Self-Care for the Whole Family in the Time of COVID-19

Cheree Hayes and her family. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Laurita Photography)
Cheree Hayes and her family. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Laurita Photography)

If you have bills in your inbox, a teen at your side, or a toddler on your hip, you know how challenging it is to make time to care for yourself too. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, implemented work-from-home initiatives, and added quarantine to your to-do list, self-care is scarcer than toilet paper.

Me-time? Where did it go? How do I “get away” during a lockdown? How can I have alone time when I’m quarantined with my family?

I hear you! These are unprecedented times. We are all feeling the weight of this global shift and need some fresh ideas for how to take care of our bodies, minds, and spirits.

I’ve worked various jobs from home while parenting the last ten years and have also homeschooled my three kids for the past five years, so I have a little head start in the search for self-care strategies while kids are still at home. If you are looking for a plan for self-care that works even during a global pandemic, I think you’ll find these tested ideas are well worth the effort.

Host a Self-Care Family Brainstorming Session 

You will have a better chance of getting the time you need if everyone is invested. Each member of your family can benefit from an hour to themselves, and I bet your kids have exciting thoughts on how they could spend that hour in a meaningful way. Host a meeting to excavate those ideas. When kids help to construct the plan, they are more enthusiastic participants.

Tips for Hosting a Self-Care Family Brainstorming Session 

Keep your meeting simple, but still, make some effort to hype it up! For example, invite your kids the night before to build anticipation, and when it’s time to start the meeting, turn up the music, and serve an easy snack.

Recognize the goal of your meeting is to find ideas for each member to spend an hour doing something to take care of their hearts. Clearly introduce this goal as you invite your children’s help.

Prep questions to discover meaningful ideas for how everyone can spend their hour of self-care. For example: Name one thing you like to do, by yourself, in our house? When do you feel most peaceful? List 3 places in the house or backyard where you could spend your self-care hour? What are usual reasons for interruptions? What can we do ahead of time to address those to help prevent interruptions? 

Related: Teaching Tools to Help You Homeschool Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

While facilitating the family meeting seek to be a good listener. Ask follow-up questions that will help you surface thoughts and jot everything down. Remind yourself and everyone else to refrain from criticizing ideas. If your teen’s idea is expensive, write it down anyway — creativity can find a cheaper option. If your toddler’s idea is ridiculous, write it down anyway – practicality can find a version that works for everyone. If your tweens idea is confusing, ask them to write it down — perhaps their pen holds the cipher.

Narrow down an activity for each member to do during their self-care hour. Plan a specific time you will all embrace this self-care hour together. Hopefully you will all enjoy it enough to extend this tradition long after the effects of COVID-19. 

Take a Day Off

Cheree Hayes' children. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Thomas)
Cheree Hayes’ children. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Thomas)

My family has one day out of every week when our only plan is to relax and do all the things we enjoy most. We call it “rest day,” and in it, we wear pajamas, leave all the chores undone, and pull out our most indulgent snacks. I say “yes” to activities, games, and toys (especially ones my kids can do autonomously) that are only reserved for this day of the week. I journal and enjoy a good book while they play with their “rest day” stuff. Then after lunch, I usually take a nap or watch my show while my kids watch an extra movie or two. We look forward to it every week! 

If every day of quarantine is like this, beware: pleasure will wane, boredom will abound, and everyone will gain 10 pounds. But if you permit your kids to laze for a whole day once a week, they’ll take full advantage of it, and you’ll feel like you got the entire day off. 

Clear Up Some Free Time

The day after our “rest day,” the house is messier than usual. I made a cleaning game my kids enjoy to help me take care of it. I’m amazed how fast my house transforms into a sparkly gem with this trick. Even when my kids weren’t old enough to contribute a great deal, the structure of the game creates a rewarding amount of motivation and momentum. It buys time I’d otherwise waste, and since I follow it up by letting the kids watch an extra episode of their favorite tv program, I get to enjoy the results, by myself, for a whole hour.

Okay, ready to play? The rules are simple: Clean one shared space at a time, all together as a family, before the upbeat song of your choice is over! 

Related: Top 12 Family Date Night Ideas

Before each song, huddle up, and coach your team to success. Assign toddlers to put away blocks or sort items into piles to help. Assign older kids tasks they’ve already mastered or watch to see how they will naturally initiate help during the game. Give your kids nicknames or player’s numbers and talk like a stereotypical football coach to encourage enthusiastic participation. Stay in character to amuse even the ones who aren’t yet in the mood.

After each song, take the time to reward everyone, even yourself (keep it small: a sticker for a chart, high fives, words of affirmation, etc.) And if you cleaned the whole room before the song ended, double the reward. If not, start a new song and try again before moving on to the next room.

Cheree Hayes' husband and children. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Laurita Photography)
Cheree Hayes’ husband and children. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Laurita Photography)

Balance Family Time With Alone Time

Remember that self-care is easier to embrace when everyone has a secure sense of togetherness. Consider following an hour of family time with an hour of self-care. And when you need an extra 15 minutes alone, spend 15 minutes snuggling first. Let the connected times support the solitude moments with the security of knowing you are an awesome parent even when they aren’t with you.

Embrace the Game-Changing Power of Headphones

Self-care recognizes our need for occasional quiet and our desire for mental stimulation. A good pair of headphones can help us get both without forcing our surroundings into silence. 

Keep your sightlines open (if you have little ones), put your feet up, and let your ears move into a symphony or an interesting podcast. You can also add headphones to your work routine to eliminate the frustration of competing sounds. Give your brain the virtual vacation it deserves! 

Related: Ways to Balance Your Mind, Body and Soul During Social Distancing

For instance, I’m wearing headphones while I type these words on my laptop. I’m listening to, “Tropical Island Beach Ambience Sound,” while my kids snuggle next to me watching a Disney movie. I can’t hear the sword fight flashing on the screen because “I’m on a beach in Thailand.” The weather is at a perfect room temperature, and I’m doing some leisurely writing before I “teleport back home.”

Lengthen Kids Sleep Hours

Cheree Hayes and her family. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Laurita Photography)
Cheree Hayes and her family. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Laurita Photography)

Your kids can sleep longer with your help. Block out the morning sunlight that enters their room with double-layered blackout shades. Buy a size that is larger than their windows, so you can attach them with double-sided velcro directly to the walls, to ensure no light can creep through. If these items aren’t available, get creative, find something to block out every speck of light. Even a sliver of sunshine can wake kids 15-60+ minutes earlier than they would have otherwise. Not only will that give you more time in the morning to yourself, but it will also result in happier, more rested children during the day. This is one of the most powerful things I did to take care of myself as a mom.

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Comment below to share which idea you’ll try first, then return to share how it went and if you too would recommend it! 

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