This Small Simple Step Was a Big Help to Our Family

This is clearly an unprecedented, highly stressful, and emotionally charged moment in time. We are all trying our best to navigate our way through the chaos and uncertainty. As a person who likes to be in control, I am not handling this well… My two young adult sons were back in my house with their teenage sister acting as though it was spring break. Which I guess technically it was?

teen eating breakfast
Our family meets each morning for breakfast, at 7:30.

I decided to “go with the flow”

So I decided to go with the flow even though I am not a “go with the flow” kind of gal. For the first few days, it was fun. I loved having everyone home together – loved seeing the siblings have such a great time with each other. There were no classes. They didn’t have to go to work. They had no immediate responsibilities.

Quarantine in our town was not yet in full effect. It felt like a family staycation. But there were two full weeks before anyone’s online learning kicked in. Two full weeks of “go with the flow.” How can they eat constantly using every dish we own? How can they have so much energy at 2am and sleep so late? How can they drink so much alcohol and still function?

Seriously, how do they do it?? I had to call on all my patience as life spun out of control. Having teenagers has already sucked most of the delusions of control out of me but I still hang to the thread that keeps me sane. And that thread was ready to break. I had to find a solution. Now if you are the kind of person who does not thrive on schedules and routines, if you are the kind of person who can relax and live in the moment, please know that I am so jealous of you. You can stop reading this now. Or better yet, share your secret. I would love to learn your ways.

We created a working schedule for our family

But if you are like me and crave order, this is what we did to regain a semblance of routine before I had an emotional breakdown. We chose to create a daily working schedule for our family. It was a seemingly small, simple change but it made all the difference. We decided to meet each morning in the kitchen at 7:30am.

We don’t care if our kids wake up at 6am or 7:25am but we are all expected to be in the kitchen at 7:30. This gives us a chance to have breakfast together as a touch point to start the day before we head into our “work time.”

Our work time is defined as 8:30am to 2pm – this works well for us but, obviously, if you want to implement a schedule, you should choose whatever time frame works best for your family. Between those hours, everyone is doing school work, exercising, showering, eating lunch, reading – something productive happens during this time.

Some of those activities may not seem like “work” but we set realistic goals for what can be accomplished given the circumstances. Allowing time to work out, shower, make lunch (and clean up the kitchen afterwards!) gave our kids about three hours for actual school work. In this environment, I think that three combined hours of productivity during any given time frame is impressive so we were loose in defining productive activities. If your child’s virtual school is more academically rigorous than three hours of work a day…I’m sorry…but in the long run, your kids will be smarter than mine, so you have that going for you!

After 2pm is time for relaxing, video games, watching shows, FaceTiming friends, surfing (we are lucky to live on a beach that is still allowing us to surf) – anything fun and relaxing. For college students, this type of family schedule may not work – our son sometimes has lectures at other times of the day and his work load can lean towards more than three hours a day. However, having a guideline has still been helpful to him. And it has been really helpful for our high school student.

Structuring the day helped everyone

College students have more experience creating and keeping routines on their own but this new normal can be especially challenging for high school kids who aren’t used to such independent learning. Structuring the day gave everyone the feel of work time and “done with work” time. Without it, we felt as though all day was spent worrying about getting work done while at the same time all day was spent not getting work done.

It was a strange dichotomy that was ineffective and frustrating. A side benefit of starting our routine earlier in the morning is a healthier sleep schedule. To be “up and at it” that early in the day naturally forces everyone to go to bed at a more reasonable hour. So we were able to curb the 2am party in the kitchen without instituting a “bed time” which would have definitely caused rebellion.

Creating the morning schedule eliminated the late night chaos organically. A word of warning – don’t expect your kids to embrace this from the jump – especially teenagers. It will take awhile to convince them that this is a good idea, that you actually know more then they do, and that you honestly have their best interest at heart. Isn’t that so often the case? Why do they not just listen to us? We had to explain that we were not creating a schedule to micro manage.

We believe in our children’s ability to do their work but also, as adults, we know more about life management. We had to ask our kids to trust us – while at the same time, trusting them with ownership of an individual plan within their work time. We set the work time but they manage their tasks within that time frame.

We enforced the structure

Also, once we “convinced” them this was the right decision, we still have to enforce it. Our high school student continues to challenge us and tries to negotiate the timeframe. It is frustrating – but teenagers are frustrating, right? If we weren’t on quarantine, we would be navigating other challenges.

We try to keep that in mind. But at least setting productivity hours gave us a tangible framework to enforce. I am not saying that scheduling your day will eliminate your anxiety but it can alleviate some of the stress and, at this point, I will take what I can get!

Good luck to us all as we face this crisis together – but far apart. I am sending best wishes for health, happiness, and a working family schedule.

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About Kristin Parrish

Kristin Parrish is a mother of three living in Cocoa Beach, Florida. She is an almost empty nester, raising almost adults, and almost holding it all together. Long walks on the beach help.

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