When I was home educating our five children, which, overall, I loved, there were times it felt such hard work! There were times I felt just exhausted and grumpy. Some of you have expressed the same feelings during this Lockdown time.
So here are a few tips that helped me:
Firstly, I wrote a list of things I could do when I felt the 'energy' in the room needed to change.
I realised that, if I was tired and grumpy, the whole family would pick up on that stress, so it was my job to try to monitor my own feelings. Below is the list, which I wrote in the back of my diary one year. I found that, if I was grumpy, the last thing that woud come to mind was something that might change the mood, so a list to flick to gave me inspiration and just enough energy to try something new:
- Take a card from the Huggle Box. (I made a little box of business cards with words describing a range of silly and funny and happy hugs. If the mood needed lightening I might say "I liked the way you.... go and take a huggle card". The Huggle cards had things like: A hug and a cookie, a hug and a bump (bumping hips together), a hug in a rug, an upside down hug, a hug with a mug (drink of hot chocolate), a hug and a hum (hum a song together), a double hug (with another person), (a triple hug (with two other people), a group hug (with everyone all squeezing together), a hug and a hop, a high-five hug, a low-five hug, a sitting hug, a no hands hug, a no-touch-but-get-as-close-as-you-can-hug, a big hug, a loud hug, a mummy hug, a daddy hug, another kid hug, a hug of your choice (we had more of these cards than the others in the pack). You get the picture. It was just enough to break the ice and have a bit of a laugh.
- Have a laugh break - gather a collection of funny jokes to bring out at times you need to have a laugh
- Have a watergun fight
- Play "I Spy"
- Have milk and biscuits together
- Think of three things you feel happy about/grateful for today and tell them
- Ask "if you could be an animal for a day, what would you be and why?"
- Walk in the rain and jump in puddles together
- Make a treasure hunt
- Make popcorn and watch a movie
- Have a pillow fight
- Make biscuits together, put them on a nighbour's doorstep, ring the doorbell and then run away
- Have a story time - make up a story together in which the child is the hero
- Plan with the child something special to make something special for Dad, or for the baby
- Do a jigsaw or colouring in together
- Have a family sleepover in the lounge or outside in a tent
- Build a hut in the bedroom with sheets and clothes pegs
- Sit outside together and watch the moon
- Make smiley-face pancakes
- Give a child breakfast in bed, on a try with a nice flower
- Press flowers together
- Tell a story : Pick three unrelated objectsand make a story around them
- Go for a walk with a magnifying glass (or a toilet roll or paper towel tube to limit the child's vision). Take a jar and observe or collect little creatures
Here are some of the things that worked for us:
- Set jobs to music: find a piece of busy fast music(we used pieces by violinist Marian Burns) and we all raced around picking up things or tidying the house to music, trying to get it done before the music finished.
- Have what we called a "Funny Pickup". Everyone goes as fast as we can to pick up things within a given time (timer on). We have to put everything on the couch (or designated place) that we don't know where it goes and then sort the couch items as fast as possible and put them all away. The key is to be crazy fast, like busy bees. Hhigh energy gets a lot done in a short amount of time.
- Play Kings and Queens (only works in a larger family). We all go and tidy up in one bedroom at a time. One person in the family becomes the King or Queen for that room. Their job is to watch everyone else tidy and clean and to say encouraging words to the others (this means that everyone gets a break from continuous cleaning and helps the kids learn to be positive to their siblings). Next bedroom a new king or queen is chosen.
- Have what we called "Creativity". Everyone has to tidy their room and then add something creative to their room to make it look special. It could be a teddybear on the bed, or a flower in a vase. Sometimes these became quite elaborate (a teddybear's picnic on the floor for example), but the fact of being able to add something creative at the end seemed to inspire doing a really good job of tidying up!
See it as a challenge to become a better person. You wont regret it. Some things I tried to help me with this were:
- Taking a deep breath and saying, under my breath, "Grace and patience, Lord" as I went to console a baby for the tenth time that day, or to sort out a fight. Choosing my attitude first, remembering that I am the big person here. Recognising that it IS a hard job, but it is worth it....I am in this for the long term, for the future results....
- Being conscious about giving lots of praise and encouragement for even the smallest improvement in attitude or action.
- Making sure I had some time for myself each day for my own sanity. I found that training the kids to all have an hour on their beds/in their cots after lunch to listen to an audio story, play or read a book, was well worth the effort. To start with, I had to literally stand outside the door and watch for the first child to put their toe off the bed and firmly and calmly put them back until they learnt. It was so worthwhile, and meant that, when I was pregnant, I could even have a sleep because the kids knew the rules.
So there are a few tips I found helpful.
Next blogpost I might write something about ways I found helpful for managing kids fighting with each other.
In the meantime, be kind to yourself. When it feels hard work, find ways to make it fun for YOU. When your mood changes, so will the mood of your children!
Let us all know what you find works well for your family in the comments below.
Lots of commiserations and care! You can do this!