When you have a child with behavioral health challenges, maintaining a productive and peaceful routine while the whole family is at home together can seem like an impossible goal. As we head into summer, DeVaki Leonard, MCF’s Family Leadership Assistant, shares her tips for making daily life less stressful and more joyful.
- Establish a positive morning routine. Start the day with hugs, kisses and a good breakfast. Use this time to assess your child’s mood and emotions, which will help prepare you to handle any disruptive behavior or triggers.
- Build structure and consistency. Talk to your child about how to respect each other while you are both staying busy and offer daily reminders of proper etiquette for online learning and social activities. Children often lose some skills over the summer and providing review or practice time over the summer can help. Set limits on what’s allowed during your children’s learning time.
- Practice time management. Discuss your daily and weekly schedule as a family. Help to remind each other of scheduled meetings and online times. As much as possible, keep the same routine and schedule as if your child was in school.
- Take breaks. Implement scheduled breaks throughout the day, and take your lunch break at the same time as your children. This allows you to regroup as a family, while giving you a chance to look at your child’s progress on activities.
- Give positive reinforcement. Let your children know when they are doing a great job with completing their online activities or other projects. Offer special rewards (a favorite meal or snack, for example) to help them stay motivated. Generate some friendly competition to see how fast they can complete their “work” vs. you completing work-related tasks.
- Stay involved. Discuss the ups and downs of the past school year as a family and create plans for how to keep learning over the summer.
- Encourage new life skills. Provide opportunities for each of your children to be a daily helper and participate in household chores. Openly discuss things that are happening in the media and help your children manage their anxiety about COVID-19 as well as the current social unrest.
- Practice self-care: Set aside 30 minutes each day to devote to a self-care activity. Whether it’s drawing, playing a game, watching YouTube, doing a home manicure/pedicure, or simply doing nothing—allow each family member to retreat to their own private areas of the house to engage in self-care. Alternatively, choose to do an activity together as a family. This works well as part of a bedtime routine.