Schools are shut - Let's Thrive, Not Just Survive
Updated: Jun 25
So, 2 nights ago the French President announced that all educational establishments were going to close, indefinitely. I've been on social media ALOT, and I've seen everything, from the amusing posts (about his popularity increase amongst 0-18 year olds, from parents wondering if schools will close with the kids inside), to the fearful (using antibacterial wipes for every surface you touch), to the poignant photos of empty streets from countries in full lockdown, to the beauty of Italians taking care of each other by sharing in a group musical time - a true example of what Adler calls Gemeinschaftsgefühl (social connectedness and interest in the well-being of others).
So I'm writing to try and do the same - care for my community, using the tools I have learnt and sharing them with you to help your family thrive over the next few weeks.
Guidelines: I work in schools, teaching Positive Discipline through modelling it in the classroom, with the students and teachers. Whenever I start with a new class, we do an activity called 'Beginning the Almost Perfect School Year' where we co-create guidelines. I ask the question 'What do we all need in order to create a class atmosphere that works for all of us'? And we've taken this question and adapted it for home, for example - 'what do we all need in order to have a good time at granny's house this week?' Sit down as a family and ask the question "What do we all need in order to thrive (enjoy each others' company/ get our work done) while we're at home?", and brainstorm for ideas. Note down all the ideas without commenting on them. When you're done, work out which ones are possible for your family, and write them up on a chart, and sign them.
Routines: Positive Discipline is all about routines - they create safety and security, help with transitions. So this weekend we're going to sit down and build routines for the coming week. That's going to involve a daily timetable for each child. As adults, we need to provide the framework, and then within that, give our child autonomy and choices that are age appropriate.
But before that, my timetable! It might seem strange to put me first. In the first draft of this paragraph I was at the bottom, but I realise it won't work if I sorted them all out and then tried to fit in around each of the three of them. Partly because I have some constraints and fixed online appointments, and partly because I need to take good care of myself first (more about self care later)
I've switched to running all my coaching and workshops online, so firstly I need to ensure that I'm aware of the hours when I'll need my kids to be working/playing autonomously, so that I can continue to work.
My eldest is 11 and in middle school, he'll do his own timetable, his school will be meeting online each day and sending out a structured work plan, and we already have in place an agreement 30 minutes downtime on screens
My middle child is 9, and his class is using an online tool to provide work, but it'll be more split into morning/afternoon than hour by hour. He definitely needs more breaks, so we'll build a timetable that includes regular pauses to play with toys/lego/magnetix!
My youngest is 6, and she has brought home all her school books, with some guidelines on what she needs to do by the end of the week, so we're going to break that down into small daily chunks, mixed in with plenty of learning through play.
Screen time: It's a great idea to have a specific amount of screen time that is agreed with each child. Here's the timetable for one of ours, during a normal school week. While schools are closed, your kids may well be on screens doing school work, and you may also have work that you need to get on with, so think in advance whether you are going to increase their 'leisure' screen time, and plan some non-screen activities each day. As with the guidelines, put written agreements into place, and review them each week.
Jobs: With more people around the house full time, that means more toys out, cooking and cleaning. This is a great opportunity to get kids involved in chores. If you want to know how to do that, here's an article I wrote with more details. I'm putting this on our family meeting agenda.
Family Meetings: When we were on our roadtrip in our motorhome (for a year!), we held daily family meetings, with opportunities to encourage each other, sort out difficulties, and talk about plans for the next few days. For this week, I'm going to go back to daily meetings, for timetable plans, to see what is and isn't working, and to plan some forest walks - we're going to need to get outside to burn off some energy.
Self-care: We need to take good care of ourselves so that we can take good care of others.. Put on your own oxygen mask first, parents, we're in this for the long haul. So sit down, grab pen and paper, and make a list of things you enjoy doing. Then decide to put 10 minutes into your timetable each day for doing one of those things - you are modelling to your children that they should also take good care of themselves. For me it might be reading a book, for you it might be 10 minutes of sport. When you are taking time to take care of yourself, it will help you to be more available for your children the rest of the time.
If you'd like to join me for a free online intro to Positive Discipline, sign up for my newsletter, or would like help putting these in place, you can find out all about individual coaching by contacting me for a free exploratory call. I'd be happy to help.