Parent Perspective: Enjoying Family and Finding New Passions During Physical Distancing

TCS parent, Beth, shares how her family is slowing down, finding new passions, and enjoying more time together during physical distancing. She also shares a list of her family’s favorite online resources.

When we first sheltered in place over a month ago, I focused on making sure we had the supplies we needed to stay at home. I stocked up on food, household goods, craft supplies, etc. I thought it would be a few weeks of hunkering down and then life would soon return to normal.   We now know that this is going to be a longer journey than we initially imagined. As I think about that, I have come to realize that this time will likely be one of the most profound memories my third-grade daughter has about her childhood. I think a lot about how she is experiencing all of this. What will she tell her children when asked about what life was like during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

These are uncertain and anxious times for sure. It’s not easy living life while practicing physical distancing, and I am trying to make it as positive an experience as possible for her. In our home, we try to focus on what we can control rather than what we cannot. We prioritize laughter and quality time over strict schedules and having a tidy house. Do we stay in our pajamas more than we should? Yup. Is my kitchen counter full of science experiments and craft projects? Check. Has my daughter’s bedtime varied more than the stock market these days? Absolutely. At the end of all this, I hope she will remember how she felt during these times rather than what she was missing.

Probably the hardest thing for our family right now is that we very much miss spending time with our family and friends. To stay connected with family, we FaceTime with grandparents a few times a week, and my daughter has been an excellent technology coach to them (trust me, it’s greatly needed). Also, I schedule 1:1 online “play dates” with her friends. Admittedly, the first few sessions were a bit awkward as the kiddos were trying to figure out how to connect and “play” virtually. To help encourage interaction, they now do “games” like taking turns acting out a scene from a favorite movie or playing “minute to win it.”

I have also tried to involve my daughter in the routines of daily life such as cooking and cleaning around the house. She has really stepped up and often crafts a well-balanced breakfast or lunch for the whole family that would make Nurse Sharon proud! She also loves to help me with gardening – she has learned how to plant flowers, weed like a maverick, and mulched our entire front garden bed. To make these “household contributions” fun, I give her a lot of freedom of choice when helping around the house – whether it is what to cook or what to plant.   She has gotten so interested in gardening, she asked to take an online class and is now planning our vegetable garden!

I want to use this time to nurture my daughter’s special interests and to find things she loves.  And admittedly, I’m also trying to slow the Netflix roll. There are so many incredible (and often free) online classes available right now. We try to take one or two special classes or virtual field trips a week to mix it up. I also let her choose one topic to dive deep into during these next few weeks, and she chose the Revolutionary War. I found some online resources on the subject that she is doing along with some of her friends (BrainPOP is free right now and is fantastic). Finally, to encourage her love of science and math, we do a STEM challenge a day with a group of friends where the kiddos make and share daily videos with everyone on their projects. It is a great way to combine learning with connection!

We are trying to make the most of our family time together.  My husband travels most weeks, so it has been awesome to have him at home. This is a gift for all of us, and we have committed to taking a family walk every day when he has a break in work. We ordered some new games, and we have a family game night during the week now!  To keep things interesting, we have a “game swap” going on with some neighborhood friends to try out new games. I have heard that some of the games my daughter loves can now be played online with friends, so that will be something we are exploring.

I am not sure when we can gather together in public again. In the meantime, we will continue to make the best of it. I hope that my daughter will have positive memories during this period of her life, including staying in her PJs until noon, eating chocolate chip pancakes for lunch, learning some cool things, beating her parents fair and square at board games, and learning to roll with whatever life may bring.

Here are some of our favorite online resources that our family is enjoying right now:

Atlanta Museums at Home
Many of Atlanta’s top museums and other attractions have joined together to provide free virtual experiences to the community.

Red Tricycle Event Calendar
The Red Tricycle editors have put together the largest, most comprehensive virtual events calendar of family-friendly activities so you can scroll through hundreds of new online events, from educational, to entertainment, dance, fitness, music and more.

Exploratorium Learning Toolbox
Make sense of timely topics and find general science support for your virtual classroom or learning together at home.

American Museum of Natural History
A great science resource for kids from the American Museum of Natural History.

Wide Open School
Sponsored by Common Sense Media, this is a great compilation of online learning tools and resources. We really like their field trips!

BrainPOP
One of our favorite sites for learning. It is currently free and offers fun interactive learning across a variety of topics.

Explore Colonial Williamsburg
Great site to do virtual field trips as well as explore learning resources on Colonial America! Every day at 2:00 p.m. they offer a fun live learning session.

Radish Kids
Online cooking classes and recipes for the whole family.

Wylde Center
A great local not-for-profit organization that is offering a variety of online gardening classes.

The Journal
A huge list of free ed-tech resources!

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