No matter when you started on this path of "extended Spring Break" that most of the world is experiencing, you're probably over it. It's one thing to enjoy a week of no school with your children when you have plans, you can go somewhere or they can play with friends.
But week upon week of learning from home, no playdates and no idea when it'll be over can leave you feeling a little, well, defeated. And if you work from home like many of us do, it's even more stressful. Oh, and let's add in a service member who is "teleworking" while also answering the phone at ridiculous hours.
Ready for the secret?
This is just like summer. Kind of.
The secret is, there is no secret. But there are some ways you can make this enjoyable. I promise.
1. Get outside as a family. Fresh air is good for you, and we all need to stay as healthy as possible. Plus having the kids outside means they should sleep better. Take an evening walk, plant some flowers or toss a ball around. Chalk, water, jumping in puddles -- whatever it takes. Enjoy it!
2. Take regular brain breaks. Turn on some music and dance! Run through the house yelling "Tag, you're it!" Have a sporadic Nerf gun fight. Do whatever it takes to let everyone relax, take a break from what they're doing and then return to the task at hand refreshed.
3. Set a routine. I know, you're shocked. But as a military family, you probably cling to routine. We thrive on structure. So even setting regular mealtimes and bedtimes will help. And lists. Make a morning list, and let your kids do the tasks in whatever order they want. Make yourself a list, too, and include things like "drink coffee" and "take a shower" so you can accomplish something every day.
4. Get dressed. Working from home is often synonymous with working in your pajamas. And yes, sometimes we do that. Or yoga pants. But there is something behind the theory of dressing for the day. It helps your mindset change from "hanging out in pajamas" to "work time." It'll help the kids realize the difference too.
5. Cook and eat meals together. These are the things you will crave when this is all over. Spend time laughing in the kitchen making tacos. Discuss new topics the kids are learning over dinner. When was the last time you had a week full of meals together? Probably never. Embrace it and cherish it.
6. Give everyone some space. Your kids may be way too old for naps, but quiet time is a great thing. Designate an hour in the early afternoon -- or whatever works best -- as quiet time. Everyone goes to their own room and relaxes. I encourage this to be screen-free time, but you do what works. Take this break too, parents!
7. Make the weekends different. In our world, it's easy for weekends to blend right into the rest of the week -- especially when there's no work break. But treat the weekends differently to allow all of you some relaxation. Maybe that means no screen time during the day Monday through Friday, but Saturday morning cartoons are encouraged. Maybe it means a movie night or sibling sleepovers in the living room fort Friday night. Make them special, and you'll look forward to them.
8. Don't stress over schoolwork. Seriously, teachers are amazing human beings. Most of them don't teach their own kids, in several different grades, through the computer on a regular basis. You don't need to stress over this. Your children are learning. Do the assignments on your schedule. Learn new things with your kids. Communicate with the teachers, and do the best you can. Don't stress.
Your kids are always learning. They learn from you when to stress out and when to relax. They learn anxiety and calm. They learn how to manage life following your example. This is hard, no doubt, but this is also good. It's a great time to reset.
A few weeks ago, we had a Saturday with nothing planned. Nothing. We went to the gym and the library and spent the day just relaxing. We loved it. We planned to schedule it again. (Schedule time off? Yeah, that's as crazy as it sounds.)
But now we have weeks of nothing outside the house. Guaranteed family time. Time to rediscover what our kids are interested in and what we can learn together. Time to find the value in family time.
Time to let the rest of the "stuff" go and lean into what's really the most important.
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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.