#QuarantineCreating… with Kids

By Akima A. Brown (admin contributor)

Hey again friends,
Welcome back to another week of quarantine. Here’s to wishing you all the best of everything in this time of isolation. If you saw last week’s post about creating in quarantine, but you have children, you’ve likely been waiting for this installment.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about all the things you don’t need to do, and how much screen time your kids should or shouldn’t have while you work. I’ll spare you any additions to the barrage of bullet points, numbered lists, color coded schedules, and outlines that often contribute more to our anxieties than assuage them.

Nor is this going to be a lengthy overview of health and hygiene and ways to get your kids to understand the gravity of present state of affairs. I won’t badger you with the charge to wash your hands, stand six feet apart, or stay inside. I won’t harangue you with detailed instructions you’re likely more versed in by nw than you care to be. And I won’t overwhelm you with stats about those infected with or affected by this global pandemic.

If you are among the countless parents who’ve been placed in quarantine with your children — who’s been charged with adding homeschool teacher to your repertoire — I feel your pain and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all bad.

Instead, let me tell you how you can make the most of this time. How you and your children can come to look back on this time with fond memories and consideration. Let me tell you how this can prove to be a point of reflection, reinvention, and rest.

First, let me start by saying that I get it. As the single mother to a child with special needs and the primary caregiver to an immunocompromised parent, I completely understand the pressures of self-isolation — especially for those who are still working each day; namely, those of us working for ourselves.

Trying to stay abreast of all the news with COVID-19 can be daunting in and of itself. For instance, are you on full lockdown, shelter-in-place, or “safer at home” quarantine? Is there a curfew imposed on your city, are you free to come and go as you please, are there limits on how many people can gather at a time?

We’re being told that exercise and sunlight are essential to our health, but also not to go outdoors. If you tack onto this that you have kids at home who typically aren’t there — eating food you don’t usually have to buy — and going through essentials you’re trying not to speed through too quickly given the situation at the stores these days.

You have conference calls to chime in on and emails to send; proposals to draft, and no to mention this would be a great time to beef I up your portfolio… but how?

How are you supposed to do all of this, plus keep this kids fed, quiet, entertained, and Cheesy Pete (dare I say it) learning amid everything else you’ve got going on? How, just how?

Believe it or not, the answer is: parenting.

No, that’s not some underhanded jab at your parenting style. Attached, free-range, or Club Screen Time, the most important thing you can do right now is love on your babies and give them your attention.

Make memories, then make moves.

It doesn’t matter if your babies are a few months old or almost grown; there’s nothing like quality time together.

Perhaps, you feel like you’ve had enough quality time to last a lifetime with everyone being confined to closed quarters for such an extended duration. But having intentional times of togetherness can work wonders for you, your kids, and your productivity.

In my house, we have a sequence schedule. Rather than focus on time slots, we look at order of events. This is helpful in keeping my kiddo focused on what needs to take place without creating anxiety around when it needs to take place. things host of activities that aim to complete each day, but we don’t focus on schedules, just sequence. Whether we get through it all or not, by 2:30pm EST we stop everything, cuddle up, and settle in for a movie marathon until dinnertime.

Here are some tips or helping you to create while caregiving under quarantine.

  1. Plan ahead. It doesn’t have to be a color-coded, itemized schedule of the day. Instead, have a variety of activities available for your little one to choose from. You can use a bingo-style sheet that allows your kiddo to choose what activities they’ll do.
  2. Use timers. Smart phones. Alexa devices. Google Helper. Egg timers. Stopwatches. If you want to keep your kiddos on-task while you work, timers can be a great way to do so. You can even task the AI (artificial intelligence) timers with announcing transitions and playing music during the changes to keep kids excited and engaged. Make it age-appropriate so even your teenagers look forward to it. 😉
  3. Get the kids involved. Having previously been a teacher-educator and homeschooling mama, I know how important it is to include kids in the creation of rules, norms, expectations, and schedules. The night before we resumed “homeschooling”, I asked my son for his input about activities, lesson plans, and lunches. We discussed what kinds of things he wanted to learn that aren’t covered in school so I could include them. He shared various YouTube channels that interest him, and I explored similar content that we could incorporate into his self-directed learning time.
  4. Let them do their own thing. Once you’ve figured out activities and laid a plan for self-selection… let them self-select. This is a great time to give your kiddos some much needed autonomy. Allow them to choose their pace and let you know when they’re ready to tap out. Don’t be afraid to step back and take your cues from them.
  5. Convert parallel play into parallel productivity. At a certain point in their development, kids want to play near others but not with them, yet. You might be surprised at how much you can accomplish by setting up your work stations in the same room or beside each other at the table. More often than not, this will fulfill their need to be near you without requiring that you stop what you’re doing.
  6. Get the kids really involved. For the super adventurous… try making something with your kids. Use this time to share your creative talent and show your kids what you do. Here, we’re producing videos, making comic books via Zoom meetings with other kids in quarantine, and making a kids’ smoothie recipe book. Even though these are my son’s projects, I serve as producer and give him a deeper glimpse into my day-to-day in the process.
  7. Be open-minded. A lot of my work these days is kid-focused. This is a far cry from my usual projects. I wouldn’t say I create for mature audiences, but I definitely have parents in mind when creating family-friendly stuff, and just about everything I write has some social commentary and graphic allegory. And while I’m always excited to make things with my mini-mogul-in-the-making, it’s a once or twice a year activity — which has never bothered me a bit. But lately, my son is bringing me some really great, simple, and easy to streamline ideas daily. They’re so easy and make so much sense that I just can’t pass on them. What’s more, I would likely have never known about them if he weren’t home with me as much as he is now. So, Whitley you may have a vision for what you think might work, or may not want to involve your kids in your space at all, be open to exploring, trying, and creating new things. You might be pleasantly surprises.
  8. Be patient. This last bit of advice probably should be first, and if I ever do this again, I’ll put it there. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. We are living in an insanely trying and stressful time right now. Though many, myself included, are grateful for the slower pace and additional opportunities to unplug, other issues have surfaced to replace those now gone. Conversely, many of my peers are having the opposite experience, where things have gone from bad to worse to debilitating overwhelming. That is why it’s so vital that we’re kind to ourselves and our kids (spouses, neighbors, loved ones, etc.) in these moments of uncertainty. When things don’t work, try and try again… later. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to call it quits. Be willing to step away from what isn’t serving you guys and find an alternative. Sometimes the alternative is enjoying a reading break, grabbing a snack, and taking a nap. As much as we emphasize productivity as a society, the truth is that rest lends itself to health, wellness, and rejuvenation. In these times, it’ll pay to slow down a bit. Sleep has been proven to aid the immune system, so get ample rest and start over when needed.

All in all, creatives want to create. As I said in my previous post, staying sharp can certainly help us when seeking work… but that can’t be the only point. For many of us, our creativity has been a lifeline. We had to fight to be accepted for choosing the unchartered, unbeaten path. In some cases, we had to learn how to live with it despite a lack of acceptance. An now, stuck in the house, unsure of what comes next many artists wonder if they made the right choice. Let me assure you that you absolutely did.

Streaming services are seeing an all-time high in new subscriptions and repeat customer viewership. You know who did that — the artists, the creatives.

Museums, theaters, symphony halls, and ballet companies are all offering virtual access to the public to view their collections and performances. That’s right – the arts are proving vital to people getting through this time. Your creative counterparts are offering something to the world that is helping us all to heal. I’m merely suggesting that you offer Yourself the same — and share it with those you love.

Of course, if you want to share it with the world you’ll get no objections here. Remember, great beauty is often found in chaos and awesome transformation is spurned from transition.

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