Coronavirus was making me feel like a failure. My home was filled with tension and as a mother, I felt it was up to me to lighten the load and make this time together fun and memorable. Everybody was saying it. We’ve been given a special opportunity to spend time with family and bond through all of the special activities we can do at home together. What a gift! Time alone with a house full of teenagers with nowhere to go!
If this is not stress-inducing for you, well, that’s wonderful. For me, it was a pressure cooker and there was no space to release the steam! Night after night, after a long day of getting in each other’s way, we grumbled and dragged our feet into bed wondering how to make the next day go by faster and smoother.
Parenting teens means giving them autonomy and encouraging their growth into adulthood. But I couldn’t help but treat them like toddlers every time they came in from the outside or walked in the kitchen. Wash your hands, stop touching your face, throw your dirty kleenex out! Don’t get me wrong, these are all principles that I’ve been teaching my kids since they were babies. Yet the sight of a crumpled tissue was far more fear-inducing in this crisis than ever before and I needed to take the notch down about 95 percent!
Educators, psychologists, and well-meaning people were offering great ideas to ease the tension. I was in such a rut, I didn’t think I could spin it around.
Two mental switches made a huge difference.
Realizing I had very limited control over my children was step number one in reducing tension. With that idea, I made my first stride out of the negative space. The most I could accomplish was to educate them on what our new reality means for us and the world and then to pray that they stay safe and healthy and their actions keep other people safe and healthy.
Meeting my kids where they are, instead of expecting them to conform to the new norms with ease, was the next step in creating a more positive atmosphere. I’m a homebody at heart so leaving the house has not been distressing or challenging. Understanding their needs to socialize, stay productive and maintain some type of structure while remaining indoors was a turning point towards a lighter feeling in the home.
In previous years, the weeks before Passover my kids spent most of their time out of the house working from early morning to late in the evening. They were productive and making great money, but with this new reality, they’re not able to work (or play) outside the house. This meant they were giving up independence and I needed to acknowledge this as a real loss. Loafing around is the new normal and resting off a good sleep is par for the course. I had to change my expectations, like not forcing them to get up bright and early to be productive human beings when there was nothing exciting to do.
After those steps were taken, a path was cleared and as a family, we were able to inject a spirit of fun and lightness in the atmosphere and do some enjoyable activities.
Here are a few suggested activities that can help make these days fun and memorable:
- Game night
- Zoom calls with Family
- Readily available batches of popcorn and chocolate.
- Passover cleaning to the bare minimum
- Exercise together
- Share the latest jokes
- Create fun videos
- Redesign/reorganize a bedroom, playroom, garden, etc.
- Learn a new language or a new skill
- Make ‘Thinking of You’ cards and bring to elderly neighbors (in their mailboxes)
- Bring out musical instruments that have been collecting dust and begin to play again!
- Write songs together
- Put up a tent in the backyard and camp out
- Assign children to make a special meal
- Nightly dinner time together
Wishing you much luck carving out your space and making memorable moments. Best of health to you and yours.
By Stephanie Gordon