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Quarantine Experts, by Heidi Barrett

A lot of families panicked with the news that schools were canceled, and the workforce moved to home-based work. Some questioned how they would survive all the togetherness with their family. Liquor cabinet stock was checked, and a quick inventory was done by many.  Our family is a pro being quarantine. For many years, our youngest son Liam suffered from neutropenia, which meant his white blood cells were dangerously low. It made Liam vulnerable to any illness that was in our community. We had to quarantine to keep our family safe. Our experience taught us some valuable lessons that might be of help to you now.

Having a routine will help with the monotony of being at home day after day. Make sure you structure your day realistically with lots of breaks and outdoor exercise. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we regularly go walking or hiking in all types of weather, including rain. No one will melt if you go for a walk and it starts raining.  Children thrive on routine. Writing down a rough plan for the day can help, especially when your child is begging for lunch at 10 am. You can refer to the plan and say, “ no, we are eating lunch at 11:30 am.”  Consider having your child responsible for making one meal a day or, at the very least, helping out. Even a two-year-old can help set the table or bring dirty dishes to the sink.

To save your sanity, a meal plan is nice to have.  With grocery shelves empty, meal plan after you purchase your groceries and see what you have on hand. Have your kids help with the meal plan. Consider take-out a couple of times a week if your family can financially afford it. Where we live, restaurants have seen their business declined by 95% because of the coronavirus.  

If your child has been traditionally schooled in a classroom, know you do not need to create that experience at home. Some of the best learning in our house occurs when a child is dangling upside down on the couch using the floor as a tablet. If your school is closed with no online school work, consider checking out online learning resources that list free sites that were made available to use during the quarantine. These sites will help your child not lose the skills learned in the classroom the past year. Consider also making a card(s) or a craft that can be mailed to a nursing home. Most nursing homes in the United States are closed to visitors for fear of transmitting the coronavirus to our elderly population. 

Mass and all church activities have been canceled until the end of April in Washington State. If you can go to Mass, please keep everyone in your prayers. If you are not able to attend Mass because it has been canceled, some communities are using a live feed of Mass, check your parish, or Archdioceses. Magnificat is offering free online copies to help people who are homebound pray.  Ask you, children, how they would like to worship God in replace of Mass if it has been canceled in your community. Kids often have better ideas than adults. Consider starting a Rosary tradition in your family during this homebound period.  How to pray the Rosary can be found online. Even young children can join in. Consider having  Rosary Coloring Pages available to keep kid’s attention. If saying a whole Rosary seems overwhelming, start by saying a decade a day. 

If you are working from home while quarantined and have small children, keeping everyone entertained and quiet can be quite a challenge. Consider alternating hours with your spouse. One day you get to work a traditional 9-5 with no childcare responsibilities during those hours, and the next day during the 9-5 slot, you are responsible for the children. On the days you are fully responsible for the kids, consider working before the children get up from 5 am to 8 am and working during the 2-hour nap window and again working after the children go to bed. What worked well when my daughter was younger is a dance party every hour. If she quietly played for 45 minutes so I could work, then we would do a 15-minute dance party which she loved. Consider also relaxing screen time. Bribes worked well with most kids. Every day they remained quiet when I was on a conference call; my kids got a stamp on the calendar. After a certain number of stamps, they were able to trade in the stamps for a book of their choice. My kids loved purchasing their own book, and this helped keep the toy clutter down in our house. 

To keep things fresh during our confinement, we planned special events.  Plan a special dinner served on your best china. Everyone comes dressed up. Consider raiding the dress-up box for formal attire. Boas and tiaras make a bold statement.  Younger kids can make invitations to hand out to other family members inviting them to the special dinner. Our family is highly competitive. We have had many tournaments with the Wii U bowling. The winner gets to choose the next night’s dinner or gets to skip a chore. We have also had a movie and dinner evenings. Choose a movie to watch and plan a dinner around it. A fun movie choice is Disney’s Ratatouille and serve ratatouille for dinner. Ratatouille is fun to make as a family as there are things everyone can do in the dinner prep. 

These are uncertain times, but making the most out of your homebound confinement will leave you with wonderful family memories.

To get more ideas for surviving quarantine, please join the discussion in our Facebook group.

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