Trapped! That’s what many people feel like they are right now. Many children are complaining of being bored, or worse, having way too much screen time. Stress is infiltrating more homes globally by the day because businesses are closing their doors, people are losing their jobs, bills are still coming due, social distancing is making people feel disconnected, and there are shortages of basic necessities at the stores. My Facebook friend, Jason, phrased it like this, “We’re all getting to understand what freedom really is now that it’s slowly being taken away from us…” So, is that trapped feeling the absence of freedom? Yes, that’s why it’s so hard to take.
Having More Freedom When Freedom is Taken
Freedom helps societies thrive. Luckily, in our homes, we are in charge of our own family-governments and self-governments. Despite what is happening outside the walls of our homes, the destiny of the people on the inside can be bright, meaningful, and full of hope if we choose to set our family-governments up for freedom and thriving. Here are 14 principles that can help your family thrive during these historic times of change and crisis.
1. We are actually freer when we are in charge of more aspects of our own lives. The more we outsource services to care for our family, the more control we are required to give up. If someone else is in charge of the entertainment, they get to put the content they want in it. The same thing goes for the education we get or the food we eat. Since we are all at home making our own food, educating our children ourselves, and creating our own entertainment, we can make it whatever we want it to be and more fully fit the needs of our family.
2. Stress and worry are your enemies, not your friends. Cast them out the moment they come. Everyone has had their share of concerned thoughts at this point. But, don’t forget that to worry is usually a selfish action. As soon as a person starts connecting to and serving people around them, they see more hope and less worry.
3. Serve others. Stop doing your daily chores when you can and play with the children. Read them a chapter book that you always wanted to read them. Play a game. Yes, this is all service. Also, make treats, work on a craft project, and call a neighbor. If your children see you happily serving and loving others, then they’ll feel freer to have hope when their lives are drastically changed, too.
4. Surround yourself with light. Literally, spiritually, intellectually, and socially, we all need light. So, go outside to take a walk. Turn on lights and open the shutters on the windows. Study great books and inspiring stories. And, socialize with your family. Talk more in the time you have. The house should be noisier with everyone home. That’s a good thing.
5. Have planning meetings. Families need to make deliberate plans for how things will be during this time. Well, to be honest, families always need to deliberately plan for how they want their family to run. Each week a family can have a family meeting or council to talk about what they want their family relationships to be like, how to improve them, how they want to serve others, what problems they see that need to be solved, and what fun plans they want to make as a group for that week.
6. Have fun. You can still have fun plans even though you aren’t going to many places outside the home. If you have a yard, use it for family Olympics and obstacle courses. Get out the frisbee and the croquette set. Make dandelion jewelry and build a fort. If you can’t get to a park and don’t have a yard nearby, be creative. Have a campout in the living room, open a restaurant at your place and take turns being the customer each night. Learn the art of napkin folding or play with Oobleck. Don’t let a change of pace dampen your fun. In fact, this could be the best time of all to really give your family fun a boost. Screens should be a last resort, not a go-to. Get creative. Teach the children games from your childhood. Think of what they could learn during this time.
7. Contention kills connection. Stop any contention sooner rather than later. And, don’t stop contention with more contention That’s just power struggling. Set a standard for how you’ll handle any problems before any problem occurs. Your family-government needs predictable skills that everyone knows how and when to use them. Take time to teach those right now. It will make the rest of the time at home better.
8. Have a schedule. The first few days of sleeping in and laying around were fun, but now the house feels like a group of sloths at a reunion. No one is happy in that permanent condition. It’s important to create a productive flow to the day. Don’t micromanage to death, just have some set times things happen each day.
9. Have big events. If there is a birthday or a graduation, have it anyway. Put on a cap and gown, take photos, and then walk down the street or down the hall. Have a big feast and blow up balloons. And, if you don’t have any big events you’ll be missing, make some up. It’s always good to look forward to something. You could have a night at the theatre and do puppet shows. But, be sure to pop popcorn!
10. Send letters and make calls. The family is really the most important and foundational social group, so most social needs can get met there if a person is open to socializing with family. But, to keep up with friends and neighbors, start writing letters and making calls. Letters are old-fashioned but never lose their excitement. Who knows, maybe Aunt Judy will write back. Think of the writing practice and the fun that can be had by writing letters.
11. Learn adult skills. What skills make a confident adult? Make a list. Cooking, gardening, cleaning, auto repair, decorating, baby care, sewing, building, etc. Teach them those things. These are the lessons they can’t get at school. You’ll give them confidence for a lifetime if you teach them adult skills.
12. Work More. Now is the time to have more family work time. Take the children along with you as you do your daily tasks. I know you didn’t used to do those things with children underfoot, but now you’re training them and bonding with them through a project. They will never forget these life lessons.
13. Praise the children more. When we see more messes and notice more behaviors that need improvement, it’s too easy to become negative. Be positive. If you notice the good, the children will find more good in their days, too.
14. Learn Stuff. This new situation is really a school, whether you want to see it that way or not. School is whatever happens in your child’s day. So, be conscious of that and factor in learning time to your daily schedule. Read stories to the children. Do family memorizations and plays, have oral reports, create your own board game, make collections, and do group projects. Have all the fun with learning you always wanted to have as a child. Homeschooling isn’t odd, it’s a blast!
Freedom isn’t given and it can’t really be taken away as long as we see ourselves and our choices as the creators of our destinies, no matter our circumstances. This time of crisis is new and unusual, but it is totally doable. To thrive, we just need to go back to basics; the basics of a thriving family environment. Everything else will work itself out. Have faith in that.
By Nicholeen Peck