Coronavirus Blog #4: Meltdowns, Meltdowns, Meltdowns

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Homeschool sure has started out with a bang.

Today is March 17, 2020.

It feels like it should be at least April 17, 2020.

I have great kids. For the most part (well, with the exception of my middle child, my son), my kids are pretty mellow and easy to get along with.

My second child is amazing too….but he is a bit explosive at times, with very little impulse control.

My kids are home now because of the corona virus, and can’t go to school. They are stuck at home with me as their fearless teacher leader.

I already do a lot of school type stuff with them at home, so this doesn’t seem like it should be all that much different.

But for some reason, it is.

While my older school aged boys aren’t acting like they miss school, or that they are feeling any stress because of the uncertainty of what’s happening, I think they are feeling it.

The reason I say that is that my kids are having a lot more meltdowns than usual.

In a week, I might see one or two meltdowns from one of my boys, usually right after school.

Now I am seeing them multiple times a day, over trivial things like a broken lego creation or a disagreement over a game or a toy.

I know that the meltdowns function to help the boys express their feelings, to release the pressure, to work through whatever is happening.

But it is tough right now to get through each day and get excited about homeschooling, when tears are happening left and right.

Some people say that we should just let the kids watch screens and zone out. I’m not that mom. I think that getting into a new “normal” as quickly as possible, especially for the youngest ones, is the best thing we can do for them.

Kids thrive in stability and routine, in my humble opinion.

Letting them just passively consume content on a screen doesn’t help them transition to the new schedule. It just kicks the can down the road. That fight, that transition, all the feels that go with experiencing emotion associated with leaving the old routine and starting the new….it is still there, still looming.

I’d rather avoid the screen, focus on the new routine, and remove that lingering anxiety with the comfort of a stable and familiar routine.

Even if it is something new and different.

I am honestly quite excited about the chance to have my kids at home, and to work on school type work with them. They are finally old enough to want to “learn” stuff, and to be really interested in cool experiments, awesome books, history, and more. They can sit and listen to information, and then ask questions.

In year’s past, back when they were home, it was pretty pointless to try to do anything complex with them, because it either went over their heads or they couldn’t sit still long enough to learn it.

But now….now they can sit. Now they are interested!

To break up the tears and to try and inspire some enthusiasm in the homeschool schedule I quickly devised a few days ago I did a few science projects with the kids. We built structures with marshmallows and toothpicks. We jumped yeast into hydrogen peroxide to make elephant toothpaste (try the 6%, the 3% works but the reaction is quite modest).

We’ve also taken advantage of the sunny weather and empty streets/sidewalks to ride bikes and scooters a lot to get the wiggles out.

I think a lot of parents and children are experiencing stress over this corona shutdown, even if it isn’t the virus that itself that is driving it.

I know some parents who are avoiding talking to their kids about the virus, about why schools are closing, why grandma and grandpa can’t come to visit.

I’m not hiding anything from my kids. But I’m also not dwelling on it. My kids know about the virus. They know why we can’t go to school, and why we have to stay at home. We talk about the virus in a calm, matter of fact way, and answer every question.

My kids make statements like “and we are all going to be okay.” I can tell though that these statements are really a question, and what the kids are looking for is for me to respond and say “Right!” or “Exactly!”

Meltdowns are naturally when a child is struggling to handle something happening inside of them. The meltdown often has nothing to do with what is happening in front of them at that moment, and is more likely to relate to something else (like coronavirus fears/anxieties).

I have to remind myself of my commitment to kindness (rather than authoritarian-ness) with my kids. I won’t grant them permission to break the rules or treat me badly, but I will hold them and listen to them when they need to explain themselves or to cry.

My son got in trouble yesterday for destroying his sister’s hat, an act that made no sense whatsoever. I stopped him sharply, exasperated. He threw himself on the couch, face buried in the pillows. I picked him up and carried him to my room, and sat with him in my chair for about ten minutes. He didn’t say anything to me, just wrapped his arms around my neck and cried.

I have no idea what caused my son to do what he did, but his response to my sharp correction clued me in that my son needed me and my help more than he needed a consequence for doing something dumb and thoughtless.

As you navigate the new schedule with your kids, and find yourself frustrated or angry because of how poorly it is going, just remember that this is very stressful for the kids too, even if they don’t show you how they feel.

Their whole lives have been taken away from them without any warning (their friends, their teachers, their activities, their routines).

Remember to be kind and compassionate to them (and to yourself) as everyone navigates this new life we are living.

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