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Disoriented to time during the stay-home order?

COVID has caused a lot of changes for people. One notable change is the complete shift in how people structure their days. If you have ever noticed your drive to and from anywhere familiar, you eventually know by the landmarks where you are going and drive on more of an autopilot navigation. The same phenomenon is showing itself to be true of how we keep track of time during the stay-home order. 

The original markers throughout our days that mark where we are at in our day have changed or been eliminated. That leads to changes in how we recognize where we are at in the day, week or even the month. Lots of clients are complaining about how forgetful they seem to be lately. I think it has everything to do with the loss of these ritualistic markers. Because of the loss of structure, we struggle to know where we are at in time. Overnight, the "landmarks" of time have disappeared. This creates a sense of disorientation to time. It's time to create new ones. 

I have been encouraging people to come up with a new sense of structure. Establish a new morning routine. Don't forget the self-care pieces including relaxing, eating, showering, etc. It's amazing how simple things serve as landmarks for where we are at in time. Humans are ritual-seeking beings. Establish markers through the day that allow yourself to regroup. Have that cup of coffee, take a shower, do your makeup, or whatever your work-normally routine would be. 

Set timers on the phone, and set goals for breaks. People are amazed at how often they forget to use the bathroom and eat. Those things are important! Working from home requires organization and the ability to self-structure. Take a lunch break. Go for a walk. Play with the kids. 

Decide on a stop time to end your day. Do something to re-energize your tank. The monotony of working from home and repeating the same responsibilities over and over again in the same space can wear on people quickly. 

For people who are also trying to home-school, this adds extra challenges. Depending on the age of the kid/s there is another challenge to learning to self-structure and encourage the kids to self-structure more. Take lots of breaks. Make learning fun. Be flexible. Ask the kids to weigh in on the order in which they want to complete tasks. Set timers to help them learn to focus on tasks for a set amount of time, and take breaks for a set amount of time. Be flexible, especially if the kid is naturally happy to self-regulate at a pace that is productive. Remember, everyone has a different pace. As long as your kid is "checking the boxes" of what needs to be accomplished, try to remain flexible. This is actually a luxury of working/learning from home. You have the freedom to design the day however is most productive for your personal style. It's not wrong as long as it is productive and that has a lot of different definitions. 

Some parents have reported that their kids seem overly responsible in this time period, constantly checking in with them about things that they wouldn't normally check in about. Can I do this? Can I do that? This mirrors how someone who goes from a structured 9-5 job punching a time clock to working from home or in an entrepreneurial setting. There is a sense of anxiety, "I'm going to get in trouble," or  "I'm not doing it right." That is just a by-product of having been in that kind of rigid 9-5 structure for so long. As you learn to recreate your day in productive, flexible ways, the anxiety decreases and a "new normal" sets in. It's important to encourage kids to be responsible for self-regulating and self-structuring. Explaining this to them is often helpful as well as reassuring them they own the rights to assist in the structuring. Remember, just make sure what you choose is productive. (Early lessons for the college-bound kid!)

For parents who aren't as lucky to have such responsible nerds for kids, learn to utilize your resources. Teachers are often happy to assist with helping kids learn to be productive and accountable. Often parents complain they are worried about burdening others when they ask for help, but I would argue this is an assumption. Teachers get to decide what is too much for them and where they want/can be helpful. Ask and let them decide. Often kids respond to other voices of authority better than our voices. It's that "they listen to their Auntie but not to me," phenomenon. Accept it and work with it. 

Summer vacation is about to present some new challenges for parents. Kids won't have the built in structure and responsibility that has been provided by home school criteria. It's going to be important to make more adjustments to this in the near future. They likely won't have the summer camps and other programs that parents rely on for structure and stimulation. Some communities are already announcing they won't be hosting those things for the summer as a result of safety issues with COVID.  My thinking on this is that parents need to continue to provide expectations and structure for kids to follow. Exercise, rest, intellectual stimulation, music, friendship time are all going to be important to maintain through the summer. This will be the next wave of creativity that we are going to be facing. Stay tuned for updates on more creative solutions. Feel free to share any that you can come up with as well! Think tanks are always welcome!


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