Right now, I feel like I’m in a snowglobe: a self-contained, bubble-bound slice of the world just for me and my family. That snowglobe is right next door to yours and to the tiny worlds of millions of other families. Either physically or virtually, we are all creating new worlds for our families in snowglobes next to one another. We are all in this together.

This pandemic is not a time to put more pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents. It’s probable that this is just the beginning for many of us, and we have plenty of time to get into our groove.  It’s more important than ever to meet this new challenge by giving ourselves grace, accepting our limits, and leaning in when we need to let go of what we had planned and do what we need to do to get through the moment.

We—that’s me, my husband, and my two children—just got through our first few days as a home-working, home-schoolish, home-staying family. Some parts were totally bananas, and other parts were sweetly magical.

In the spirit of giving this our best shot, here are some tips from my family snowglobe to yours.

Setting the Scene

  • Make it magic. Name your home-school-camp, come up with daily or weekly themes, designate dress-up days, or invent a special high five to match the theme. Whatever feels fun (and manageable) for your squad.
  • Create a schedule together so that your kids feel invested in it, too. Make a large paper or whiteboard version of it, collaborative illustrations optional, and put it up in your common space.
  • Your schedule should have some downtime, some free play, and some direct instruction time when the adults are really focusing on the kids. This will make it easier for them to let you work and get things done during free time because they get all of your focus at other points in the day.
  • Stick to that schedule as much as you can. It will take some time for our kids to adopt this new way. Remember how rocky starting school was? Try to help them acclimate by sticking to the rhythm.

During the Days

  • Start the day together with a morning circle. Include whatever you like to center everyone’s minds and bodies. Songs, games, stretching, yoga, or meditation could all work well.
  • Review the expectations you have of each other for the day. Try to keep this to two or three simple ones, like respecting our things and each other.
  • Consider creating a system to reward those expectations and the behaviors that are most important to your family, like being a really great team.
  • Close it out together. Create space for everyone to reflect on how the day went. Consider sharing roses and thorns, or any other language that helps you talk about what went well. Decide what things you’ll redesign together for tomorrow.

Content

  • Incorporate a gratitude practice or projects that are service-oriented like writing to people who are quarantined alone or contributing to care packages for those in need.
  • Kids of different ages? I had my daughter read to my son as reading practice (and also I got to do some work!).
  • When it comes to meals, incorporate Montessori-style preparation and clean-up. This both lightens the load on adults and gives kids opportunities to contribute to family life.
  • My family is a no screen-time family. We are going to use screens intentionally during this time, for educational purposes and for less than an hour per day. For example, our theme this week was animals of the world, and my kids could watch one nature show about the animal they chose to focus on each day.
  • Use your community as support. There are tons of online resources for projects being sent out right now. If you need more ideas, put out the call!

Materials

  • Follow your kids’ interests. Choose projects based on their passions and curiosities.
  • Find novelty in the familiar by using toys and supplies that you already have. For example, after learning about polar animals, my kids wanted to focus on whales, penguins and polar bears. We used our art bin to make glitter horned narwhal masks, made an “ice tent” with a hole in the top for the polar bears to go fishing in, and made some art with their animal of choice and a background painting of Aurora Borealis.
  • Set up an area where kids can get materials to build things and make things without asking for help. Put out some paper, pens, kid scissors and craft supplies. Make a tape tree. Lay out a snack bar to complete the look.

Managing it All

  • If you have a partner or support system, work together to schedule time in advance around any meetings you may have. This will allow you to show up for the parts of your day you really need to.
  • Use positive reinforcement as much as possible. Do this for yourself, your kids and your partner. What is your partner doing that you appreciate? Say it out loud. Notice the moments when your kids choose to compromise or listen to what you say.
  • Give limited, acceptable choices. For example, yesterday my three-year-old continuously interrupted meetings. When I gave him the choice of either sitting next to me and typing on an unplugged keyboard for two minutes while he waited for me to finish and then having all of my attention or going in the other room, he was able to wait.
  • This is new for everyone, and family members might experience ups and downs during the day. Acknowledge feelings, give hugs, and let them know it’s okay to feel funny—this is new and different. Then you can help them choose something positive to focus on.

Above all, be kind to yourself. It will take time to feel normal in this wild and wonky new situation, but this is also a new opportunity for mindfulness and reflection. How can you contribute your gifts to the community in the ways they’re most needed right now, and where can you find your daily joy?

This is a hard time. AND. We have an opportunity to use this time to teach our kids and ourselves how to weather a storm with love, civility and reason. We can choose to slow down,  adopt a daily gratitude practice, or make time for meditation to set our mind towards love and connection and away from fear in the mornings. We can choose to talk with intention and truthfulness to and around our kids instead of releasing our fear,  anger or judgment at others in front of them.

From my fam to yours, wishing you many small moments of beauty and love in these snowglobe days. You’re doing great.

Sarah McDonald is Galileo’s VP of Southern California Operations. When she’s not heading up camp operations, Sarah loves to write, paint, and adventure with her fam.