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Creating Your Family’s New Normal

The shutdown of our nation has brought devastating consequences. However, it has also presented amazing opportunities. As we begin the process of opening communities back up, each family faces a choice point. What will your family’s “new normal” look like?

Many people are chomping at the bit to get back to work, school, friends and freedom. With that in mind, there are some pieces we may prefer to leave behind.

This is what our old normal included:  

  • Suicide has been the 2nd leading cause of death for kids ages 10-24 for several years.
  • – The majority of students (even kindergarteners) experience anxiety and/or depression daily.
  • Sleep deprivation is common among teenagers.
  • – The GPA in high school is 5.3 and rising (a moving target is stressful).
  • Prescription drugs are surfacing in schools in epidemic proportions.
  • – There is a constant learning curve at school; literally a new piece introduced every day.
  • – Kids can’t stay home when they are sick because it’s too hard to make up the work.   
  • – Parents have trouble helping their kids with homework due to Common Core (even kinder).
  • Family dinners are rare.
  • No time for family walks, bike rides or movie nights.
  • – Nights and weekends are just as full as the week days.
  • – The main conversations at home are about school, homework, grades and chores.
  • – Babies are put in daycare at 6 weeks old.
  • Preschool at age 3 is necessary if you don’t want your child to start kindergarten behind.
  • – Lack of leadership in homes because everyone is so busy.
  • Sports every day after school and games on the weekends.
  • – Sports on holiday weekends.
  • – 50% of marriages end in divorce.
  • – Kids living between two homes, adjusting to siblings, half-siblings and step-siblings.

In contrast, with the stay-at-home orders, recently families have been able to enjoy:

  • – Family dinners.
  • Slower pace.
  • Less busy routine (except those working and managing homeschool).
  • Family bike rides, walks and games.
  • Zoom contact with out-of-town relatives and friends.
  • Quality time at home.
  • Breathing room.
  • – Kids feel less stressed.

What did your family gain from this quarantine? What would you like to keep as you move forward? Have your priorities changed? Are you feeling more connected with your kids and family? What have you learned about your child’s schooling?

Kids tell me they miss their friends, but not the stress. As a parent, you have the ability to make adjustments so your kids don’t return to a stressful lifestyle at home or school. You have the power to create breathing room as you structure and re-prioritize your family’s lifestyle going forward. How?

Here are 7 simple steps to get you started:

  1. Ask your kids what they have enjoyed about this time.
  2. Write those things down (all of them).
  3. Add what you have enjoyed.
  4. Discuss the items written down and add any additional ideas.
  5. Discuss priorities with the whole family.
  6. Incorporate agreed upon priority items into your schedule going forward, ensuring every family member gets some of their priorities on the new schedule.
  7. As school activities, sports and other items come up, guard your priorities and don’t let other less important things creep in.

If you’d like a great visual for this, consider you have a huge jar in front of you, along with big rocks, pebbles, sand and water. Your priorities are the big rocks. Put those in the jar (your life) first. What do you value? Money, time, family, grades, work, retirement, school, connection, contribution? Your family gets to choose! Then add the next level of priority (pebbles), then the sand and lastly the water.

I encourage you to give this some serious consideration before life’s activities jump back in and take over. Will your family be on the fast and busy merry-go-round that is hard to get on and off? Or will you choose a more connected lifestyle of love, joy and peace? Your task is creating a life that includes work and school, but doesn’t push quality family time off the plate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Start returning to activities slowly so you can make adjustments as you go. Plug in ample time for those big rocks. It will pay off in the years to come.

Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She provides parenting and co-parenting classes, 1-1 coaching, teen events and maintenance. Get in the loop here!

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