I don’t know about you, but not only are COVID times growing interminable, but winter during COVID is feeling like a never-ending polar vortex.
But, we will all get through it, and even if it will still be COVID times, at least it will be spring soon.
Until then, here are my best tips to surviving the rest of COVID winter.
1. Return to the Outdoors
In October, it snowed where we live. My kids were elated – we even overnighted new sleds since the old ones had broken and there weren’t yet any in local stores. Now when it snows, my children barely lift an eyebrow.
I had bought us all ski goggles, so we could still get outside even when temperatures dropped below zero. That was optimistic. Instead, we have become a family of hibernating bears in our warm cozy den of a house — almost never leaving.
If your family is in the same spot, this is the perfect time to return to the outdoors. Dust off your boots, strap on your snowshoes, and breathe the fresh air (even if it is a little chilly).
2. But Still Embrace Screen Time
Prior to COVID, my kids weren’t allowed any screentime during the week. No TV, no iPads, nothing. And honestly, they didn’t seem to miss it. We were all too busy rushing around to before- and after-school care; work; and swimming, baseball, tennis, etc.
But now, my son and daughter roll out of bed and check which friends messaged them on Facebook Messenger kids overnight.
They play Minecraft with their friends and talk incessantly about Redstone and diamond swords.
They send photos of their Facebook monster and adorable puppy GIFs to each other (and us).
They watched all four of the Home Alone movies about five times each (yes, there are four Home Alone movies. And no, I would NOT recommend you sign up for HBO Max just to access Home Alone 4…). All four Toy Story Movies have also been watched at least five times each.
And while some days I feel guilty that my kids have as much screen time as they do, we are all just trying our best to cope. Their screen time gives my spouse and me a break. For them, it provides social interaction.
Someday, this will all be over. And while they may be able to quote the most obscure movies from watching too much, they are loved and we will all be ok.
3. Re-establish a Daily Schedule
In the beginning days of the pandemic, the hottest graphics shared on social media were daily calendars for kids. Establishing a daily schedule for your family and your kids was how we all managed through those early days in March and April 2020. Today, those calendars are at the bottom of drawers or filling landfills.
So, when the time all blurs together, and it feels like COVID will never end, the best thing you can do is set a new schedule. It doesn’t have to be for every day. But pull out your old schedule (and cut about half of the things out — we were trying to do way too much last March!) and see how much more enjoyable the days seem when everyone knows what they are supposed to do next.
4. Assign Set Parenting Times
Remember when we used to crave more time together as a family? No? Me neither. We have had so much (
mostly sometimes wonderful) family time together lately it seems like it might be time for a break.
The best way to get this when you are all in one house is to assign set parenting hours. This is especially helpful on the weekends to ensure each parent gets a break. One parent is “on” for several hours while the other is “off.”
Whether the off parent buys drive-through Starbucks and goes for a drive or takes an hour-long shower and then reads a book in the bathroom with headphones on, it doesn’t matter. The point is that the parent is officially off-duty.
Similarly, if you have more than one kid, try some one-on-one time. Whether you and your son bake a cake or just your spouse and your daughter take the dog for a walk, it’s important for kids to get some individual one-on-one time occasionally.
5. Teach Your Kids Your Old Hobby
Do you have an old hobby or hidden talent that your kids can learn? Now, in the depths of winter, is the time to teach them.
Perhaps you were amazing at drawing trees when you were ten or your scrabble skills were off the charts. Maybe you were a world-class-juggler or you excelled at double dutch jump rope. Whatever that talent is, even though it has been buried through the years, now is the time to bring it back.
Just like with all of those scheduled activities you used to drive your kids to pre-COVID, set a schedule. Divide and conquer between you and your spouse.
Mondays and Wednesdays at 5 pm — you are on to teach your old tricks. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 pm are your spouse’s times. Saturday mornings at 10 is family learning time.
6. Find a Family Book Series
Nothing fills time better than a good book. While my oldest is old enough to read chapter books on his own, we still all enjoy a good family book series from time to time.
Harry Potter is a classic. And if you want to rotate with the audiobook, there isn’t a better audiobook out there than the Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale. Plus, when you finish the book, you can watch the movie.
Our family has also enjoyed Chronicles of Narnia and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. What are the favorite family books on your shelf?
7. Begin Planning Your Garden
While spring feels extremely far away, last year, with all of the COVID gardening, there was a run on seeds. So start planning your garden now.
What grew well last year? What didn’t? What did you want to plant but couldn’t?
8. Volunteer or Write Thank Yous
In November, we had a month-long giving series. Now is the time to bring back gratitude to your family’s life. Sign up to volunteer virtually.
Whatever your family chooses, it will help you survive these last few months of winter.
9. Celebrate (At Least) Weekly
I have never been much of a Super Bowl fan. But this year, I was more excited than ever. Why? Because it was something to celebrate. We bought delicious snacks (though admittedly consumed them well before the game started) and even placed family bets (the loser has to do the dishes) about who would win.
In the end, we didn’t really watch the game. However, the Puppy Bowl was a hit, and the Sunday game was a fun thing to look forward to. Next weekend, we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day with lots of red and pink treats and decorations.
In addition, since it’s Black History Month, we are reading more books and having more discussions about race, equality, and civil rights.
For ideas of what to celebrate and focus on, check out the National Day Calendar and choose at least one day each week as a reason to celebrate. Trust me. Celebrating even the smallest of holidays will make the time pass more pleasantly.
We are all struggling right now. Even for families where jobs are intact and everyone is healthy, parents are having a hard time getting through what remains of winter. Try one or all of these nine tips to survive the rest of winter with your kids.
If you have any other tips, please share them below.