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Split Households, Social Distancing and Parenting Kids During the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus has stunned the globe. From country to country, the coronavirus has brought sickness and even death to families. Knowing what to do in a situation like this is not easy. Our family is unique in that we are a two-home household. What can any of us do to keep our families safe with so many issues happening all at once?

By Tabitha Chapman, CA and Dr. Amber Deneén Gray, ABD

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“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~Carl Jung

The coronavirus has stunned the globe. From country to country, the coronavirus has brought sickness and even death to families. Knowing what to do in a situation like this is not easy. Our family is unique in that we are a two-home household. One of the co-parents, my partner, lives about 20 minutes away to care for her mother, while I do most of the kid-care, with us coming together on the weekends as a family unit. My partner has a compromised immune system. Recently, one of our sons got sick with what was later identified as “influenza a” but had progressed to pneumonia. Within a day of his symptom onset, my partner became very sick with similar symptoms. Within three days, her illness progressed into a secondary blood infection. Fast-forward thirty days later and we are amidst the chaos of Covid-19. What can any of us do to keep our families safe with so many issues happening all at once?

One of the primary issues we face is that my partner must have limited contact with the ‘outside world’ as this virus begins to spread rapidly. In addition, our children are typically outdoor kids, so we will need to create solutions to address the inevitable cabin fever. The preventative methods for Covid-19 are already starting to get to them, and we are on day 3 of “social distancing.” Although to be fair, we have been basically quarantined for a month as “influenza a” made its rounds amongst us all. Another huge issue, albeit an ongoing issue, is trying to ensure to manage my own mental health and sanity without my darling partner here to take on some of the attention on the weekends. So, what magic tool are we using to solve this? Love. I decided love would get us through. Well, love and a bit of strategy. Let me explain.

As with most desired achievements in life, it is helpful to set a goal to meet to remind one’s self the purpose of the goal at moments of temptation, or even failures. Setting my method to achieve the goal of survival and sanity to “love” allows me an easy tool to snap myself back into reality, with a solid perspective, and even a frame of mind that I can use to reset my thinking. This helps when addressing all needs in our system between my beloved immunocompromised partner, her elderly immunocompromised mother, my amazing twins, as well as my own needs.

My partner is a few months away from being a Doctor of Behavioral Health. Naturally getting sick from the coronavirus would throw a significant wrench in this pathway as getting COVID-19 could (and most likely would) cause her severe illness or worse. We know others who have to have split or specialized households have to do things a bit differently. Let’s tackle one thing at a time. How does one survive Covid-19 with a partner with a compromised immune system?

Protecting Your Loved Ones

Take precautions. I mean, not to be part of that forever broken record, but it’s a broken record for a reason; some people are not taking this seriously. We need to follow the instructions of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If it is better for your immunocompromised loved-one to be in a safer environment, then limiting their travel and enabling them to do self-quarantine elsewhere is probably best, especially if there needs to be at least one person who will have to go into places near other people, like grocery stores. However, my advice to people who need groceries is to sign up for a service such as Shipt or Instacart and minimize the number of people out in the grocery stores. Aside from logistics when social distancing, it’s important, despite the separation, to always stay in contact and in-the-know.

During the pandemic, it is best if your family plans out times for video conferencing or 3-way phone calls between healthcare providers and your compromised loved one, or anyone in the family who rely on their medical team. This way, you are doing all you can to preserve the family unit, while keeping your vulnerable family members the safest they can be.

On the note of video conferencing, being connected digitally as often as possible is an absolute win. This allows for cross-communication with your partner and kids in real-time, which is hopefully something split households do “on the reg” anyway. So, how does one deal with parenting during the 2020 global pandemic?

Surviving Cabin Fever

Listen, kids are going to get cabin fever. We all will. Being stuck in the house and not understanding fully why they can’t go to the playground or to Disneyland or to Chuck E Cheese is enough to cause unrest in and of itself. If one of their parents is a vulnerable candidate, like my partner and co-parent, it is twice as hard on your children. On top of that, everyone is concerned for the lack of proper education that could be occurring and nearly all parents are suddenly thrust into a homeschooling environment, which most parents are very ill-prepared. Parents are already worrying about bills and work and keeping everyone healthy. Here is one tip that can save everyone: Your kids are always learning in almost any of their environments. Yes, that’s right, no matter what’s going on, they will be learning from it. Learning does not have to be set in a traditional environment with worksheets and lessons. Learning can be fun, engaging, and rewarding in the children’s natural environment, regardless of age. Some recommended reading for any of you interested in teaching your children at home and taking advantage of their natural desire to learn would be “Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling.” For more reading, see the book list at the end of this article. In our house, we are working on several projects at once, with overarching topics including Paw Patrol, Power Rangers, and nutrition. We also take part in a child-led outdoor learning program called Tinkergarten that is offering free learning activities via video every Tuesday during this special time with our kids. This week we are focusing on using boxes for creative play in the “It’s not a box, it’s a…” themed play. We pretended to be woodpeckers with our mallets and golf tees and are in the midst of building a giant robot out of cardboard boxes. Aside from the frequent requests to visit Chuck E Cheese or go to Disneyland, the kids are enjoying the activities, especially because it is all child-led. This means no one knows the adventures that will come. Take lots of video and pictures to send to your family that would otherwise be missing the wonderful moments. Logging time for all of this happiness is a wonderful thing, and the kids will love it, but what about me? How does one stay calm?

Self-care is Key

During the global pandemic of 2020, for some, self-care will be a difficult feat, but it must be done. Here are some ideas for how to take care of yourself during tough times.

Set aside time to meditate or sit still in silence. Enjoying silence can help refuel and prepare for further busy moments to come. Breathe deeply, think of things for which you are grateful. Review the successes from the day or day before, depending on when your meditation time is scheduled. In addition to meditation, it’s important to also focus on hygiene and health.

Ever since having the twins, it has been a challenge to find appropriate times for showers. Now, I’m focusing on making sure I create the time for myself. This serves as a way to get more of that quiet time and also relaxes my body from the constant “go” and chatter. I have also hopped on the “keto” bandwagon recently. I am taking a lot of time to learn and log, as well as create my own foods in an effort to fully control the ingredients I am consuming. While some may view this as arduous work and others have certainly questioned my timing, as have I on occasion, it is something I can focus on that is all about me and my needs. This gives me a break from mighty pups or mighty morphin’ people. I also use what I’m learning as a teaching tool for the kids, so we learn about nutrition together. What ties this all together?

Love

In all of these things, the goal is survival and sanity. Focusing on the vast amounts of needs can get overwhelming and there will no doubt be melt-downs by the kids and the caretakers. Being able to re-center and focus again on the chosen delivery method, “love,” to these goals softens my heart, helps me take a breath, put things into perspective, and keep going.

Our solutions are not the only solutions. However, we offer these ideas for families who may be going through similar troubles. We hope that our tips help to alleviate some of the pressures caused by Covid-19. We leave you with a reminder to take the CDC seriously, follow precautionary protocols and keep you and your families safe.

Recommended book list:

· Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling by John Holt

· How Children Learn by John Holt

· Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori McWilliam Pickert

· Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service by Mark Pendergrast

· Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

By Tabby

Tabitha Chapman (a.k.a Tabby) is a human rights advocate supporting the rights and equality of all humans, especially children and LGBT. Tabby's main interests are cultivating free-thinkers, especially in children, reading, spending time with family, playing games and love; She is also an Academic Applications Developer at University of California, Irvine.

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