This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

I think it is probably pretty safe to say that none of us envisioned that this would be what our lives looked like in May of 2020. Still at home trying to work, or looking for work, while also trying to look after and be the primary teacher for our little ones. Some of you may be wishing you had the opportunity to stay home and worry about those concerns…and to those of you, every essential worker, whatever role you have, I say thank you and I have a deep appreciation and respect for you continuing to show up to work.

If you are at home struggling along to figure out this new normal could I offer a couple of thoughts? First, try to come up with some routines that you can do with your little ones every day. I’ve talked about the importance of routine and kids being able to look forward to something before. Whether that’s a bedtime story or a simple song or rhyme that you do before you leave the house you’ll be amazed at how your kids react if one time you forget to do that routine they’ve come to expect.

Thank you to all the amazing teachers and educators out there who are helping with this by offering online lessons. We know that at 1pm most weekdays my son is going to get to see his teacher, whom he loves, on video and interact with her and his classmates around a fun virtual lesson she has planned. We can help our little ones be ready to join these virtual meetings by making sure that play has stopped at least 5-10 minutes before and that they’ve had a snack to avoid the afternoon grumpies. Start an after-class tradition of going for a socially distance-safe walk or just going out on the front or back porch for a few minutes to simply take a couple of breaths of fresh air and get some wiggles out. Whatever your routine, find something that they enjoy and can get excited about each day.

My second thought…don’t be afraid to break your routines every once in a while. A little contradictory? Maybe so, but I think during this time of restriction of movement things can get a little monotonous and tiresome if we only follow our routines all the time. While routines can provide comfort and safety they can also sometimes feel oppressive. Make sure to do something a little different every now and then…something totally unexpected and exciting. Order takeout or delivery from your favorite local restaurant at a totally unexpected time. Turn a routine snack time before or after class into a contest to see who can toss the most goldfish into a bowl. Bring out a cardboard box or plastic tub and see who can use their materials to make the noisiest instrument. Find routines that help provide some structure and order to your day and then…every now and then…do something spontaneous to give them a fun surprise!

This is fatherhood…