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Connect with Your Kids and Develop New Skills You Both Enjoy

Feb 23, 2021

 It has been an interesting time, to say the least, for parents and adults in the last few weeks. Our schedules have changed. We are home more than we have been in a long time and our normal outlets of stress reduction or entertainment have been changed. The upside to all of this is that we've been given something people ask for all the time, which is more time with our family. It is my hope that with this time people are using it in profound ways to reconnect with people that don’t live near you and bonding with their children in new ways.  

It is definitely stressful trying to structure kids’ days around Zoom calls and listening to all the arguing and random noise-making kids do, especially when they are ALWAYS AROUND! As tough as it is for you, it is probably tougher for them. They aren’t seeing the friends they play with each day and kids are energetic creatures. They fidget, they walk to the pencil sharpener for no reason other than to bounce. Now they don’t have a structured outlet for all of that energy like recess, PE, and organized sports. 

One thing I find the most interesting about this time is the opportunity for unschooling and unstructured play. We are temporarily reeling back the freight train that moves young, playful humans into office dwellers and bleary-eyed adults. Kids are naturally excellent self entertainers and are amazing at using their imagination to keep themselves busy if given the chance. Ever wonder why kids would rather play with the box than the $60 toy that you got them? The toy was designed to do one thing---that box can be anything. Let their imaginations run wild. Don’t pin them to a desk to make them tiny adults. 

I know what you are thinking, “My kids are always BORED.” COOL! Boredom is a gift. It is a chance for them to learn how to use their imagination. These digital natives will need time to develop that skill. Limit their screen time and let them be bored. See what they figure out. I’m sure they have not liked the ideas that you have given them to cure their boredness, but don’t give in and let them lose themselves in a 6 episode binge of Liv and Maddie, because you are tired of hearing them complain. Send them outside. You have a garage full of things they’ve probably never even played with.

Kids are also excellent movers, and you used to be one too. They have movement proficiency most adults would kill for. Watch kids play with each other on the playground. They're jumping, twisting, balancing, squatting, reaching overhead; all of these amazing movement patterns that humans should have on board. There's no reason to structure their days around sitting in front of a computer any sooner than we have to or specializing for a sport. (All the best athletes, play all of the sports anyway.)

This is a rare opportunity for us to bond with our kids doing some new activities or learning a new skill. At the end of this home order, hopefully, you've spent as little time as possible in separate rooms, on separate screens, streaming separate shows on Netflix. Don’t get me wrong. A little screentime is great, but try to watch something together. Introduce them to all of the awesome movies you grew up with, or watch a cultural phenomenon that the whole family can enjoy like The Office. Don’t allow other screens to come between you and the community screen. Research indicates that it makes it less enjoyable for everyone in the room if someone is checking their device. 

Finally, I would make a case for you to become an adult beginner. Think about how kids have to learn new skills. It is the WORST! So much pressure! Moms, Dads, coaches, peers, rivals all watching kids struggle to get good at something in real-time. Imagine if you were to learn a new skill, say golfing. But instead of learning on your own with a private coach on a quiet practice range, you had to do it in front of a couple hundred people every weekend with added pressure to every stroke that you made. Those are pretty tough learning circumstances but they’re what kids deal with all the time.

Recently, the kids and I tried out a new sport where none of us had any prior experience. We each tried Brazilian jiu jitsu for a couple of weeks before the shutdown. The kids loved it. They flip around, work on technical skills and practice in a quiet setting.

 It was pretty unnerving for me to have no idea what the hell was doing. But I felt like it was really beneficial for the kids to see me as someone that struggles with this stuff too. We come from these positions of power and structure in our kids’ lives, but to come from a place of vulnerability adds connection. Let them know you don't have it all figured out and you're still learning too. There's always somebody out there that's better than you are and there's always someone that will be. It's an easy way to demonstrate to them that all you have to do is to give your best and that's good enough. 

So use this opportunity to try and learn a new skill to learn and practice. Try and make it one that you and the kids can do together, because we've been given the gift of time. Don’t squander it.