Quarantined Kids Need Moments of Simple Family Joy

It will be months, perhaps years before we determine just how much of our pre-pandemic “normal” we can (or want to) recover. In the meantime, it’s important for parents to steal whatever moments they can for simple joy. 

Coronavirus stay-at-home orders were still relatively new when an Israeli woman’s 90-second online rant about schooling at home went (no pun intended) viral: 

“It’s not working, this distance learning thing. Seriously, it’s impossible, it’s crazy! You’ve finished us off — it’s only the second day! If we don’t die of corona, we’ll die of distance learning! All day it’s, ‘How’s the child feeling?’ How’s the child feeling? He’s spending the entire day on his cellphone — he’s fine! Sleeping fine, eating fine — they won’t stop eating. How’s he feeling?! Ask me how I’m feeling! I’m falling to pieces!” 

The video was shared around the world. As The New York Times reported, “Many of the retweets and shares have the identical message in different languages: ‘Same.’” 

For many parents with office-based jobs, work is now happening at home too. “It looked like the beginnings of a telecommuting revolution,” Bloomberg.com noted. But: 

A month and a half later, people are overworked, stressed, and eager to get back to the office. In the U.S., homebound employees are logging three hours more per day on the job than before city and state-wide lockdowns. … Parents with kids at home are stretched particularly thin, as they squeeze work in between child-care duties, which now include virtual learning sessions. In two-thirds of married couples with children in the U.S., both parents work, leaving nobody available to watch the kids while the other partner is on the job. 

And those are the ones lucky enough to still have a job. In a wrenching essay, writer Chloe I. Cooney acknowledged her advantages — two working parents, one child — but also pointed out: “It’s precisely the privilege of this vantage point that in a way makes it so stark. This is the best-case scenario?” She continued: 

This current situation is almost prophetically designed to showcase the farce of our societal approach to separating work and family lives. We are expected to work from home full time. And care for our children full time. And we cannot have anyone outside our immediate household help. It can’t work and we all are suffering at the illusion that it does. 
Our kids are losing out — on peace of mind, education, engagement, the socialization for which they are built. 

It will be months, perhaps years before we determine just how much of our pre-pandemic “normal” we can (or want to) recover. In the meantime, Dr. Ben Kearney, clinical director of OhioGuidestone, advises to parents to steal whatever moments they can for simple joy. 

“Children will remember this time for the rest of their lives, and parents play an important role in building that narrative,” Kearney explains. “The brain remembers things more deeply when there are significant levels of stress. You’re laying down a deeper relational map than you normally would because of this unusual, stressful situation. But the good news is that children are hardwired to seek joy and fun with their caregivers, and those moments can balance out and even outweigh the fears and frustrations that we’re all experiencing.” 
 
A joyful moment can be as simple as an impromptu dance party, a guessing game, or charades-like performance of animal behaviors. OhioGuidestone and IFCI have adapted some activities from their Joyful Together series, and will continue to post more on Facebook and Twitter
 
“When we build joy processes, we don’t need so many rules,” Kearney writes in his book Building Together: How Relationships Make Families and Communities More Resilient. “Children are more likely to behave when they experience sufficient joy and care in their lives. So we need to equip families with the capacity to find more joy. The rest will follow. We want to be loved and to love. We just have to be shown how.” 


The Institute of Family & Community Impact is a initiative of OhioGuidestone, one of Ohio’s largest behavioral health agencies. From research to products to clinical innovations, we provide tools for mental health treatment. For questions or more info, email us at IFCI@ohioguidestone.org.

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