By: Danny Huerta
The news about the Coronavirus is unrelenting. There seems to be more bad news every day. Your home is filled with demands and stress, and this may squeeze out some moments of bad parenting.
But you can begin to create your own culture in your home. This list is about giving you a quick playbook to work from for this time together as a family. You are trying to navigate the literal blending of work and home.
Start with a schedule
Think about how you might build a schedule for your family. A timer can become your best friend as you try to navigate working from home, providing structure, and having kids at home all day long.
Setting up a system with a timer, can give you much needed beginnings and endings to activities and provide the structure kids need to feel a sense of control and to develop routines. Since you and your family are not going places, it may feel like days are just blending together; a timer can also give reassurance that there will be a balance of play and work.
Homes will need both work and play as life continues to press forward. A good balance of work and play can set the home up for better relationships and reduced stress levels. Interestingly, one business article states that people may be more productive working from home.
15 things to do together
This time together as a family opens up great opportunities to set up some rhythms and routines for you and your family in the months ahead. Look at the 15 things you are being invited to do as you try to juggle a stay-at-home work/life balance (and a few resources to go with some of them).
1. Pray together
This time offers an incredible invitation to pray. As a family, make a prayer list or go through some pictures on your wall or your camera roll, and pray for the people in those pictures.
Talk about the importance of prayer and how it lines up our souls and minds with God’s will. This is about resetting our attention toward wholehearted trust in God.
Your kids can journal some of their prayers – and then be on the lookout for God’s answer. Help your kids learn to pray, and to listen.
2. Do devotions together
This is also a great time to think about your family’s devotional life. There are so many options for devotions as a family.
On days we cannot make it to church, we watch one of the videos and have a discussion about what we saw, and share our thoughts with each other. Our family loves to watch Ray Vanderlann’s That The World May Know videos. Tim Shoemaker also has some hands-on, creative ideas for family devotions.
One of my favorite two verses of Scripture are Isaiah 26:3-4, which are especially appropriate for today: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
I would encourage you to talk about Deuteronomy 4, 6, 10, and 11 as a family as well. The 7 Traits of Effective Parenting are based off of these portions of Scripture (take the 7 Traits Parenting Assessment to see how you’re doing).
I would also recommend the book of Habakkuk. The author’s conclusion is that, though everything may fall apart and be lost, his trust is always fully in the love and provision of God.
As a family, you can write out Colossians 3:12-17 and Galatians 5:22-23 to put up a list of great goals for everyone to look at and follow. This is a whole family challenge, to make this time work well for you as a family.
You can spend some time reading aloud together and journaling what each one is hearing from God through that piece of Scripture.
The Average Boy Podcast encourages children and parents to laugh and learn about God together.
3. Talk, smile, and hug
Talk: This is the perfect opportunity to have some important family conversations. You can talk about what the family controls and doesn’t, opinions and thoughts about what is happening, check-in about how the family is doing, talk about differences between males and females, a healthy view of sexuality, God’s provision, etc.
Smile: Researchers have found that genuine smiles also are helpful at creating connection and reducing stress.
Hug: Studies support the fact that hugging helps improve relationships and reduce stress.
To begin discussions with your kids on big topics, check out Launch Into the Teen Years.
4. Make some s’mores and talk s’more
My family and I love having meals and s’mores around a fire. For those of you with a fire pit, this offers a great opportunity to have conversation around the fire together. If you don’t have a fire pit, no problem. You can microwave or bake a s’more and pull up our conversation starter app – Make Every Day Count – to spark some deeper conversation.
After you’ve used up the questions, create your own conversation starters for your family. You’ll continue to look forward to these times after the coronavirus quarantine is over.
For more conversation starters, download 50 Questions to Ask Your Kids at the Dinner Table.
5. Do some karaoke
My daughter is an incredible singer. In the past, we have tried karaoke, but I think I scared my family. A few days ago, we could hear our neighbors doing some great karaoke as a family in their basement.
Try creating a video chat with family and friends for a live Karaoke event! Music has a way of engaging emotions. Have some laughs together, and let your emotions have some fun. Both music and laughter have been known to reduce stress and anxiety.
6. Boardgames or cards, build Legos or models, play cars or Nerf guns or anything else
Playing games together can be healthy for most families, unless you’re extremely competitive. If you’re an intensely competitive family, remember that you don’t have many places to go to get some space after losing.
Getting a list together of what everyone would love to play would be a great place to start. Talk it through as a family and make sure the quiet ones get some say on what the family will be playing during family playtimes.
We love playing basketball together as a family. In fact, while I was working the other day from home, my kids decided to do some trick shots. They ran in to show me the videos of their incredible shots. Later that evening, I went out to watch and play. I got to do some trick shots of my own (that did not look nearly as impressive as their shots). We had some good laughs and I provided some entertainment for neighbors watching from their backyards. Play and laughter are an amazing medicine.
Our family loves boardgames, but many times, we are too busy to play the long strategy games. We recently decided to play the game of Life, to have some discussions about the ups, downs, and the unpredictable, out-of-our-control realities of life.
We leave the boardgame out at our kitchen table and sometimes play during a mealtime to keep everyone together at the table for a longer period of time. We love Mercurius, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Qwirkle, Watson & Holmes, Bubble Talk, Twister (this one hurts), and Ticket to Ride.
Have an epic Nerf gun war! If playing inside with Nerf guns makes you nervous, you can put breakable items away or play in rooms without breakables. Turn the lights off at night and have a nerf gun battle. No nerf-guns? Play hide-and-seek in your home.
Playfulness from you as a parent can help reduce stress and anxiety in the home. Try to take moments in your busy work-from-home schedule to bring some playfulness to your home.
Check out another Focus on the Family resource: 50 Games and Activities to Do With Your Kids.
7. Go for a hike or a bike ride
My family and I looked up a map of local hikes and chose a new one to take as a family. We saw several other families doing the same thing. While we were careful to practice healthy distancing, it’s important we don’t isolate ourselves from the outdoors. Hikes offer an opportunity to get out of the house, get some exercise, play hide-and-seek, have conversations, take pictures, and make memories.
I love bike rides. My family took a long bike ride to a lake close by. We had some fun competitions and went to a field and played some games together as a family, including 2-on-2 ultimate football.
As you seek to spend time outdoors, be careful to follow guidelines on healthy social distancing, as well as certain state’s current stay-at-home orders. For some of us, it’s just walking out the front door for a bit or spending time in our backyard.
8. Camp out in your family room and watch a movie
As you are home together, create goals as a family. When you reach you goal, this could be the ultimate family celebration – camping out (sleeping bags and all) in your living or family room for a movie night.
You could set up a jar with marbles and an empty one next to it. Each time someone notices someone being encouraging, kind, or serving another in the family, a marble goes in the jar. Once the empty jar is filled, it is time for a campout with s’mores or popcorn, sleeping bags (if your back can handle the couch or floor), and a movie. Be sure to visit PluggedIn.com as you decide what movie to watch.
9. Cook some food or bake something
Ask grandparents for a recipe or two that they know, and you have not tried. Have the kids cook a meal (if they are old enough and will not burn your house down). Cooking together as a family and giving each child a job is a fantastic activity as a family. Make sure to have them also help with clean-up!
Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Magazine has a bunch of fun, easy recipes your family could try.
10. Do some art together
I recently tried doing pottery with my daughter. Her piece was incredible. Mine was not as pretty, but helped me practice patience!
My daughter and I love to draw and sometimes paint together. Art can be a calming activity for kids and adults. If you have a plastic sheet or an unfinished basement, have fun with paints, finger paints or other creative messy art ideas.
Clubhouse Magazine also has a great list of fun crafts and art projects.
11. Go through old photos
This could be a great time to go through the thousands of digital pictures you have never or rarely looked at. Have each child create their own album. They can show it to the family to talk about the pictures they chose for their album.
In uncertain times like these, it can be helpful to look back at pictures and remember past moments. Read Psalms 77-78, both written by a man named Asaph. It seems he was struggling with depression or at least extreme discouragement, but he took some time to think about what God had done in the past. He looked for mental pictures of God in his life.
Talk about how God has been with you guys in past moments. Reflect on what life was like before the coronavirus. Talk about what you are grateful for, what you loved being a part of, and some of the things you miss and are excited to do again once this quarantine time is over.
You and/or your kids could even create a slide show for the family to watch. Looking at pictures can also be a stress reducer.
12. Play some video games together
Kids love it when their parents join them in playing some video games. Take some time to learn some of the video games your kids play. Put a timer on and shift to a new activity once the timer goes off.
This can be used as a celebration after a full day of practicing patience together and balancing work and play as a family. Keep in mind that video games tend to deplete mood and patience, so use it at the end rather than the beginning of the day.
For more on media, video games, and technology, read Plugged In’s Parent’s Guide to Technology.
13. Clean out some areas needing to be cleaned out
Take advantage of the opportunity to clean out some areas of your home needing to be organized. It is amazing how quickly spaces can become over-run, messy, and disorganized. Things will most likely get busy again and this could be great preparation for future demands and busyness.
Seize this opportunity to reduce the stress of disorganization and clutter. Our brains truly feel stressed when things feel chaotic. This is a way to gain some structure for your home and reduce stress.
14. Do some house and/or yard projects
In many places, you can begin planting a garden, or at least starting plants indoors or cold weather crops such as lettuce, spinach, etc. My kids and I have been working on a walkway together, and doing a woodworking project together we had not had the time to do the last few months. Our whole family is going to get the garden started.
This is a great opportunity to do some projects with your kids to teach them how to be contributors in your home. A garden offers a great opportunity to see growth and to talk about many life lessons, including God’s steadfastness.
Your kids can learn how to do laundry, run the dishwasher, vacuum, or cook if they have not learned these skills yet. God created us with the intention of us contributing and working. In fact, we are wired in such a way that work can create positive feelings such as a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and mastery. These feelings can help reduce stress and lift the mood.
Make sure to celebrate at the end of working hard to reflect on what was done! We love to celebrate with ice cream, a movie, and/or games.
Here is more about teaching and modeling a biblical work ethic in your children.
15. Write some homemade notes of encouragement
Create some homemade “thank you” notes for people in your life, or a note of encouragement for someone outside of your family. Gratitude is a discipline and virtue that can realign a person’s perspective and interpretation of life, which can help reduce anxiety and stress.
Tell people you are thankful for them and why you are thankful for them. You can start with a small list and create your own cards. This is about noticing people outside of your home. Receiving a homemade card from someone can be quite a special surprise.
This is just a small list. Enjoy moments and seasons as they come. God is with us all the time and His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136). Let’s help our families see the beauty, steadiness, and hope that is readily found in the Kingdom of God. Be encouraged and may God direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5).
For more resources and help for your family during the Coronavirus crisis, visit www.focusonthefamily.com/family-time-during-the-coronavirus-quarantine/
Daniel Huerta oversees Focus’ initiatives that equip mothers and fathers with biblical principles and counsel for raising healthy, resilient children. A bilingual, licensed clinical social worker, Huerta addresses issues related to parenting such as communication, conflict resolution, spiritual growth, discipline, stress, anxiety, depression, media discernment and healthy sexuality. He has been interviewed by media outlets including Fox News, Fatherly, Christianity Today, WORLD Magazine, The Christian Post and CBN, and he regularly speaks on Christian radio stations across the United States. He’s also written for publications including The Washington Post on topics related to marriage and parenting. He has maintained a private practice in Colorado Springs since 2003 and served as a board member on the El Paso County Mental Health Association for almost four years. Danny and his wife, Heather, have been married since 1997 and have two children, Alex and Lexi.