Creative Structure for Children––The New Normal

By Georgia Smith-Lyle, MA, LPC-Supervisor

The days of our children getting up in the mornings and getting off to school were cut short by the pandemic, COVID-19. There was no time to prepare for this life changing event. One day the routine was normal, and the next day you are told the schools are closed and there will be online teaching from your home.

Not only can they not go to school, all social activities children were involved in ceased. Staying at home and isolated from others “quickly” became the new norm. Yikes! Not only was there a pandemic, but there was panic in many households. School life in 2020 will go down in history!

COVID-19 is a history maker/changer. Many have found this transition time very chaotic and difficult. Many of you were forced to put some sort of structure to routines at home. So how do you have structure, but still be creative? Too much structure can inhibit creativity, but just enough structure in place provides security and encourages creativity. Parents, this is a time for you to “think outside the box” and become the teacher as best you know.

Before discussing creative structure––the new normal for the children––it’s important to discuss mom and dad’s relationship and some ideas to weather this storm. Mom and dad are the hub, the central stable piece of the family. How parents communicate with each other, how they show affection and interaction are vital to family security. Parents have an “opportunity” to demonstrate healthy interaction between two people, showing kindness, patience and respect.

Firstly, communicate respectfully and watch your tone with each other because you are being watched by your children. The ways you communicate are perfect teachable moments with lifelong effects. Secondly, parents, find 20 to 30 minutes a day of uninterrupted time to talk with each other and connect. It doesn’t have to be serious talk all the time, but the pandemic has forced unexpected changes to your life financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically; so, talk about these changes and how to move forward. Thirdly, have a date night “in the home” at least one time a week. Make it fun…watch a movie, cook dinner together. Do whatever you want to connect and enjoy one another. Tell the children this is your time together and do not let them interrupt unless it’s an emergency.

By the time this article reaches you, the social restrictions may have lifted to a degree, but I still believe this is a good idea, especially if you are trying to be careful financially. The last idea I have to offer is to take a break from the kids 30 minutes to an hour each day. If one spouse needs a break, even for 15 mins, try to provide what they need. Be helpful and considerate of each other and carry the responsibility of the children together.

Children thrive in structure! Be creative but still have a structured time frame of choice activities throughout the day. Write down your plan with time frames. Remember, you can always change plan according to your own needs and the ages of your children. It’s a perfect opportunity for the older children to have responsibility for the younger ones with rewards in place. For example, older children can make breakfast for the younger ones. Make sure you have time frames for chores. Some children are still doing online school, which is important to finish. The main thing is put together a “schedule” and options of activities for your children.

Here is a sample structure block with activity ideas for each period of the day:
Morning chores
Activities: Paint, write a story, put on a play, read a book, draw, basketball in driveway, chalk on sidewalk, physical activity in the backyard
Rest time after lunch (mandatory rest time). Everyone goes to their own space for at least an hour, even if they do not nap. This gives each parent their time too.
Afternoon activities
Family walk/bike ride… (something outside if possible)

** At least one night a week is family night where you watch a movie together, do board games, play cards or charades.

** At least one night a week is “family share night,” where everyone comes together and talks about things that have bothered them, good things they have enjoyed, etc. This time will give children (and parents) the opportunity to express their feelings and be heard.

I hope you find this article helpful! Remember, parents you are the hub, you are the teachers, and this pandemic shall pass. Have each other’s back, be slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to listen––little eyes are watching.

Georgia Smith-Lyle, MA, LPC-S is in private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas providing counseling for children, adolescents, adults, marriage and family. She has authored two books and is a public speaker. Georgia may be reached at 469-855-0256 or via email