Singapore ends the circuit breaker today (June 1). It is a phased re-opening, which means that we are gradually allowed to return to work, visit parents or grandparents who are not living with us, and children will be allowed to gradually return to school.
As a parent to two preschoolers, eight weeks of staying home has been a bittersweet chapter for me. On one hand, spending time with my children has allowed me to watch them grow up right before my eyes – from being able to read only a few words before the circuit breaker to reading a whole (age-appropriate) storybook all by themselves! On the other hand, it has also been a rollercoaster of emotions, ranging from exhaustion, to irritation, to anger, when my children misbehave or during times when I just need a break from the humdrum of the house.
As I prepare myself physically, mentally, and emotionally to return to the “new normal”, I cannot help but reflect on the lessons I have learnt as a parent during this circuit breaker.
Your home will get messy, but it’s okay
My walls have received several makeovers since the start of the circuit breaker. My two daughters love drawing, colouring and painting so they decided to make our living room wall into their personal art gallery.
Every other day, I also find a couple of their toys under my sofa. My floors and dining table definitely needs more cleaning now that everyone is at home 24/7.
One of my flower vases also did not survive the circuit breaker, courtesy of my eldest daughter. Fortunately, it only cost two dollars (I got it at Daiso!) so I was not too bothered.
Yes, whenever my children are awake, my home looks as if a tornado passed through it. But I like to think that it also means that they are still having fun despite being stuck indoors.
Appreciate not just teachers, but cooks too
I love spicy food. But it’s too much effort for me to cook two sets of dishes each day – one for my kids and one for myself and my husband. So I end up eating what my kids eat. Even then, having to come up with a variety of healthy and nutritious meals for them leaves me baffled some days.
It makes me appreciate the aunties at my children’s pre-school for providing them a nutritious breakfast and lunch menu every day, and snacks for their tea break.
Nap time (or quiet time) is necessary
Following the childcare centre’s routine really helped us to create a familiar schedule for the kids. That discipline gave them some structure to their days so that they know what to expect.
As we try to stay indoors most of the time, the kids do not have the luxury of running in large spaces. As such, they aren’t tired enough to sleep during nap times. However, my husband and I still try to advocate for quiet time – 2 hours of quiet playing or reading in their room – so that we can get our work done, or have meetings on video.
On weekends, the kids’ quiet time is a period where we both can just relax and unwind, for the sake of our mental well-being.
Selective screen time can be good too
Letting my daughters have some screen time has been helpful on days I have to chase work deadlines or complete household chores that are long overdue.
On top of their home-based lessons, there are also other educational apps that I found to be able to hold their attention for a good amount of time. Khan Academy Kids, with its five charming animal characters, is a free educational program designed to make learning engaging and fun for children ages two to seven. It has a collection of interactive activities, books, videos, and colouring pages. Children can even read along to the stories.
To learn the fundamentals of mathematics, Todo Math has multi-level games aligned with a child’s age and skill level. It is also great for children with different needs as it has a left-handed mode and OpenDyslexic font feature.
Best of all, both apps are ad-free, even in free versions!
Tantrums will still happen, it’s part of growing up
Although this is a posed photo, I’m sure it’s a familiar scene for some parents.
Meltdowns and temper tantrums can happen when kids are angry, tired or sad. It can be hard for us to not get triggered by our children’s meltdowns, but I’ve learnt some tricks to manage their tantrums.
– The louder they yell, the softer I speak
Your child will end up matching your volume because, ultimately, she wants to engage with you. So instead of disturbing your neighbours with a shouting match with your child, try a gentle response instead.
– Give them some space
Constantly being around siblings and family members may become overwhelming at times. Ask them if they need some alone time in their bedroom or create a “peace corner” for them to unwind.
– Give a big hug
Hugs make kids feel secure and let them know that you care about them, even if you don’t agree with their behavior. Follow up with a conversation with them after they have calmed down to understand why they had reacted so strongly in the first place.
Appreciate your spouse
Self-care is just as important as caring for those around you in this circuit breaker. That’s why I am so fortunate that my husband has been a real MVP in all of this. At times when I am feeling exhausted because of work responsibilities and daily household chores, he stepped up. With his workload reduced due to the circuit breaker, he has started teaching the children new topics every day – even to the extent of creating his own activity sheets for the children. They even have a “Daddy’s School Pledge” that they recite at the start of every lesson!
Covid-19 has changed our lives, for better or for worse. But there are lessons learnt from these unprecedented times that I will carry with me all through my life.