Families affected by the recent slump in oil prices are seeing their dynamics change. While at one time fathers of young children were out of town for extended periods, a set schedule, or even just regular hours every day, many are now experiencing unemployment. In some cases, mom has returned to work and there is a role reversal happening. For others, both parents might be home and struggling to get used to being together 24/7 when they are accustomed to being apart. The loss of income is stressful, as are the changes happening in homes all around us.
Faced with unemployment, many families with preschool aged children no longer need the day home or daycare that their children once attended. Rather than being away most of the week and having exciting weekends together, people are adjusting to the hum-drum of being together most of the time, and having to do so on a budget. None of these suggestions are meant to insinuate that dads aren’t already doing these things for their families, or that it is only men that have been laid off. Anyone caring for children can use some fresh ideas to keep them busy. If you are new to “stay at home parenting”, here are some things to keep in mind:
- · At one time or another you probably wished you could be home to be more involved in raising your kids. Although not ideal, this is still an opportunity for you to be the parent you aspire to be. Stay positive, be present, and get actively involved in your child’s life!
- · Dads, it is not emasculating to provide childcare, meals, do the shopping and cleaning for your family. It may be hard to adjust, no one could argue that, but stepping up to the plate when called upon—no matter the job that is asked of you—says more about your manhood than how much money you used to make. Treat this as an opportunity to learn new skills and your family will love and appreciate you for it!
- · Moms and kids, don’t forget to be appreciative and tell Dad he’s doing a great job. Approach this new lifestyle as a team and help each other through the rough patches. If you have patience and a sense of humour you will make happy memories together—if you give in to frustration and impatience, you will quickly see that behaviour reflected in your child’s.
Whether it is mom or dad at home, if you are not used to spending the day with children it can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions to help the day run smoothly:
- · Within reason, keep the routine similar to what it was before you took over. If kids are used to a snack, craft, story or nap at a certain time, providing these will give a sense of continuity and that “everything is going to be okay”.
- · Include the kids in some household chores—do not park them in front of the TV and expect to have a hassle-free day.
- · Get outside whenever possible, especially if tantrums are becoming a problem. Always react calmly and with love--easier said than done! —but remember that you are the adult and must show the child the proper way to act.
- · Make a plan for the day—even if you don’t stick to it and even if there’s not much to do. It helps to feel motivated if you have a few activities planned.
- · Get together with other kids. Meet at the park or check out the great free programs on local town websites. Don’t forget the library where there are stories and crafts 3 mornings a week and games 1 Saturday a month. Search online for schedules and more activities in the community.
- · Practice gratitude. Talk about the best thing that happened today and what you are most grateful for. Your kids might be worried but can not express how they feel. Reassure them; let them know that you will eventually return to work but that you are looking forward to the extra time you get to spend together now.
Families come in all shapes and sizes and kids can be a handful even when everything is going your way. Throw in some added stress and it can become a hard job. If you are struggling, ask for help. No one should judge you for trying to do your best for your family. Try to schedule some time for yourself and time as a couple to get a break, and get involved in the community. Try to find the positives in this gloomy situation—hopefully you can work together to develop a new, happy routine. Join me next week for some great “free” activities to keep the kids busy!