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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Dealing With Endless Quarantine Without Spiraling

The last few weeks in my house have been "fun" to say the least. Over winter break my two autistic kids still had school but it was optional, and I decided not to send them so that we could do nice things together as a family when my other kids had off. 

It turns out that that was a good decision because one of the girls in Rose's class got diagnosed with corona, and everyone who was in school during that time needed to quarantine. So Rose went off to school and had more or less one on one time with the few teachers and therapists who were also not exposed and therefore weren't in quarantine. 

Just a few days after the kids went back to school, one morning after Rose had already left to school but none of the other kids did, we got a call from Anneliese's school telling us that her teacher was diagnosed and her entire class needs to go into quarantine for the next 10 days. Because I can't just quarantine one kid away from everyone else in the house, we decided that everyone at home would quarantine together, but Rose would go to her dad and continue going to school and not need to quarantine.

We went through our 10 days of quarantine, looking forward to the time when the kids could rejoin Rose, me being able to see her again, and both her dad and I being able to get some time without kids when we found out that one of the few kids that hadn't previously been quarantined since she didn't go to school over break, came down with corona, so now Rose and the few teachers that hadn't been in quarantine until that point now needed to quarantine, until Saturday. 

The kids were sad about this, and we were counting down the days until Sunday when they could be reunited. And then I get told that someone that Rose and her dad saw yesterday was diagnosed with corona so now they need to go into quarantine for 2 weeks. (Let me just point out that this was a person who broke quarantine rules because he got one negative corona test, but the second one came back positive so that's why.) This has been especially hard on Anneleise because she and Rose are buddies and play with each other a lot and entertain each other a lot, and she really misses her sister. She told me that she regrets ever saying that she wishes she didn't have a sister, because now she sees how much she relies on her sister.

So being that this is quarantine after quarantine, I wanted to share some tips on how we're managing here, and what I'm doing to try to get through this without spiraling emotionally, something that is very easy to do with all this stress.

Use the Screens

I don't care if you previously were against screen time and don't think they're so great for kids. You know what also isn't great for kids? Stress. Fighting. Parents losing their cool repeatedly with their kids because they can't handle this endless quarantine and finding ways to entertain their kids without the use of screens is a big burden. These are weird times and we need to be flexible with our rules if we want to get through it in one piece. 

If you don't have some already, look where they have Windows laptops for sale locally or on the internet. You want to have at least one computer that isn't yours for the kids to use, if not more. This can get pricey but look for refurbished as well. The benefits of laptops over tablets and phones is processing power- there's a limit to what you can actually do on phones and tablets, how many things you can download at once, especially if you are using cheaper ones. However, if you are just looking for as cheap as possible you generally can get a low quality phone or tablet cheaper than a cheap computer. The down side of a tablet or phone is that these can be dropped and break easily, whereas you can institute a rule that laptops can't be moved without an adult's permission. (That doesn't mean your kids won't ever try to balance a laptop precariously on a mountain of laundry, but it's still easier to control something that doesn't need to be held.)

Screens can be used for educational things- for example my daughter wanted to learn touch typing, so I got her started with an online program for that. Look at online courses for your kids through places like Udemy. Ot just let them sit in front of a screen and watch what they want- I won't judge you, and the goal here isn't to learn as much as possible but to get through this without damaging your emotional health. If your kids want to learn because they say they are bored give them ways to learn, like suggesting some of these great educational websites or youtube channels.

Socialize... In Any Way You Can

Socializing in our current situation is certainly different than what we thought as socializing in the past. Fortunately, we're quarantining during a time that even in quarantine we can talk to other people. Make use of technology. It's awesome.

If your kids are old enough to write (even if not very well) teach them how to use technology to contact people. I taught my daughter how to send emails (only people in her address book) and how to send people messages via google hangouts. Whatsapp with relatives or friends. Make video calls. Have your kids show their relatives and friends what they're doing in the house, the pictures they drew, even what they're having for supper. Feel free to put your kids in touch with your friends' kids, give them social media "pen pals" from across the globe if you want, and help them learn about other cultures that way as well.

Don't just have your kids do this- reach out to your friends as well. Even if you're generally someone who shies away from online communication and would vastly prefer getting together in person, it's time to make do with second best. We need a support system. Email, WhatsApp, or instant message friends. Catch up with friends that you haven't spoken to in a while. Write letters snail mail style. Post on Facebook in support groups. Write in local community WhatsApp chats.

My son uses Discord and Steam to play games together with his friends over the internet, using voice chat and connecting to each other using the web, either using Steam or joining servers together. My son really enjoys his time doing that, and while it isn't as good as socializing in person, he admits it is a close second (for people who like playing such games, anyhow, he tells me I must add to my post).

Take It Easy With Housework

In my various social media groups (see, I'm socializing, even if in a weird way) I've picked up that I'm not alone in housework being one of the hardest things now. Kids are home all the time, kids are bored, and kids bored and at home make messes and always want to eat. Keeping up with the dishes and laundry and cooking meals is hard even when it's not a pandemic, but lock everyone at home and it's that much harder. 

We started off 2020 as a greater society with a big emphasis on eco-friendly, but with all the mask wearing and other protective gear that's pretty much out the window. That can't be my priority. And to be honest, neither can money be. My sanity is worth it. Your sanity is worth it. If you're feeling overwhelmed by quarantine or even just lockdown, here's my suggestion: switch to disposables. Yes, I use disposable dishes, disposable pans, disposable cutlery. I also have a dishwasher, so I don't always use disposable, but when I just can't anymore with the dishes, that's when disposables come out.

And food? I've decided that I need to increase my grocery budget now. Period. Because you can't have it all. You know that famous image with a triangle that says Your Sanity, Clean House, Happy Kids- pick two? Well, we need to add something in there about cheap things and nourishment because those also need to be taken into account. There's a limit to how much I can stretch myself and this is one of those balls I've decided to drop. I'm buying foods that I don't have to cook. That I can keep stocked in my fridge so that when the kids are hungry they can help themselves and I don't need to be doing so much cooking. So I don't have to also have the constant cooking and thinking about what to serve them added to my already quite full mental load. So I've purchased bananas. And yogurts. And pretzels. And ramen. And bread. And spreads. And cold cuts. And fruit. And cereal and milk. Yes, I also try to cook meals as often as I can, but between meals, when my kids want food, or if I am too tired to cook, yes, I spent more money to have other things available for them to eat.

Be Part of a Community

This is really important. If you're struggling, reach out and ask people for help. Get support emotionally from your friends. Get physical support if your community is able to give it to you. When I was in quarantine lovely people brought over stuff from the grocery store that I forgot to put on my big order. And took out my garbage. And it was wonderful.
But more than anything- give back if you can. As wonderful as getting help is, there is something so soul-fulfilling in being able to give back. And I know it can be hard. And might mean sacrificing other things. But for me, when I was able to muster up enough energy to make some extra food, I gave it to friends who were having a hard time. Once to a sole custody single mom working full time during lockdown who was struggling. Once to a friend in nonstop quarantine for over a month straight. Ok, actually 3 times to different friends in that position. It doesn't always even have to be a meal- one friend I just made a little quarantine package for her with some books to borrow and some random goodies from my stockpile.
Giving others can really give to you and fill your bucket as well.

No, this is not easy. But forgive yourself. Allow yourself to be imperfect. And try to find creative ways to deal.

Hopefully, you too can get through endless quarantine without spiraling this way.

Are you currently struggling with quarantine? If so, my heart goes out to you. Sending lots of strength your way. If you've found anything helpful during this time, what was it? Anything you'd add to my list?

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