Ground rules for our new normal

Late last Friday morning, my husband and I received notice that our kids’ school would be closed for “at least” the next two weeks. We’d known it was coming and prepared for we figured would probably end up being more than two weeks at home.

One of our key preparations had to do with laying down hoe ground rules. As best as we could imagine it, what rules could we set to make these weeks less stressful and more bearable for us all?

The conversation itself made me grateful for a recommendation my primary care provider made middle of last year. She told me to check out Brené Brown’s Netflix special. I won’t say much about that here, having already written several posts describing how the special and then Brown’s books transformed me. What I will say is that one takeaway from all my Brown-reading was this:

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

Before reading Brown, I’d misunderstood Boundaries as Really Big Things to be set in Really Big Situations. Thanks to read Brown, I understood that boundaries are best set small and early, which inspired this ground-rules discussion.

The point wasn’t to dictate to our kids what they’ll be doing, period, no input welcome. The point of the exercise was to get us parents on the same page before navigating the conversation with our kids.

These were our initial ground rules:

  1. Work before screens! Period.
  2. You’re OK to get your own water, but must ask parents for food. 
  3. Weekdays are not screen free-for-alls! There will be structure.
  4. We may all feel claustrophobic at times. If you need time to yourself, ask for it! We’ll arrange something.
  5. Respect others’ time to themselves.
  6. Screen time ends at least one hour before bedtime.

We reviewed these with our kids, who had no questions. We explained that this list of rules was in no way complete, and that we’d all talk together and learn as we go.

While these ground rules haven’t made everything magical for us, they paved the way for good conversations. “See ;what’s happening here?” we’ve said to our kids several times since Friday afternoon. “That’s why we have that ground rule …”

Our biggest update was a clarification to rule #3. My husband said that he’d like to keep these weekdays as close to regular school weekdays as possible, which means that screen time can’t begin earlier than it does on ordinary days. This resulted in some super-sweet play between our kids.

So, much as the weeks ahead might be trying, I’m certain they would have been so much more trying without all I’ve–we’ve!–learned from Brown.

And I’m so grateful, yet again, that my primary care provider really listened to me, really heard me, and prescribed not only just what I needed to get me through my challenges then, but also the bigger ones ahead, in this new now, that neither of us could then foresee:

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

Thanks, L.G.! You’re a lifesaver.

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