What to expect and how to avoid losing your 💩 — lessons from international families who’ve been in lock down 3-7 weeks.

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By Steve Dypiangco

Key Recommendations 🔥

  • Accept the ugly truth that schools may be shut down 2-3 months, not just 2-3 weeks.
  • Build a legit daily schedule to get you and your family accustomed to being home all the time.
  • Proactively try out playful, physical, and creative activities that help your family have fun together.


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Northern Italian schools have been closed nearly 3 weeks without an end in sight.


In Hong Kong schools have been closed almost 2 months, and the earliest they’ll open is in over 1 more month.


Recent CDC guidance says closing schools 8 weeks or longer may have a greater impact on mitigating Coronavirus than 2 to 4 week closures.


Expect Schools to Close 2-3 Months 😷


Based on interviews with parents locked down in Italy and Hong Kong, below are 7 unexpected stages parents will likely experience over the coming weeks and months. 


By proactively minimizing time spent in each stage, parents can reduce the challenges they encounter and establish a sense of normalcy. 


1. Vacation Mode: Screen Time for Everyone! 🥳

What Happens: When kids and parents abroad heard school was cancelled, they went into vacay mode. Screen time went through the roof, and parental limits went out the window. With things changing drastically daily, it was natural to want to calm their fears with distracting movies, video games, and junk food. 


Challenges: At the outbreak of a public health crisis, this relaxed approach can lead to a false sense things will be easy. This is counterproductive for parents entering unfamiliar territory and who don’t know how to guide their families through the upcoming challenges. 


While experiencing big emotions, kids are more likely to act out, and parents are more likely to be irritable.


Ways to Deal: Avoid sending signals to your kids that this is a vacation. Learn how your kids’ school and your work are expecting the next several weeks to unfold. Formulate a plan for how your family will adapt to new education, work, and safety standards.


Handle big feelings by practicing deep breathing, limiting news intake, and making sleep a priority.


2. Switching Gears: Teaching + Working Sucks 🤔 

What Happens: After letting their kids enjoy loads of screen time, parents finally attempted to get some learning in. But kids were comfortable and rejected switching back into school mode. For parents working remotely, this created plenty of conflict. News about the virus’ climbing numbers added to an already stressful situation. 


Challenges: It’s hard to get kids to sit down and do school work at home. Most parents aren’t used to teaching, and kids often won’t listen to mom or dad. 


It’s especially hard to balance keeping the kids busy and working remotely. If both parents are working from home, it takes effort and compromise to divide childcare responsibilities.


Ways to Deal: Plan out your days in advance. Write a schedule for your kids and yourself, so everyone can get into a new routine and be productive. Here’s a schedule example. Reduce time spent on news and social media. 


Coronavirus lock down

Kids in Milan, Italy, where schools have been closed for 3 weeks because of the Coronavirus.

3. Locked Down: My Kids Might Explode 😬

What Happens: As public spaces closed and governments restricted movement (only buying food, going to work, seeking medical care, assisting the elderly), getting energetic kids out of the house was no longer a possibility. Even going for a walk around the block was prohibited in Italy.


Challenges: Kids with lots of energy don’t get enough physical activity. They’re used to playing at lunch or going to a park. Now they’re expected to sit still and handle being cooped up all day. 


Ways to Deal: While still practicing social distancing, get out of the house while you can. This freedom might not last forever, so go on walks, bike rides, rollerblading, or scooting in non-crowded places.

Also find and test out physical activities your kids can do at home. Dance parties, hula hooping, and jumping rope are ways to get moving indoors.


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4. No Parent Down Time: My Kids Are So Annoying 😫

What Happens: With school cancelled for weeks, parents and kids have spent a LOT of time together. For Nanny, a mom in Hong Kong, the only breaks she’s gotten are when the kids have online lessons with teachers. Otherwise it’s a lot of, ”Mom, play with me!”


Challenges: There are no breaks, and kids’ requests are nonstop. They don’t know how to cope with boredom nor their emotional needs / anxiety, so they come to parents for help about ipads, games, to play together, snacks, etc. For parents it’s exhausting and overwhelming. 


Ways to Deal: Get ahead of kids’ requests by communicating the daily schedule. Routines quell anxiety by providing a sense of normalcy. Also schedule at least 30 minutes per day of one-on-one time (without your phone) where your kid knows you are just with them. Eventually they will feel more comforted and calm.


Parents should practice self care by taking time for themselves throughout the day and after kids go to bed. Parental self-care options include:

  • Listening to music that gives you good feelings 
  • FaceTime calls with friends and family
  • Meditating
  • Exercising

Gather learning and entertainment resources, especially kids activities that don’t involve a screen or require much supervision.


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5. Severe Boredom: Rescue Us, Amazon 😔

What Happens: The kids had read every book, played every game, and watched every show available. In desperate need, parents turned to Amazon (which was still delivering) to buy puzzles, workbooks, and toys.


Challenge: The costs can add up, which is worrisome as the virus wreaks havoc on the global economy. And buying new toys can be a temporary band aid solution. Hard to know how long before that new puzzle gets finished and workbooks become boring.


Ways to Deal: Ration out fun things you have for the kids to do. If they burn out on iPads after 1 week, then what do you do? Keep your existing options interesting by limiting their use.


Kids in Hong Kong play LEGOS in their apartment 1 month into schools being closed.


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6. Family Adaptation: Creativity is Awesome 😏

What Happens: When playing in the park was no longer an option, parents in Italy switched to playing soccer on the small patch of grass in their apartment complex. And when their son ran out of books, they found interesting activities on cereal boxes.


Challenges: It takes effort, time, and creativity to come up with ways to make old things feel new again. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you have to put the work in.


Ways to Deal: Think about this step ahead of time in the context of the toys and supplies you already have. Figure out what are fun games and unexpected uses for these materials and add them into your schedule.


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7. Family Adjustment: Welcome to the New Normal 🙂

What Happens: In Hong Kong everyone in Nanny’s family has finally found a routine. Kids became used to meeting with teachers remotely. Homework assignments were scheduled with both academic and well-being assignments, including FaceTimes with friends and physical exercises. 


Challenges: Parents, who don’t accept that school closures can drag on for 2-3 months, may not try to create a new routine. They may stay in vacation mode or get stuck in severe boredom, which prevents them from reaching normalcy.


Ways to Deal: Understand the previous stages, so you can move through them quickly. The faster you can get your family accustomed to this new normal state, the smoother the household will run.


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Hanging out

A post shared by Nanny (@calabren) on

Kids playing outside in Hong Kong, where businesses are starting to open up and restrictions are easing.


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For more…

  • Coronavirus Parenting tips
  • Kids physical activity ideas for home
  • Activities that don’t involve a screen

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Special thanks to Nanny Calabrese and Igor Salmi for sharing their stories for this piece. Ann Dypiangco LCSW contributed to this.


Steve Dypiangco and kids

Steve Dypiangco is a proud father of 3 kids and the CEO & co-founder of Dadventures, a Los Angeles based startup helping parents find fun activities to do with their kids (out of the home and in the home).

He’s worked with Netflix, YouTube, PBS, and on 2 Academy Award winning films.

He once created an elaborate Disneyland plan that resulted in his family going on 8 rides in 2 hours.

Contact: [email protected]