If you read no further, here’s the cliff’s notes in 5 ways to raise happy children in 2020:
Maintain your awe.
Stop, contemplate, think, reflect.
Understand fairness and justice.
Manage expectations a little bit
(Read on for a bonus! Insert smirking emoji, here.)
While chatting at school with another dad back before the entire world changed overnight, I asked about a family trip he’d recently taken. He mentioned his daughter was ho-hum about it…that she was ultimately disappointed with it not meeting her expectations.
Isn’t that sad? Trust: I mean no judgment of the dad or their trip. But isn’t it sad that a child under 10 would be disappointed that a family trip hadn’t met her expectations?
But my kids do still have a fairly good sense of excitement over being in the moment and enjoying the punctuation of life’s mini-adventures.
At the same time, my older one is already a bit jaded and would choose to stare at YouTube over doing, well…anything else.
The other dad with whom I was speaking, back at school pre-COVID-19, mentioned that losing a sense of excitement or constant disappointment is actually something that can lead to depression, down the line.
More than growing up to be smart or rich, don’t we all just want our kids to be happy? (And kind. And generous. And humble. And all that other stuff.)
Let’s chat about some of the 5 ways to raise happy children (even in COVID quarantine).
1. Maintain Your Sense of Awe
A wise man once told me, “never lose your awe” as I was headed out on a college semester program. It was a call-to-arms to choose to keep our awe. So much of life is a choice. Choose joy; choose attitude; choose to keep your awe.
2. Choose to Stop and Appreciate
We might have to force kids (and ourselves) to stop, look and contemplate, everything in life. But this is another choice. We all must choose to smell roses, stare at clouds, watch construction crews in city streets, be amazed by cappuccino-makers; you know – stare at the magic happening around us. Even forced mindfulness is mindfulness.
3. Acknowledge Injustice (but don’t accept it)
When my older kid whined that she didn’t get candy after her brother came home laden with candy after a birthday party, I responded, “Not everything in life is fair.” Admittedly, she whined about this at a frenetic, inopportune moment in the day. My response, rather than trying to negotiate generosity, was to say, “Not everything in life is fair. The sooner you understand injustice, the less disappointed you’ll be.” It was callous, I admit. But she listened to me and sort of shrugged. Seriously – life isn’t always fair. Maintain those expectations now, parents.
4. Deal with Disappointment
Speaking of – maintaining expectations and addressing expectations is critical. It’s okay to be disappointed, sometimes. But we really can choose to let the disappointment devour us, or not. We can choose to brush it off and move on with our day. We can choose to make lemonade of lemons. And while we shouldn’t go around expecting to be disappointed, we really can let it roll off our backs when something doesn’t meet our expectations.
5. Cultivate gratitude.
Just like the mini-movement to write down things for which you’re grateful at the end of the day, gratitude is an active choice. The more we consider our blessings, the more we’re likely appreciate what we’re given. This is an easy way to focus on the positive rather than the contrary. I’m preoccupied with cultivating gratitude in my children and force it upon them as activists and especially at holidays. Not sure how much it’s working, but I’m trying!
And a bonus!
People will disappoint you and life is full of unfairness and injustice. Accept that sooner than later, vow to live of life devoted to fairness and justice, and you’ll be less disappointed. Am I essentially saying “walk around with a glass half empty, and you’ll be happier?”
But sometimes lowered expectations is one of the 5 ways to raise happy children…even in COVID quarantine.
Like you, I lie awake at night and in the morning and have so many questions about COVID-19 and its effect on the world and on my kids.
For starters – did I just make CV-19 a thing? It’s very “2CV” (see below). Please say I did that. Will you join me? Heaven forbid I put in more effort.
Is this the end? Or the beginning?
Will my children see this as a fun, adventurous time where inept fathers masquerading as teaching assistants just yelled at them about doing their homework?
Will my kids learn ANY more in math since March 9th when they were last in school? Or will their math knowledge honestly end where I took over?
Will this be a generation of children who just have a gap in their collective and universal knowledge? Like when my kid is applying to college, will schools just wave the need to know division as a CV19 deficiency?
Will children forever be labeled as “dumb” by future generations because they just missed out on 4 months of formal training?
Will my children’s children forever refer to their parents with pity and condescension as being:
CV19 Generation. You know them…
hoard toilet paper
carpal tunnel in their thumbs
can’t do math.
Do we have to pay mortgages, now, or do we all collectively default? And if we do so, what will mortgage lenders do? Lay off all their employees…who have mortgages and need to pay their mortgages to mortgage lenders?
If we all just stop paying stuff…like – everyone…and chill out for a few weeks, could someone with economic clout (like Suze Orman) just be able to say “Okay. No touch-backs and let’s all just re-set. Together,” and then just go forward from there?
Will I be forced to eat that can of sardines inexplicably shoved in the back of my cabinet?
Will this the moment in my kids’ life that will define them forever onward? Please, Dear Gaia, don’t let anything worse happen in their lives.
All wars are about money. Oh, Jesus – what if the insecure, over-compensating white men who manage 90% of world government sand businesses find a way to parlay this into a war…for the economic stimulus alone?
Will Broadway come back? Sports heroes will be fine. But will billionaires with their overhead of mansions, boats and DisneyPlus subscriptions – will they be as equally fucked as the rest of us?
Who’s gonna pay the price for all of this? It’s never the rich and powerful, that’s for sure.
Will narcissistic influencers ever stop posting about their outfits and hair?
Why do I have to google “narcissistic” every time I use it? I won the spelling bee in 6th grade. What’s my problem?
Is EVERYONE on social media starting a relief fund and living room concert except for me? I’ve never felt so left out as I watch their highly-productive virtual lives.
Are we all in our own echo chambers of social media quarantine?
Why has no one challenged me to this push up thing? (Too late. I’ve absolved myself.)
So many questions about covid-19. Will you add to my list of worries?
But my only goal is to show you it’s possible to do it and not be awful.
“good” scissors (it’ll be a lot easier than with your kitchen shears)
A hair clip (like a long barrette that can hold top hair out of the way)
Towel to protect the neck
A sheet on the floor to collect hair
A way to wet the hair to reduce flyaways. Plus, it’s easier to control/cut the hair
Couple main pointers for how to cut your kid’s hair–
Always have your knuckles against the scalp and cut the hair protruding from your fingers
Just cut a million times in the above fashion. It’s methodical and not extreme. It takes awhile, but you’ll get there.
No matter how much you may want to cut off those Roy Orbison sideburns, save them (and the neckline) for last.
Don’t cut straight across sideburns. Sweep hair forward and cut the hairs stretching onto the face along the natural hairline.
AFTER you’ve done the “knuckles against the scalp” trimming on the back of the head, do NOT cut straight across the neckline. Instead, make a million tiny cuts up straight up into the hair to texturize. This would cover up the horrible look you’d make if you cut straight across.
Now’s a great time to work on consuming sustainable products to fight COVID-19.
It’s hard to draw a direct line between our instant-gratification/disposable society and the cause of COVID-19. (And yet, is it?)
However, it’s not hard to see that altering our sense of consumer entitlement will help us out of this pandemic.
There are several choices we can make, as a society, that simultaneously reduces our impact on the environment, saves us money, AND fights COVID-19. (And might help with online learning and homeschooling. Ugh.)
Everyone one of the following products is meant to reduce trips to the infected outer world.
But also? When you buy them, maybe DON’T go to Amazon (despite embedded links herein).
Try your local retailers or your hardware store.
BARS OF SOAP
You KNOW you don’t actually need to get a plastic bottle for gel soap. Using a bar of soap with your favorite washcloth or loofah or poofy thing is EXACTLY THE SAME. Pretend it’s olden-times. Save a buck. Be as chemically-based, hipstery, or French milled bougie as you wanna be. As a bonus – go LOCAL! The bars last longer, cost less, and serve the same purpose. And when you’re at the end of the bar, you can make your own bars just like your ancestors during the depression!
Reusable cleaning cloths like this bamboo version or this. These mean no more paper towels. And how amazing is that? No more runs on the Target shelves. They last for many months and are made of natural celluloid, saving trees and money and trips to the store.
Use an old-fashioned one that can be re-used ad nauseum. Go ahead and do some role-playing as the maid with an old school ostrich feather duster (or a new-school one). Or at LEAST re-use your Swiffer dusters. Here: I’ve made a video demonstrating the complexity of cleaning a swiffer duster. (Argh – swiffer makes me so mad with their disposability. It’s a RUSE, folks! They just want you to buy more unnecessary crap!!!)
Just get you some cheap aloe vera and some VODKA!!! (or cheap 99.9% rubbing alcohol) and make your own! Cut down on the constant purchasing of Purell bottles, refill your little bottles, etc. So much less waste and indubitably better for your hands and the environment, not to mention PRICE GAUGING.
No more need to give more cash to the big cleaning companies like P&G. Instead, make your own sanitizer and cut down on all those disposable mini-bottles of sanitizer.
Why not a shameless plug, here? Sustainable? Yes (it’s quality and won’t fall apart and you can use it for years after diapering days are over and you won’t be embarrassed by it and choose to trash it). Stylish? Obvi. Fights COVID-19? I mean…have you SEEN the instant access to wet wipes?
Talk about the epitome of single-use plastics. No more saran wrap, folks. It’s necessary and wasteful and definitely kills turtles looking for a jellyfish snack. If you still really want to support mega-corporations, at LEAST use Glad or Ziploc containers. But really – beeswax is sustainable and keeps food fresher.
Seriously – do we really need to have plastic pencils that get trashed? Like when our little kids discover the intense OCD joy of clicked, extract all the lead, and then you’re too lazy to shove all those fragile lead sticks back into the environmentally unfriendly plastic tubes? Yeah – get you a #2 and a fabulous sharpener like this or this. Put the kids to work sharpening, listen to them complain, and then start to sound like your grandmother when you lecture about how good they have it and that “It’s a pandemic, you little entitled shits!”
We are a consumer society. And thank goodness for delivery. Try to shop local, check out the hardware stores (it’s a magical place) and get these sustainable product to fight covid-19. (Can we call it CV19, yet? So much easier.)