The early weeks of online learning were a bit rough for my three teenagers. We were doing the best we could with what was handed to us and I wasn’t worried if they got off course a bit because, like many other parents, I had no idea school would be canceled for the rest of the year.
Once we got the calls and emails about continuing online learning for the rest of the year, I knew I had to clean up our act.
For one, I needed a sense of order. I like spending more time with my kids, but I already work from home and they were messing up my vibe a bit. I need to stay on track in order to put food on the table, so it was kind of a big deal.
But also, teens are, well, teens. They wanted to sleep in until noon, eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, and get to their school work when they felt like it. Which meant there was a whole lot of procrastinating going on.
I certainly don’t blow a whistle every morning at 6:30, but I had to set up some rules for my kids. The outcome has been happier, more productive kids, and a happier, productive mom, too.
Creating a Sense of Order
1. I don’t let them sleep in too late.
This means different things to different people. I am an early riser and do my best work in the morning after I exercise. By three or so, my brain doesn’t work the same and I use that time to answer emails and the like.
I don’t expect my kids to work like me and a bit of sleeping in is fine. But they were sleeping until after noon, rolling out of bed, making a mess in the kitchen, then cracking open their laptop around two. They just weren’t motivated.
For my kids, mid-morning is enough sleep and around 10:30 I like to see them downstairs doing their school work.
2. I expect them to eat first, then get their work done.
It happened a few times in the early days of this pandemic—my kids said they’d get to something later. Sometimes they were talking about school work, sometimes they were talking about chores. The trash and their laundry started heaping up and I got a few notifications from their teachers about late assignments.
Now when my kids get up in the morning, I tell them to get a little something in their system and to get everything done that they would like to put off. They still get as many breaks as they want. But they’ve all agreed with me that getting their math work done before the sun sets is so much more enjoyable than dragging it out. Plus, having them eat at regular times has helped keep my teens from raiding the pantry at three in the afternoon and eating everything in sight.
3. They still have a set bedtime.
I have my teens head up to their rooms by 10 p.m., without devices. They don’t have to sleep, but I tell them it’s time to start winding down. Yes, my teens have told me they are the only ones who still have a bedtime. Apparently, their friends run their own houses and party all night. But this is my house rule for the school week.
I am less strict on the weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights, they get to stay up as late as they want as long as they aren’t too loud so their very tired mother can get some shut eye.
4. We still eat dinner as a family around the same time.
Eating dinner at a set time helps me structure my day. I like that my teens can count on dinner around five every night. At first, we were throwing caution to the wind and eating whenever we wanted because we had nowhere else to go. That left me feeling a little untethered. Planning a meal each night, even if we aren’t eating the same thing, just makes us all feel better. Not to mention my kids have enjoyed helping me cook.
My teens fought me on these rules at first. They felt like they should have more freedom since their alarm clock wasn’t going off and everything was canceled. But what happened was everything started falling apart and nothing was getting done.
They’d probably never say this out loud, but they clearly seem happier and are definitely more proactive with just these few rules I refuse to let go of. Whether we stay home or not, I think everyone does better with a sense of routine and normalcy in their lives.