Skip to Main Content

In Ten Years

April 17, 2020
by John Coffey

Having children at home—whether you are working or not—for a month or more is a new challenge for most parents (or caregivers). With all due respect to those challenges, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you and your kids. Most bosses would laugh at you (or worse) if you asked for one-two months to stay at home; most of us wouldn’t have ever considered it. But that time is here, and children are likely to cherish these times, especially if we can see the upside.

Your children are going to learn more from you—and learn more about you and your work—in ways they never expected just by being around you more. Even though my new co-worker relies on me to change his diapers, take him on daily wagon rides, and sing him songs (because he’s a toddler), I am getting to see and do things with him that I never would have.

Similarly, you are going to be a part of things you never expected. During wagon rides, we turn them into a scavenger hunt and learn new words. I’ve seen my son progress with colors by finding things on the walk. Thanks to my help, he prefers to call yellow things “maize” and he can say “social distancing” even though I only recently learned that term. He also “watched” me practice parts of my first ever Zoom presentation. As they say, if you can present to a toddler, you can present to your peers. Thus, I’m building new experiences and bonding with my child in ways that I never would have.

If your kids are older the potential is far greater because older kids will be able to remember this extra time you spend with them and cherish the things you do as special to you and them. You might teach them a card game or board game, teach them to ride a bike, or have them help more with cooking. Challenge older kids to make something they saw on a cooking show. Help them learn by seeing what you do at work. Let them act goofy to try to throw you off during a practice presentation or just appreciate the ability to get a mid-day hug from your child after a tough call or news report. Even if you think you know how, have a teenager help you figure out some new technology. Better yet, have them teach you what they are learning or learn a new language together. Spend time practicing kind acts from a distance (for example, leave chalk messages for neighbors, send a gratitude letter) as part of a school or life lesson.

Yes, there are still going to be challenges and conflicts and not everything will go as planned, but these positive moments will help. My toddler and I both have stir-crazy moments, but we are in this together with my wife. At some point, you or your child might look back on this time with a special form of affection.

John K. Coffey, PhD, is an Arnold Gesell Visiting Scholar of Parent and Child Development at the Yale Child Study Center and assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee: The University of the South. Dr. Coffey’s training and research explore ways to help people thrive. Specifically, his research focuses on childhood and family factors related to long-term resiliency and well-being.

Submitted by Jill Max on April 13, 2020