Connecting With Your Child When You Only Have Two Precious Hours

So, you’re divorced, or about to be, and on Thursdays you only have two precious hours to spend with your child(ren). During these unique and stressful times we find ourselves in due to COVID-19, you may be struggling with how to make the most out of that limited time under our current “shelter-in-place” restrictions. Here are some ideas as to how to spend those valuable 120 minutes: 

Cook up some goodies

Have fun AND score something to eat! Make your own pizza from scratch for dinner. Play “Chopped” with what’s in your pantry. Bake some cookies and make your own ice cream sandwiches. Involving your child(ren) in cooking meals or snacks helps them learn life skills as well as gives them something to feel proud of. And bonus, you end up with something that’s (hopefully!) good to eat; if it’s not, it’ll at least provide a good laugh. Tip: Have a back up plan just in case!

Play games 

Pull out some of those oldie-but-goodie board games or card games, and settle in for some old-fashioned fun. When your focus is on the game, it’s easy to sneak in some real conversation and is a great way to unobtrusively check in and see how they’re handling these strange times. Or older children can work with you to create a game of your own. No matter the age, games are always a good idea.

Get outside

We are allowed to get out for some exercise, as long as we maintain social distancing when encountering others. And it’s been said that good ole Vitamin D from sunshine may help keep our immune system humming. So take a leisurely stroll, or a jog, kick a soccer ball around, do some yoga, roller skate, ride bikes, make chalk drawings to inspire others as they get out, or play Nature Bingo: 

 

Exercise inside

Don’t want to risk going outside? Create stations around your home: run in place in front of the refrigerator for 10 seconds, stand on one leg in the middle of the den and count to 10, hop over a broom on the floor 5 times, etc. Stream some kid-friendly workouts. Do yoga. Play Simon Says. Do the Hokey-Pokey. Older children can work with weights (canned veggies will work as hand-weights). Create your own Olympics! 

Be of service

There are unfortunately many opportunities to help someone in need during these stressful times. Write letters to those in retirement homes or rehab facilities who cannot interact with anyone outside the facility. Help a neighbor who can’t get out to do their yardwork. Buy a gift card (can your child contribute, too?) from a struggling local restaurant that’s still open for take out or delivery and give it to a neighbor or first responder to use; that’s a win-win-win! Clean out toys and games that your child doesn’t use anymore and post them on the neighborhood site to see if someone else can use them and give them away.

Learn a new skill together

How much fun would it be to learn to juggle together? Or say hello in five languages? Or make origami? Or learn sign language? Or for your child to finally learn to snap their fingers or tie their shoes or make paper airplanes? Ask your child(ren) what they want to learn, and dive in with them!

Plan a trip

Plan an upcoming summer vacation. Or maybe just a dream trip. Make a meal from that locale. Learn something in that language. 

Have a Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts can be as simple or elaborate as you want, and may take some time to set up (but that may be a good way to utilize your own time in between possessions too). They can be as simple as “Find 8 red things in the family room” to an elaborate 10 station sequence that leads them around the entire house/yard or neighborhood. Here’s one you can do outside while you’re on that walk that we talked about above.

Read a good book together

Start a fun chapter book, and read a chapter or two every time you’re together. Take turns reading to each other. Or for older children, read a chapter while you’re apart and then talk about it when you’re together: What did you like the best about that chapter? How would you have written ___(this part)___ differently? What do you think is going to happen next? (Make sure it’s a fun book they’re interested in so talking about it doesn’t resemble English class!) Or choose a book set in a place you both want to visit one day.

Take advantage of virtual on-line offerings

Many zoos and aquariums around the world have live webcams, and many world-famous museums have opened their virtual doors to online tours of priceless treasures. Many musical artists who have had to cancel their tours or Broadway shows have posted online mini-concerts and performances for anyone to see.

Be creative, be relaxed, and be present

Whether it’s fingerpainting a joint masterpiece, dancing around the coffee table to their favorite song, singing a mini-concert together, or just making funny faces at the dinner table, think outside the box to build fun experiences during your cherished time together. The point is to be present in the moment so, when they leave, they remember the time you’ve spent together. The silver lining in these troubled times is that we can focus more clearly on how we spend our time and hopefully emerge with sweet memories to last a lifetime.

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