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4 Mothers: Conversations in Home Quarantine

Raising children to thrive through adjustments

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We had a conversation with four mothers from around the world, to hear how they are dealing with raising their children during this time of COVID-19, and what lessons they are learning and teaching their children in overcoming during this pandemic. This is part one of that conversation.

 Joy Chua hosted the conversation. She is a Singaporean and the mother of 6 children, the first three of which are teenagers, and the younger three are all below ten years of age.

 She was joined by:

 -Delia Walcott, a Singaporean living in the United States. She is a teacher at a private school in the state of Michigan, and has three children – 13 and 11-year-old boys and a 6-year-old girl.  

 -Jade Tan, an Australian who has been living in Singapore for the last two and a half years. She has three children, a 6-year-old boy, 3-year-old girl, and 2-month-old girl. 

 -Yen Cabag, our Chief Writer on Brave.is from the Philippines. She has three boys, aged 11, 8, and 1.

The four ladies during the Zoom Interview, (clockwise from top left) Delia, Jade, Yen, and Joy, 2020

 

How are you handling this situation? What are you doing at home with your children, and what have you learned during this time?

Delia: I think what keeps me sane is a schedule. My kids and I all have work that needs to be done – their schoolwork, and my teaching (which has moved online during this time). We all have different Zoom calls we need to be on!

Having a schedule helps, because my two older boys are really independent, so they just run on autopilot. The only problem is sometimes they finish their work at 10 AM, so what do you do for the rest of the day? I’ll tell them to find ways to occupy themselves or I’ll give them chores to do! So that’s what they’ve been doing, and they also help with their little sister.

Another way having a schedule helps is that initially I was working all day and night long, just trying to get everything online for my own students. I realized that’s not healthy, so I made a work schedule for myself too. I set a cutoff time and then have family time in the evenings and weekends. That really helps us.

Yen: I’ve already been homeschooling for the past few years, so it wasn’t really an adjustment in terms of having the kids do school at home. The adjustment was that we couldn’t go out as much, because our normal lifestyle had us out two or three times a week.

“You know, there can be a lot of frustrations, but I think there are two ways to overcome it. One is to manage expectations – you need to manage expectations for your children. And the second thing is your attitude. It is important to keep a good attitude.” -Delia

What we’ve been doing is a family project of planting a small garden on some vacant lots around our place. The idea came from our older son – he started clearing up a little patch of land where we can hang out because we can’t really go anywhere else. So we would spend time just outside the house.

Jade: I’m already a stay-at-home mom, and as Delia was saying, routine is like my mantra.

I used to be relaxed as a person, until I had kids! I would go crazy if I didn’t have some sort of routine.

I used to have three hours of relative quiet in the morning when it was just me and the baby, with the other two kids at school. And now I’ve had that taken from me. I’m now dealing with all three kids, and also having my husband at home who is working. The kids, in all their innocence, think, “Yay, we have Mommy and Daddy’s undivided attention!” It does become a bit disruptive. We’ve had to put down a few more rules and really schedule the home-based learning.

Joy: A lot of parents haven’t really been the ones teaching their children, because it’s usually done by the teachers. And now we have this deep appreciation for our educators!

For myself, in the past I have not really been involved in teaching my kids, because the school does it. Now that we have them at home, I have to be involved – I’m the IT help! We have to make things work. We’ve had some tears in the beginning – that’s inevitable, right?

Is there any time when there is friction between you and your children, especially now that you’re all home 24/7? How do you resolve it?

Yen: Self-care has become an important thing to me. In this season of quarantine, I find that sometimes we get into this state where we’re all stressed out, and I need some time away. I try to lock myself in my room for a while! I also relish the time that I get to go out to buy groceries and I take my own sweet time, so that I’m nice and refreshed by the time I get back.

Delia: I definitely clash with the children at different times. For example, my middle child will sometimes ask me for math help, and I’m a certified high school math teacher. But when I try to help him with his math, he will look at me, like, “Are you sure?” And he will argue with me about the solution. I’ll try to contain my frustration and say, “Look, I teach math. Why don’t you believe me?”

You know, there can be a lot of frustrations, but I think there are two ways to overcome it. One is to manage expectations – you need to manage expectations for your children. And the second thing is your attitude. It is important to keep a good attitude.

Another example is, they often interrupt me in the middle of my work. My immediate reaction is to be very frustrated because I’m dealing with something else. But I have to just put that aside, realizing the work is still going to be there, but my child needs me right now. Again, I have to put off my “teacher hat”, take a deep breath, and put on my “mom hat”.

Jade: We don’t really have much friction, so to speak, because they’re still at the age where I like to say, “Because Mommy says so.” But there is whining, “I don’t like doing that!”

Jade Tan with her husband David and first two children, Singapore, 2019

 

I guess what helps is what Delia was saying – managing my expectations as well. When I first received the education guidelines from the school, it looked like a list of KPIs for me to achieve. There was just so much stress, and I think I was getting a bit worried.

The Chinese school lessons were especially challenging – I can’t speak Chinese to save my life, so it was like the blind leading the blind! I found that my son Josiah was picking up on that negativity, so I sort of changed tact a little bit and I said, “Okay, look, mommy’s not great at Chinese, but let’s try and learn together.”

To bring that connection across with him is more important to me than to achieve big goals.

It’s more of me just explaining and processing with them and really encouraging them because they’re dealing with a lot of change in a short amount of time. The least I could do is be as consistent as possible for them.

Joy: I think Jade brought up a very good point – it’s not just changes to the adult schedule, but for the children, there are a lot of changes, too.

What are some things that you have done to help your children cope with this adjustment?

Jade: When we realized the schools might actually shut down, I started preparing the children, telling them, “You know, you might have to do home school with Mummy!”  My daughter actually really enjoys it. They really enjoy doing what they call “Mummy lessons”, like when we did schooling during holiday.

“it’s important to be creative in finding ways to connect with our children.” -Yen Cabag

So initially they thought it was a great thing, but they’re not really liking the whole “can’t-see-my-friends, can’t-go-outside-too-much” thing. But if you pre-empt and prepare your children, it helps, and a lot of tantrums can be avoided.

For the younger ones, I think it’s hard to put into words everything they’re going through, so we can really check in on them during the day to see how things are going. For example, one day my son said, “This is the worst day ever!” In my mind, I immediately thought sarcastically, “You’re a 6-year-old! How tough can this day be?” But instead of doing that, I asked him, “Why do you think today is the worst day?” And he told me he didn’t enjoy his online lesson, and there was too much noise in the house and he’d had a couple of disagreements with his sister. So I was able to get down to his level and help him process his day and his feelings.

Yen: For us, I think the biggest adjustment was with our middle son, because he’s very extroverted.  Before the quarantine, he was always out of the house, playing with all his friends. Now he’s stuck with us, and bothering his introverted older brother.

Both my husband and I had to be more intentional about spending time with him. So even though school is on a break for us, I added a few stories to read to him. I realized I had to schedule special reading times with him, and this has really helped. He liked the added bonding time when it’s just me and him and the others are outside. So I think it’s important to be creative in finding ways to connect with our children.

Delia: I think we can ask – what can we do during this time that we could not do if school was still in session? That makes them feel excited about doing something. For my oldest, we encouraged him to keep writing his books. Just last week, he created a website and Facebook page to publicize the books he’s written. That’s what drives him.

My second son loves building LEGOs, so he’s built a whole amusement park from scratch. That’s his thing! And my daughter, my youngest, she is social like me. We put Messenger Kids on my iPad, and she can talk to her friends and play dolls together, over the iPad.

My husband and I also spend one-on-one time with them all. He plays basketball with one boy, then baseball with the other one. Spending that one-on-one time feeds their souls and meets their emotional needs more than anything else.

It’s just very different. For boys, I think I realized that it’s being next to them that matters. And even if they’re not talking about deep stuff, and you’re just throwing a ball with them – it meets emotional needs.

Joy: Yes, it’s so important to really connect with them during this time. We are usually so busy and we’re like, “Oh, I wish I have more time with my kids.” Well now we have it!

My teenagers are more or less on their own. The only thing is I can control their connectivity to their world. So I can terminate the WiFi to their devices, and when that happens, they will come out of their room. I will tell them, “I haven’t seen you for the day, I want to talk to you!”

We really have to make time to connect with them – it’s very important. At dinner time we tell them to come out and let’s share about our day together. It’s so important to keep having these connections, even over meal times.

I also organize some fun stuff, like Saturday is “Baking Day” in our house. We bake with the kids and they get to tell me what they want to eat. So it’s connecting with the stomach, and it’s really fun during the time. I really discover a lot about my kids.

Check out the live recording of the interview above.

 

Come back next week for part 2 of our conversation with these four ladies, to hear strategies they are using to build their children’s faith and trust in God.