I'd say most parents around the country were half-expecting an announcement about schools closing, but I'm willing to bet it has still come as a big shock to most of us.
For lots of parents it has required a mad scramble to activate some kind of alternative childcare, especially with crèches and preschools closed. Even when we have the facility to work from home it'll be hard to actually get work done when we have our children's needs to meet at the same time.
There also may be many families that will be financially hit by being out of work, so even though childcare may be less of an issue if you, too, are at home, the worry about how to make ends meet might replace the stress of having no childcare.
What that means for parents is that we have a job of work to do, to manage our own anxieties, before we start to think about being with our children. We all know that the prevailing mood and attitude in the house can be easily swayed by our own mood. So if we are approaching this stage of the delay of the spread of Covid-19 with stress and tension, then our children may also experience their time at home in a similar manner.
Yet, being at home in these circumstances doesn't have to be a bad thing for any of us. We are not in a survival situation. If people can avoid panic buying and hoarding regular household supplies, denying them to others, there will still be business as usual in terms of shopping, cleaning and keeping our households running.
In fact, trying to maintain rhythm and routine to our days, with our children, will be really supportive and beneficial. Try to plan your days rather than letting them run into each other in a haphazard way. This isn't a holiday for our children, it is a unique school closure in extraordinary circumstances. As a result, most schools have plans to keep in touch with parents and students to keep a focus on their education through online means or work sent home.
Many of us may also be concerned that if our children are cooped up in the house that it will eventually become a pressure-cooker and that tempers will fray to the point of explosion. So, don't let that happen. It is still spring outside and we are all still allowed to get out and about and go to the parks, the woods, the mountains, the beaches and get busy and active. The goal is to avoid being close to other people for extended periods, not to be locked in isolation. Fresh air and activity is the best antidote to becoming "stir-crazy". Just keep your family fun to your own family, don't create social get-togethers.
It may be tempting to allow digital babysitters to intervene to keep your children occupied, and for sure there is a time and place for TV, gaming, YouTubing and social media, but as with all things lets aim to keep it balanced for our kids. When we can't get out, we can go old-fashioned and pull out board games, quizzes and puzzles. We can encourage our children to read actual books, or plan story time with them where we do the reading. There are arts, crafts, gardening, baking, spring-cleaning and other such practical things to do.
This could also be a chance to introduce your children to volunteering and altruism. There are older adults in our community who may be feeling very isolated and scared about their health and well-being. Perhaps your family may be able to do something nice, like tidying up an elderly neighbour's garden, bringing their bins out to the road for collection, shopping on their behalf, even just having a chat with them through the window. Helping others has been shown, in research, to have a powerfully positive impact on the helper. Our children, and ourselves, might need some of that feel-good factor.
Part of our concerns may be about our own family isolation, as we try to maximise our social distance and minimise our social interactions face-to-face. So, we can take advantage of the technology at our disposal to chat, video-call, text and stay socially connected. Remember that "a problem shared is a problem halved" and so, especially when we are feeling a bit strung-out, we can rely on the listening ear of friends and family, some of whom may even have some tips and ideas.
Let's not underestimate the opportunity for reconnection that this time may offer our family. Even during the summer holidays many of us have activities, work and so on that keep us moving in our separate circles, with only small amounts of over-lapping time to actually be together and just hang out. None of us may have asked for this family time, but since we have it, let's use it positively.