In Part 6 of Making Montessori Your Own : Introduction, Ana shares with us about changes. Young children rely on us for stability. We are their lighthouse and she shares how she and her family are supporting her daughter through this whirlwind of a year.
Dear Ana, how has 2020 been for you & your family?
It’s been a year of big changes, both expected and unexpected. We moved cities in March, which was a good thing, after nearly a year of living split-family as my husband and I worked in different cities. However, this happened days before the lockdown began and the pandemic came upon us, so it was more change for S than I’d anticipated. Helping her transition smoothly through this phase was a big priority in the first half of this year. It’s also been a year of simplifying, of focusing on things in our sphere of control and of having gratitude for the small joys of life. We’re lucky to have jobs where both of us are working from home for rest of the year at least; and to have support of grandparents and a caretaker. So, we try to make the most of our time together at home amid the uncertainty and constraints of the pandemic.
You mentioned that you moved cities in the last year. What are some ways in which you supported your daughter through the move?
The change was big for S because it coincided with the lockdown. So not only was she in a new place, she also couldn’t go out to play, which was a drastic change from the almost two hours a day she used to spend outdoors earlier. Her discomfort with the transition translated in more clingy and cranky behaviour. It was upto me to understand where she was coming from, and meet her there. I often reminded myself of the Janet Lansbury quote, “All feelings are welcome, not all behaviours.”
Here are somethings that helped us through the transition:
- Share upcoming changes with the child. I told S about the move, and upcoming changes often in the three weeks leading up to the move. And then, kept connecting back to it while it was actually happening.
- Keep the rhythm going even during the most disruptive days. For example, on the days of the move, we held on to basic rhythm of mealtimes and naps
- Keep familiar things around. We carried her cutlery, familiar play and bath toys with us to the hotel, flights and transitory stay. This helped her feel a bit secure amid all the newness.
- Acknowledge all feelings. We helped her understand what she was feeling by verbalising them for her.
- Be present and stay connected with each other. Even on the busiest days, we made sure to have just a little bit of one to one time to slow down and connect. For us, breakfast and bedtime routines are often our anchors to begin and end our days.
Many families have had to make rapid and sudden changes to their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your daughter taken to these changes?
The lockdown has meant we are not going out to play as much as we used to and we used to be outdoors for nearly two hours everyday. So, this is a big change! We have adapted by keeping to our old routine, and finding new ways to have outdoor time.
- We have introduced balcony time. It is announced, there are rituals of putting in shoes before going out, and there are lots of gross motor play and free movement. Now she asks for it by name.
- We ensure she has ample gross motor play even when indoors. We put on music and dance, use beanbags for indoor throwing, have a bowling pin set-up on some days and cushion obstacle course on others.
- We make sure to connect with nature. We have introduced her to gardening, we pause to listen to and spot birds, observe the sky, clouds, sunrise, sunset and rains. These keep us grounded.
- We indulge in a lot more practical life. The kitchen is by far S’s favourite room. She loves to watch us cook, name things, do dishes and prepare her own snacks. She’s welcome to join any daily chore going on but not obligated to.
- We offer age-appropriate discussion regarding the virus. At 19 months, S is still too small to understand what is going on. But with time, we speak of why we’re indoors, hygiene practices when going out, etc.
- We have virtual play dates. We do not watch any television or videos, but we do video calls with friends and family. That is the only way we can all connect with others.
As working parents, how do you navigate working from home with a toddler?
S was used to the concept that we (her parents) went away to work, and we’re available to her when at home. So this concept of being at home, but unavailable due to work was new for her. We’re lucky to have support system of grandparents.
Here’s some things that have helped us adjust to the new routine:
- Have a dedicated space for WfH. We are lucky to have a study where we “go to office”. S knows that is time when we are unavailable to her.
- Have regular rhythm. Having a predictable rhythm such as regular start and end times make it easier for her to feel secure and in control. She knows once I am in work clothes, it is time for me to go to work.
- Have dedicated, quality time spent with her everyday. Apart from working hours, through our morning routine, bedtime routine and even small rituals, we have quality time together. For example, we start our days with dry fruits and time together in the balcony which anchors the day and gives security.
- Ensure a rich environment and lots of ‘yes spaces’ for freedom of movement. S is free to move through the house, participate in many practical life activities throughout her day, and we ensure she is purposefully engaged even while we are “away” at work.
- Gratitude! We share things we are thankful for each night at bedtime. She cannot always verbalise, but has picked up on the practice with time.
Even with the constraints, we have a lot to be thankful for. Learning to cope with change and adversity are valuable life skills, and how we show up in this time, is our children’s first lesson on how to handle these changes themselves. I’m just taking things one day at a time, and trying to make it count.