I have to say that when it all began in March I couldn’t imagine that I would be saying that the COVID-19 lockdown was great for our special needs family. By the time it was finally implemented here in Canada, I had already seen countless images of what the lockdown looked like in Northern Italy and other parts of the world. We had just returned from a trip during March break to look at a market to invest in, came back to roof shingles scattered on the front lawn after a storm, scrambled to get roofers and the day after the roofers packed up, our province was closed. Unlike other provinces that announced that schools were closed for the rest of the year and families prepared from the outset for a long haul, initially our politicians announced just a few weeks. A few weeks during which the kids will be home, wouldn’t go out much and then everything would get back to normal.
I had my doubts. Having seen the devastation that the pandemic had brought to other parts of the world, I didn’t see how we could just get it over and done with in a matter of weeks. What did it all mean for my family? What would it be like to be stuck at home for months? How was I going to explain it to the kids and how much would they understand? How would I keep the kids stimulated, entertained? What was I going to do about their education? (Since our local government was expecting things to get to normal in a few weeks, they had made no plans which meant that I had to come up with a plan since I didn’t believe them). How was I going to keep the kids from being zombified by spending too much time in front of screens? How was I going to maintain a normal family life? Why was a respiratory pandemic causing a shortage of toilet paper and where was I going to find some? No matter how hard I searched for the silver lining, it looked like the lockdown.
In the end, it turned out not to be as bad as I had imagined lockdown would be. In fact, in many ways it was good for our family. Let me explain, yes it sucked on many levels. The kids missed their friends, it was tough to get the school work done. We all had cabin fever even though we have a decent sized yard in the suburbs. In spite of all that there were many ways in which the COVID 19 lockdown was great for our family:
- We got an amazing babysitter
Although my husband worked from home throughout the lockdown and continues to do so even now, there were many times when I had to go into the office. A couple of times a week the kids got to spend time with a truly amazing babysitter! Not only is she younger and way more hip than my husband and me, she turned out to be some kind of miracle worker! In a few hours she would manage to fit in school work, chores and endless fun activities for the boys, with seemingly zero resistance on their part.
- We spent more time together
Working from home, no school nor extracurricular activities naturally led to us spending more time together, talking, creating and making old-fashioned toys with whatever we had lying around. It’s amazing how many things you can make from discarded junk.
- Academic achievements
I was a teacher very briefly once upon a time under very desperate times, (the school and students’) but I am certainly not my kids’ teacher. Having said that, we made the best of the situation and in some ways it turned out to be good for the kids. I was able to focus on one child at a time, take as long as I need, find as many different ways of explaining a concept as that one child needed, a luxury that is impossible in a classroom. We did not move on to the next topic until the lesson was mastered, and as much as possible, were able to integrate each of my boys’ individual interests in the lessons. In addition, we would go from the ‘classroom’ and spend the rest of the day applying the lessons learned. Overall, I think that kind of learning, while neither practical, nor sustainable was really great for the kids.
4. Life skills
My boys made the biggest gains in general, everyday life skills. We were never in a hurry since we had nowhere to go, which meant that there was plenty of time for the mundane but necessary skills that they will need to be independent adults one day. With no school bus to rush to, there was more than enough time for the beds to be made every morning. The boys took care of their laundry more often and learned to make simple meals. I never felt pressured to do anything myself so that it could get done faster, it was such a blessing.
We couldn’t always accompany the kids if they wanted to take their bikes and ride around the block, which thankfully was allowed during lockdown. We gave the kids walkie talkies so they could at least have some independence but still be able to check in with us. It was a tremendous boost to their confidence and a time of growth for all of us.
One of the best things to come out of the COVID-19 lockdown was that I introduced the practice of gratitude to my kids. Goodness knows that they had plenty to complain about, especially from the perspective of their pre-teen universe. In wanting all of us to focus on the good things we had going for us, I started sprinkling throughout the day all the things that I was grateful for. Although I have been doing this for many years, it has always been just for myself, in my private moments. After I started sharing my feelings of gratitude with the boys, it didn’t take too long for them to start sharing what they too were grateful for. It’s probably one of the greatest gifts I have given them and I certainly hope we will all carry our attitude of gratitude with us for the rest of our lives.
The COVID -19 pandemic lockdown was certainly challenging for our special needs family but there were some truly great things to come out of it. It was a time of growth for all of us.