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Staying home: how to manage family life

The current ‘stay home situation’ is raising questions for many parents. How do you deal with this as a parent? These twelve pointers by the Netherlands Youth Institute will help you on your way.

1 - Stay calm and lead by example

Having to stay indoors together for a long period of time is a new situation for everyone. In new situations, children look to their parents and other role models, and model their behaviour to their example. This is why it’s important to stay calm and lead by example.

Talking together about how you and your family are coping can be very helpful during this time. Create a time and place in the home to give some attention to your emotions and those of the other family members.

2 - Apart, together

Contact with others is very important for people and essential for children. The current situation makes it seem harder to stay in touch with people outside the home. Find other ways to stay in touch with class mates, friends and family. Make these moments of contact a part of various family activities: have dinner with grandma and grandpa over Skype.

Do homework online with your friends. Make a silly video for a sick friend and send it online. There are also many ways of playing games together online. Especially for teenagers, contact with friends is really important. Stimulate them to do so in other ways than face to face.

3 - Discuss the situation as a family and plan together

Answer the following questions together: What does this situation demand of us as a family? Which situations could prove tricky and how can we solve those? Try to involve your children in this as much as you can.

Prepare for difficult moments. For example, you and your child could make a list together of friends to phone or chat with. Create a list together of anti-boredom activities and a digital list of craft ideas. You could of course make use of the many amazing initiatives on offer. Consider for example creative arts, movement, scientific experiments to do at home or examples of challenges friends are taking together online. Know that moments of difficulty or boredom are never completely avoidable. They are part of life, with or without corona.

4 - Provide structure as well as diversity

Happy children are more fun to be around and more likely to listen. Structure in your day has a calming effect. It’s good for everyone to know what to expect. There are many initiatives on social media that help parents to structure the day. Make sure your day consists of (school) work, movement, rest, learning and screen time. Don’t fill up the entire day. Children are creative and used to entertaining themselves after school and at the weekends. Make sure there’s enough time left for independent play or a spontaneous plan. And of course those anti-boredom activities you made up will be available if needed..

See if you can do household chores together, such as cooking, cleaning and folding the laundry. It helps to have frequent and planned moments for these.

5 - Draw a clear line between work, school and free time

As much as possible, make sure there is a clear separation between work time, school time and fun time with the children. Trying to do everything at once will leave everyone wanting. A clear line between work and free time can bring a sense of calm. This way, children know when they can and can’t interrupt you. Also, this will create moments where you don’t have to juggle everything at the same time.

If your situation allows it, agree on working hours and a varying rote of work tasks and care tasks with your partner, a support family or neighbours and your employer. If children are older, you might be able to match your working hours to their school hours. Do make sure that you’re available for school questions and that you’re not interrupted with important phone calls. If you do get such a call, tell the caller ‘I’m just helping my child with their school work, I’ll call you back in a moment’, or the child ‘This call is really important for my work, I’ll be back with you in a second, okay?’.

6 - Realistic expectations

The current situation comes with all manner of questions and uncertainty. This influences you and all members of your family. Talking about the situation with your family, planning together and working to create calm for yourself and your family is already doing a lot. Keep in mind that not all of those plans will work out as you expected. That’s okay. Even before corona, things didn’t always go as planned.

In short, make sure your expectations are realistic, be flexible and share your worries. But mostly, be mild to yourself and others.

7 - School work

As a parent, you have been given the task to help your children with their school work. This means you have to shift often and quickly between different family tasks. That’s very demanding of you as a parent, as well as of your children. Allow yourself enough time to switch between everything you need and want to do. And remember, first and foremost you are the parent of your children!

Children need their parent(s) in this new reality. Of course it’s important that you help your children with their school work, but it’s even more important that you as a parent are there for them. Listen to them, hug them and support them. And is school work not coming along so well one day? Then you pick it back up the next day.

8 - Look after yourself and each other

As a parent, it’s always important to take good care of yourself. In this situation, that’s even more vital, but perhaps harder to do than usual. Be mindful of this. What does it mean to you, to look after yourself? And how do you ensure that you meet those needs as well as you can? Everyone needs moments and things for themselves. Talk about these together and explain what you like about them. Then, try to keep those things in mind for each member of the family when making plans and lists of activities.

9 - Seek and offer support

Don’t try to solve everything alone. A situation like this is easier to get your head around if you do it together. Ask others how they deal with certain difficulties and learn from each other. Humour helps. If need be, plan ‘venting calls’ with friends or acquaintances. During such calls, mind that your children are not around and can’t hear you, or be aware that they might be listening in.

Asking for support is not easy and offering support is not always the obvious thing to do. Not everyone has a network of support. Do you know of a family that might need some help? Send an app, ring the door bell or leave a note in the letterbox. Let them know they’re not alone and that difficulties to do with raising children are part of this exceptional situation. Keep an eye out for each other and support each other if needed.

10 - Allow the children to help out

Children enjoy helping their parents to problem solve and often offer unexpected solutions. Involving them aids their development and allows them to better cope with difficult situations. Also know that children are much more inclined to cooperate on tasks they have invented themselves. Examples are creating a daily structure together, thinking of activities and drawing up a set of rules for the family. Also allow children to, with your help, create their own schedule for the day.

11 - Point out and celebrate what’s going well

At the end of each day, tell each other what you liked about the day and what went well. What were the day’s highlights? We’re all doing this for the first time, with all the challenges that come with that. Focusing on what’s going well and sharing it makes us all feel good. The highlights mentioned can form the starting point for the coming time.

Celebrate successful moments as part of your home-school-work schedule. Make a special breakfast, create a dance together, surprise someone with a little note under their pillow or read an extra book or chapter to your children.

12 - Finally: Trust in your children’s resilience

Children are generally very resilient. For that, they need the loving support of an adult. An adult who takes their questions seriously and answers them, who removes worries and leads by example. Children supported in this way are generally very adept at coping with changes. Use this time to invest in your connection to your child with cuddles, love and attention.


Do you have specific questions, send them by email to

Original article in Dutch by the Netherlands Youth Institute translated with permission.

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