Being a parent is challenging in the best of times, but add a pandemic on top of that and your kids might drive you even crazier than usual. Bored Panda has collected some of the funniest things that parents are sharing about their everyday quarantine struggles raising their kids, so scroll down, upvote your favorites, and drop us a comment if you’re parents yourselves, dear Readers. When you’re done with this list, check out our earlier post about the funny pics that parents stuck in quarantine with their kids have shared.
Bored Panda reached out to Lenore Skenazy, president of the nonprofit organization Let Grow that is dedicated to fighting overprotection, promoting independence, and making kids “future-proof.” We spoke with Lenore to learn about how kids having more unstructured time and independence because of the quarantine is a positive thing. “Before the pandemic, a whole lot of kids were scheduled to the max: school, super-short recess, more school, extracurriculars, sports, homework, reading for the reading log (which is also homework!), sleep, repeat,” she told us.
“Zero unstructured time was making kids anxious. More than two-thirds of teens said anxiety and depression were ‘major problems among their peers,’ according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, and by the way, this pressurized childhood was not just among the one percent. Across the economic spectrum, parents felt they were supposed to schedule, hover—even ‘helicopter’ their kids.” Scroll down for the rest of our in-depth interview with Lenore.
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“And then—well you know what happened. An explosion of free time. And while some of it is spent in distance learning, most of it is free-form, which means…it’s videogame time! Three hours later, it’s still videogame time! But at some point, even that gets old for most kids, and they start figuring out new things to do.”
According to Lenore, kids are now finding new hobbies and activities to enjoy, from riding bikes to making pancakes. “One mom told us her daughter was so bored (‘or a pod person has taken over her body’) that she started folding her own laundry. Then she folded her mom’s! And so many kids have started sewing, it’s like Little House on the Prairie out there.”
The president of Let Grow explained that this is happening because adults are handing over the reins to their kids. “Our whole belief is this: When adults step back, kids step up,” Lenore shared the core belief of the organization.
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“What’s good about this new independence? Well, that’s like asking what’s good about those canals in Venice. For years they were so outrageously busy, the water was filthy. But now, you can see fish—it’s coming back to life. And that’s what’s happening to kids. For years, they were so outrageously busy with adult-run, adult-supervised activities, they couldn’t see all the other things they were capable of, or who they were deep down.”
Now, kids are helping their parents out more at home, some are getting along with their siblings better than before while many families are reporting that they feel closer than ever.
“The reason is that at last, they’ve got time. They don’t have to get out the door at 7:03 every morning or make it to soccer by 4:15,” Lenore pointed out. “We wish we could say that everything is this rosy everywhere, but of course, that’s not true. There’s frustration and fear. Some parents are out of work. Some families are worse off than that. Nonetheless, we are hearing stories of kids becoming the competent, confident young men and women they were secretly ready to become all along. As the single dad of an 8-year-old told us: ‘My daughter can do more than I realized on her own.’”
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Bored Panda also spoke to Lenore about the lessons that parents should keep in mind about raising their kids for the future when the pandemic is finally over. She shared her opinion that our overprotective and overscheduled culture is stunting kids’ growth, even though they’re more resilient and resourceful than many think. “Allow them to flourish by letting them do more themselves,” she said.
“Kids want to help out. Even if they complain about chores (and they will!), making dinner or keeping their little brother out of mom’s office makes them feel proud to be givers, not just takers. Let’s let them keep helping,” Lenore explained.
She added that free play is also educational because kids gain essential life skills when they solve problems and make decisions on their own. There’s a huge difference between when a child is forced to do something for a grade and when they do it for fun.
“One mom told us that her daughter has ‘dysgraphia’—difficulty with handwriting. Getting her to do her homework was torture. But since the pandemic? Her daughter is writing a diary,” Lenore shared with us. “Kids are like seeds buried in the earth—they need water to grow. Free time is that water. When kids get it, they blossom.”
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According to the president of Let Grow, action breeds bravery. She shared one mom’s story about how her 7-year-old had always been scared of the woods behind their house. However, a couple of weeks into the quarantine, the child asked his mom to explore the woods with him. “In the woods, he fell off a log and it knocked the breath out of him. But then he sat up, brushed himself off, and got right back on the log. ‘When the sun started to set, he didn't want to leave,’ said his mom. One afternoon—and one mishap that he dealt with—made those woods his own.”
Lenore stressed the fact that every child feels better when they’re pushed to be more independent—even kids who appear to need constant parental assistance. She shared another story about how one 10-year-old who was always relying on their mom wrote to Let Grow and told the organization how the pandemic changed their mom’s availability and now the kid does all of their own chores without being asked to.
“Kids have talents that they may never get to show off in school. A kid who fixes the toilet during the quarantine is smart—and a hero. A’s are not the only measure of success,” said Lenore. “When kids see we believe in them, it’s the wind beneath their wings. We demonstrate that belief by letting them do more and more on their own. Now that so many parents are trusting their kids to chop the vegetables, or scooter around the block, the kids feel terrific—and so do their parents.”
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But what should parents who are struggling to handle their kids during the quarantine do? Well, Lenore explained that the important thing is not to worry if your kids are falling behind. “They’re learning all sorts of important things they couldn’t get back when there was no time goof off or goof up. Making meatballs, changing a diaper—even getting to the next level in a videogame— all take focus, patience, and practice. Those are not nothing! Those are transferable skills.”
Lenore pointed out that when Einstein was a kid, he spent a lot of his time making card houses. “That is an activity about as pointless as pointless can be….but it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down. The idea that every childhood moment must be spent ‘productively’ is not true. It’s not even true for grownups—as you must know, because here you are on Bored Panda,” Lenore quipped. “It’s a pandemic out there! Give yourself a break and your kids, too.
Let Grow has a free Independence Kit with lots of ideas for kids to do on their own right here. The organization’s website also has a lot of info and support for parents while they’re navigating school closings and trying to give their kids more independence.
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Plenty of parents who are working from home have realized that the quarantine has meshed their work and home life into a seamless blob. Another thing they’re learning is that kids are, well, kids—they love playing, mucking about, and then sharing everything they did with the people they look up to the most.
However, not all kids are misbehaving and wreaking chaos with every teeny-tiny footstep. Some are behaving far better than usual because they’re glad to be spending more time with their parents, sleep more, and don’t have to rush around getting to countless afterschool activities.
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Seagal Hagege was a bit scared about staying at home all day, every day with her 3 kids who are 8, 7, and 4 years old. Fortunately, she had nothing to worry about because her kids became far more independent, far kinder to each other, learned better manners, started inventing new games, and took on new responsibilities like helping her out with cooking.
“Every day after school we were running to music, running to gymnastics, and then we would get home, do homework, and go to bed,” Hagege told CNN. “Now we have a chance to get stupid and take a break together. They've really stepped up, and they are shining. It's been really eye-opening. I don't want it to go back to the way things were."
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Now, this doesn’t mean that every single child out there is happier because of the quarantine: there are lots of kids who are feeling sad and scared. But some parents are overjoyed that the quarantine has some pros for their kids, not just cons.