Coronavirus- I've been training my whole life for this
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
I'm isolated at home with my two teenaged daughters for the foreseeable future as we wait out this global pandemic.
I have 11 years of youth work under my belt.
4 years of parenting,
I have a well worn copy of "The Mutiny On The Bounty".
...I've been training my whole life for this.
Discipline. Good Morale. Health.
Those are the things the good Captain William Bligh needed his 18 loyal shipmates to have enough of. Their lives and journey depended on it.
If you aren't familiar with the book, its the journal of William Bligh, the Captain of the H.M.S Bounty in 1789, which he wrote after being mutinied against and set to sea in a life raft with 18 of his loyalists. They were given five days food and water, a compass, nautical tables, and a small tool chest, and four swords. And they were just off the coast of Tahiti.
Captain Bligh managed to sail that dingy more than 3,500 nautical miles and eventually make it home despite attacks, storms, star
vation, and madness.
Its an astounding read.
So inspiring in fact that I keep a small replica of the H.M.S Bounty on the wall in our living room.
It reminds me to be patient and have endurance. (Also not to aggravate my staff too much!)
There are a few things the incredible captain did to keep his men alive and get them home over that insane ocean journey that I am putting into practice during our current predicament. I've decided to share them here with you.
First Lesson- Discipline
Captain Bligh led by example and was disciplined. He maintained a routine of 3 hour watches, regular meals, and rest. He asked the same of his disheartened crew. If they had nothing else, they had their routine.
Its been my experience in youth work that idle hands truly are the devil's playground. Bored teens get into trouble. And I'm not talking about wrecking your house, I mean slipping into destructive habits. Our minds go to dark and scary places if we are left the room to ruminate. Teenagers left without routine and purpose often experience a dip in their mental, physical, and emotional health. Its why (with my job as a youth worker) we've never taken a break over summer holidays like other youth programs. Its why we go on a two week long Spring Break trip every year, because we know kids fall apart when the structure of school is taken away. It leaves our vulnerable youth with a higher likelihood of attempting suicide, over-indulging in harmful substances, and making dumb decisions. Young people are built to be active, and without it they wither.
If you have kids stuck at home with you right now, my goodness please, please give them something to do! And not just busy work or fun games, give them PURPOSE.
Keep a regular bed time and morning routine. Keep regular meal times. Expect them to continue to do chores, get exercise, and learn.
I've put together a daily routine for my kids and posted it on the fridge. At the end of every day they fill out their daily log recording what they did that day. (Yes I plan on keeping them as a souvenir of our Corona time together.)
Our routine includes:
Waking up before 9:30am
Learning something new everyday
An hour of exercise
5 hours of tech-free time between 12-5pm
Bed by 10pm
I've given them lists of things to do during their tech-free time, ideas for learning opportunities, and physical activity. (See below) As of now we are allowed outside in our back yard, and into the park behind our house. I realize not all of you are that lucky.
All of this has kept me very busy. Instead of quickly making dinner on my own each night, it goes slower now as I'm teaching them how to cook at each meal. (We are making a recipe book called "Quarantine Cook Book" and its coming along really nicely!) During their tech-free time they want to play games WITH me. For physical activity they want to go roller blading WITH me. Long boarding WITH me. Plus the dog still needs her walk. So I'm getting 4x the amount of exercise I used to get and I'm getting quite fit actually!
Just like any good leader, I'm up for hours before they get up, and I stay up an hour after they have gone to bed. I'm not going to lie, this is WORK. But my girls now know how to make a white sauce, scalloped potatoes, can BBQ now, are making memories they will cherish forever, are bonding, and are each looking into what online certificate programs they want to take to start boosting their resumes. They are going to emerge from this quarantine healthier and more capable than when they went in. (Tomorrows lesson is how to use a skill saw!)
Second Lesson- Planning for the bad days
There were bad days for the Captain and his crew. People got sick. People died. There were storms. William Bligh had one bottle of whiskey he had squirrelled away, of which he gave a spoonful to each man on the truly bad days. I remember reading it and thinking he was a brilliant leader. He knew the vital importance of a well timed morale boost.
Its amazing how resilient people are. My kids would be the best examples of this. Both my kids were adopted as teens and come from trauma backgrounds. Every laugh and every smile is a miracle that blows me away. Our bodies heal, our minds heal. We tend towards hope. We veer towards goodness whenever we can see it. This is the part of youth work that I've loved the most over the years. Seeing those who had no hope become hopeful. Seeing those lost to despair, learn to believe in life again. Its glorious to see. I've walked with young people through horrendous stuff. I've seen young people who should have been written off, who should never have survived, find hope and learn to walk in it.
Sometimes we just need a little help finding it is all.
That's where good leadership, good youth work, and good parenting come in.
Its our job as parents to be the hope bringers.
Show the path. Point out the light at the end of the tunnel. Cast the vision that we will get there together.
Let us be mindful of our words and tone around our kids. Let's teach our teens how to walk through hard things while holding out hope for a brighter tomorrow. Adult minds have a better grasp on the temporary nature of things than young minds do. We understand that things come and things go. When you are a young person who had just been told you might have to spend the next three months locked up with your family, that seems like literally FOREVER for them. Its too big. Its too long. Its too difficult to see past it. (My 12 year old, upon hearing about our social isolation, just said "I'm going to diiieeeeee.")
Let us plan ahead for the bad days. When they are frustrated and angry, take the time to listen. Really hear them out. Then, and only then, offer some hope of perspective. And maybe that would then be a good time for that chocolate you squirrelled away to come out? Its amazing how a bag of Reese's Pieces can lift the spirits of a 12 year old girl in lock down!
Lesson Three- Rest
The good Captain slept in the small covered area in the dingy while his men slept on top of each other outside on the deck. He didn't get the good spot because he was superior, but because he held the maps and kept them dry...and he was the only one who could read those maps. His health was important for all of their lives.
In youth work we teach on this at every conference, we give out books on the subject, we talk and talk and talk about it....the importance of self-care. The dangers of burnout.
I've burnt out before.
It wasn't fun.
I suggest you avoid it and put into practice some regular self-care. Maybe this is an afternoon nap. Maybe its journaling. Reading. Singing. Alone time when nobody is allowed to ask anything of you.
What fills you with joy?
What's your Reese's Pieces?
You are the leader of your family. You are going to get them through this crisis.
Take care of yourself.
Comment your indoor physical activity ideas to share!
Comment your tech-free activities for teens!