How friends and family can help out, even when apart

Here’s the understatement of the year: this is a very stressful time to be home with kids. Another understatement? This is a very stressful time if you’re expecting and have a little one on the way soon. The current situation has changed all of our lives in extraordinary ways, and for many parents or parents-to-be, it’s robbed many of us of our usual social support — that “village” it takes to raise a child or to help you prepare to welcome one into the world. 

It’s hugely challenging to not be able to tap your loved ones to babysit and wrangle your kiddos, to help you prepare your nursery, or simply to provide you with in-person moral support. While it’s certainly not the same as having your friends and family with you in person, there are still many ways they can support you from afar. 

Help out with meals

For new parents, one of the greatest gifts you can be given is the gift of food that you don’t have to prepare yourself. So if you’re busy taking care of a new baby — or kids at any age — see if loved ones can send you prepared meals. Even if you’re expecting, this can be a great gift. Whether they’re meals you can eat now or freeze and save for later, prepared meals can be a lifesaver when you’re stretched thin. If your loved ones live nearby and it’s safe for them to do so, ask them to drop off food at your doorstep. If not, they can always send you takeout — and take dinner plans off your mind. 

Take care of shopping

Many of our shopping routines have been impacted in major ways recently. Whether you’ve cut back on non-essential shopping, been practicing some retail therapy, or have moved all of your shopping online, chances are you’ve felt it too. But if there’s something you need to shop for that you can outsource that to a loved one, this can be another great way to ask them to help. (They don’t necessarily have to pick up the tab, but they can do the legwork, browse, and fill an online shopping cart.) Maybe you need a few groceries, new toddler sneakers, or sidewalk chalk — if you trust a loved one to take it on, that’s more thing off your plate. As above, if your loved ones do any shopping out in the world, just make sure they do so safely. Even safer? Have them shop online.

Serve as a virtual babysitter

This can only work for children of a certain age, but if your little one can hold their attention on a screen, then you can ask your loved ones to spend some virtual time with your kids, allowing you to check some things off your to-do list. These virtual babysitting sessions can include reading a story or singing a favorite song. Depending on your child and your virtual babysitter’s ages, interests, talents, and comfort levels with technology, there’s still more they can do together too — reviewing homework or studying, playing an online game, teaching each other something new, playing instruments, or putting on performances for each other — really, the sky’s the limit here. Even if your child is young enough that you need to stay nearby during the call, this might free up twenty minutes to prepare a meal or send a few emails.

Get creative

At this point, you might be hitting your groove and finding creative ways to keep your child entertained, or you may be at the end of your rope. If you’re in the latter category, maybe it’s the right time to send someone else to scour Pinterest for new age-appropriate kid activities — even better if they want to help organize an activity. 

They could ship a sensory box or a “keep busy” box of activities. (A sensory box is any bin filled with tactile objects like cotton balls or blocks, often paired with a few cups or a spoon to sort through the objects, and maybe even with some other exciting toys added to the mix, like dinosaurs or race cars. A “busy” box is any small container, like a lunch box, filled with materials for a particular activity: modeling clay and cookie cutters or a coloring book with crayons and stickers.) They could compile a list of creative projects or prompts for your big kid to explore, or text a daily fun “assignment” to your teen at a dedicated time each day. Again, they can figure that out. These ideas won’t just help to keep kids busy — so you can take a breather already — they can also serve as another way for loved ones to stay connected with your child. 

Take on a time consuming task, virtually

Have an online task that you’ve been meaning to tackle, but haven’t found the time? Maybe you need to finish filing your taxes, research preschools, or do some online shopping to get summer clothes for your always growing kiddos. Maybe you just want your digital photos organized. If you have trusted friends or family to take on any of these tasks, ask them to help you check another to-do off your list. 

Don’t be hesitant to ask your friends and family for help directly. People sometimes just don’t know what sort of help you might need. And some of the ways in which they can be creative about helping you right now might be very new for both you and them. So be honest about what you need. Hopefully your loved ones can pitch in with some of these to give you a bit of support — every little bit helps during this tough time.

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