The law is reason free from passion, yet young children can best be described as passion free from reason.
Navigating these two very different worlds is key for any lawyer with children. With several New York lawyers working remotely still and their children home, the traditional summer routines of overnight camps and summer schools have changed.
Our recent CLE webinar “School’s Out: Now What? How to Keep Younger Kids Busy While You Balance Being Caretaker and Lawyer” explored simple and effective ways to help parents entertain their children, while they continue working.
Less is more
Karen Deinzer, who coordinates the program for children who are age 2 at West Side Montessori School, said that routines give children a sense of security and stability by helping them feel safe and secure in their environment. Young children gain an understanding of everyday events and procedures and learn what is expected of them as routines make their environment more predictable. Older kids can learn and use their imaginations more readily when they know what is coming up next.
Scheduled help with the predictability of the day and helps alleviate insecurity and anxiety that comes from the unknown/unexpected. A picture of a written schedule to review at the start of each day is particularly helpful for younger children, according to Deinzer.
Likewise, having toys divided into bins helps a child focus and attend to each object longer. “Give them one bin at time so they learn how to assume responsibility for their things,” said Deinzer. “The fewer objects, the better the attention and imagination.”
Shari Harpaz, a speech and language pathologist and founder of Speech A to Z, said that less is more when it comes to children.
“This way children have to actually use what’s in their mind and they get a lot more creative that way,” she said. “When there is too much going on, it’s overstimulating for the brain, which doesn’t know where to focus.”
Deinzer agreed and said that a single item is when you see a lot of creativity. She added that having blocks and shapes can help children under age 3 with their gross motor skills. “Having a space for them to use that energy is really important.”
Deinzer and Harpaz suggested having homemade “treasure baskets” with different toys and textures to help children play while you work. “It gives children lots of opportunities for independence and exploring,” said Deinzer. For older children, they recommend baskets for art projects and science experiments requiring minimal supervision.
Harpaz advised to have a dedicated time where the family can all share an activity, such as Charades, Mad Libs or a family scavenger hunt, to help relieve stress.
Harpaz admitted, “We are all resorting to more screen time than we’d like, even our really little ones. She assured the audience, “It’s ok! We’re all surviving this.” She suggested more educational YouTube channels such as Mr. Tumble, Mother Goose Club and Blippi, as well as learning apps including Khan Academy and PBS Kids.
Identify feelings so you can work
It is important to check in with children about feelings and help them have the vocabulary to discuss a range of emotions during these unusual times. Harpaz said, “We really want to make sure that kids are feeling calm and regulated. When you are anxious, it’s hard to do anything.”
Deinzer added that it is important for caretakers to be able to recognize and validate the emotions in children. They should be able to say, “I see that you are sad right now. How can I help you?”
Creating a feeling chart can help children identify their emotions. She added that we tend to ignore feelings in children older than age 5 but it’s important to check in with them particularly during the pandemic. “Once kids are able to express their emotions, they can become calmer and move on to the next thing, so you can get that break to get some work done.”