You know how there are those outdoors, nature-loving experts? The folks who know all the trails, trees, and wildlife? Yeah, I'm not one of those. I'm an indoors expert. I can tell you the best way to set your thermostat and open/shut your blinds for maximum comfort.
And yes, being an indoors expert IS a thing. At least, I'm saying it is.
Even indoors experts like fresh air and getting outside, though, and I've had more than my share of weather-related experiences—both as a kid and a mom—that kept me indoors longer than is wise for preserving sanity.
I grew up in Wisconsin, moved to Washington, DC, moved back to Chicago, IL, and now live in Florida. I have had blizzards, hurricanes, and severe thunderstorms with tornado warnings keep me grounded. I've made all the food—I've even recommended blizzard-menus on my old blog for people who were trapped in a snowstorm for days.
For anyone with cabin fever, if you and/or your kids can get outside, even for a few moments, that's your number one goal. That's not always possible, though. Here are my suggestions for those truly trapped inside, those who cannot just put on the boots and hats and make the best of the weather-wonderland.
- Keep your devices charged, and let the kids use them.
Tablets? Movies? That game on your phone that makes the incredibly annoying bleep-blop-blurp sounds? YES TO ALL OF THESE.
I know, we are supposed to limit screen time, keep kids healthy, blah blah blah...YOU ARE TRAPPED IN THE HOUSE. Express gratitude for the beauty of electronics in this moment, and thank them their heavy lifting during this time of need.
- Take dance breaks.
Be goofy, turn on some music, dance around. Let the kids stare...then watch them join in. You all need to burn off energy, and this is your shot. Schedule regular dance breaks, or have impromptu ones as needed, especially when folks start to get surly.
As a #GenX mom, I think of these moments as my opportunity to school my daughter in the 80s catalog of tunes I can all sing by heart. Even if the power goes out, she can dance to my versions of Duran Duran, that lucky kid.
- Set up a bowling alley in your longest hallway.
Find things that are easy to knock down—children's toys, plastic cups, etc.—then grab a ball, or even a wadded up ball of aluminum foil, and let your kids have at it.
The reality is, when you are all trapped in the house, chaos will begin to reign. Toys and art supplies and knick-knacks will be strewn about everywhere. A hallway bowling alley is completely self-contained, and will allow them to move around, knock out some frustrations, and stay occupied. You may even get a few moments of peace to enjoy something on your own (or to pick up the mess in another area, because who are we kidding?)
- Designate your corners and your common space.
If your family is like mine, you may have a delicate balance of introverts and extroverts living under one roof. I'm an extrovert, and cabin fever is HARD for me, as I don't get much time to interact with others. For my introverted spouse and daughter, time locked away is sometimes a little slice of paradise (but even they need some conversation every once in awhile.)
Designated spaces and times for people to be alone or together can address everyone's energy needs, and might be particularly useful if you have children who may be bickering with each other.
Create temporary space niches that are just for each person in the home. These may be mobile, especially since we know that the minute the four-year old gets the spot he wants, the two-year old will want the exact same space. Set timers if you need to, or create distractions until designated together times are on deck.
The idea is to create boundaries for where/when people can be alone and be with each other. Everyone will need both things, but some will need one more than the other.
You all have to share the space while stuck inside, but you don't have to be all piled on top of each other every moment.
- Do anything and everything you can to laugh.
Let's face it, once the grumpiness virus hits any member of your cabin fever cohort, it can spread quickly. Your job as the parent is to do everything you can to accept that feeling, then turn it around.
Kids are sulking? Go into the bathroom and put some crazy make-up on—paint dots on your face with lipstick, or draw a mustache on yourself—then come out and act as if nothing is different. If older kids just roll their eyes, don't let it get to you.
Bake a cake and allow your children to decorate it any way they'd like, we are talking maximum sprinkles and insanity. Laugh as you consider how anyone will be able to eat this candy-laden dessert bomb.
Start speaking in an accent. Then another. Then another.
Listen to your kids, and notice all the funny things they say. Watch them, and see the goofy things they do.
Laugh about the entire absurdity of your situation...then check the forecast, and pray for an opening to get outside.