CNN Parenting

Creating an effective family routine when homebound for coronavirus

Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices.

(CNN)When the official word finally came that they closed our kids' schools "indefinitely" -- my new least favorite word -- my wife and I had the same thought: We need a schedule!

The answer to chaos is routine, right? We can't have the kids sitting around in their pajamas, eating cereal, watching cartoons and bickering all day, like a Disney remake of "Lord of the Flies."
We called a family meeting that very evening. And we were reassuring and honest as we talked about what we each of us needed to manage this challenge together. And the keystone to all of that, we thought, was a schedule.
    My wife took notes, wrote it up, and we put it on our refrigerator. This was the schedule that would avoid hurdling us in a no-work-and-all-play "Shining"-like direction.
    Everyone on Earth seems to have had the same notion.
    Because we need order. We need to know what to do with ourselves with all this new unstructured time, even if it's mainly kids while parents work from home. We need a way to constructively fill the many, many hours we will now be with our children ... indefinitely.
    And if having a schedule brings you peace of mind and keeps your kids appropriately engaged, then lean in. Maybe you don't even have a choice because you know your children only thrive from routine.
    If you do construct a schedule, I suggest physically writing it down on paper. Or maybe on a dry erase board for easy revisions. But not just on your computer. Post it where everyone can see it.
    And adapt it for younger kids, perhaps adding emoji-like icons for the pre-literate. Or make copies and have the kids check things off, put stickers next to them or cross them out as they're completed for the day.

    Or not to schedule

    There is a counter argument to this schedule reflex, though. One that embraces the sudden freedom being mandated by governments and strongly urged by health experts.
    There's opportunity here to rethink what our daily lives could be in the absence of after school sports and music lessons, without playdates, nor going out to restaurants and movies.
    That still leaves many activities available.
    Walk outside (with a dog if you have one). Make a fort. Play a board game. Ride a bike. Facetime a friend. Write someone a letter. Erect a tent. Cook. I have a growing number of ideas on what I call the "'I'm bored' list" to remind me where to look if either of my daughters utters the B-word.
    "We know kids today are more anxious than ever, and we know at least some of the reason why is that they don't have enough downtime," said Elissa Strauss, a parenting contributor for CNN.
    "I'm all for some structure during this period, for both kids' sanity and parents', but I think we should balance it out with some good old fashioned messing around the house."
    As long as you clean up afterward! But yes, we should try to foster joy right now. And there is a kind of learning that comes from creative, unstructured time. This time is an opportunity to embrace whims and p