Dear Doctor, 

We are in our house almost 24 hours a day. The problem is two kids who are driving us crazy. Our oldest, a boy, is 11. His sister is one year younger. The school work is the first thing to stress us out every day. They both attend a parochial school, and the online instruction is about three hours a day for each of them. Then we hear, “I’m bored.” When we say, “go do your homework,” they complain. The two of them always did fine with each other. Now, fighting happens every single day. We are getting tired of punishing and yelling and would really like some ideas.

Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad,

Imagine you are in the air looking down at your house and family, and you have just asked yourself the question: “How do we help manage our kids?”

Objectivity is nourished by distance. You are very close to the situation. Try a few strategies, but be aware that stress is a part of this isolation.

Start with making the family a clear group. Call everyone together and review the situation. What is clear and conscious is always preferable.

Get suggestions from everyone. Do not allow blaming or accusing; that includes you as parents.

Organize a very specific daily pattern. If you wish, prepare a family calendar. Clearly spell out the time for completing assignments. Then plan what time will be available for each person in the family. This will be time alone in separate spaces. It might be spent on a hobby, video games, television, movies, or arts and crafts. It should be an individual thing. Both kids might enjoy a solitary sport such as shooting baskets in the driveway.

Plan one thing every day to do as a family. This might be anything from a board game to a walk.

The human mind is like a shelf. If there is enough on it, there will be less time for a fight. Fill the shelf, and it will help.

This will pass, but a stressful time for a family may also be a time for growth.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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