During stressful times, children need parents to be at their best. That can be especially challenging right now, amid school closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. Connecticut Children’s pediatrician Rebecca Moles, MD, joins the blog with strategies to help.
Take great breaks
The best breaks involve movement! Get up, move around, go outside, have a snack, toss a ball, make a paper airplane, fold the laundry, have a pillow fight. Remember: Your child is used to structured activity at school with social interaction. This is not the time to tell your child “go play outside” without providing some suggested activity.
Plant seeds (indoors or out) and mark the progress daily in a journal. Take the break with your child; you will find that your focused work time is more productive, too. Make sure “break” isn’t your child trading one screen for another.
Maintain connections with loved ones
While social distancing requires physical separation from others, stay close by FaceTime, phone calls, texting photos, or making cards and projects and putting them in the mail.
Teach your child to value community
Follow the guidelines in your area for social distancing. Volunteer to drop off food or supplies to an elderly neighbor or family with very young children. Share great ideas for keeping children busy and entertained with other parents.
If your child has questions about COVID-19, get help answering.
Create celebrations or events to look forward to
All of us are disappointed by the cancellation of fun upcoming events, from school band concerts to birthday parties to major vacations. Create excitement and anticipation by planning fun events at home. The planning of and preparation for an event is often more fun than the actual event.
These events need not be elaborate or cost a lot of money. Have a costume party: get out old Halloween costumes or other dress-up supplies and have a fashion show (invite another family over FaceTime or a similar platform). Declare next Friday “polite night” and get out your best entertaining supplies, wear your fanciest clothes and use excellent manners. The next week, have Pirate Night or ‘80s Night and dress accordingly. When you have a good idea, share it with other friends and family so they can try it at their own home.
Give yourself a time out
If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired, hungry, or are reaching your limit in some way, remove yourself from the situation. Assure that your child is safe, then take a few moments to yourself to calm down. Take a shower.
Walk outside. Vacuum. Lie on your bed in the dark. Call a friend. Watch a silly video. Recharge, forgive yourself, wash your hands and start again.
View this as a gift and allow yourself to slow down
The days are long, and the years are short. While several districts are closed “indefinitely,” remember that this pandemic will pass. Your child’s childhood will be over more quickly than you realize.
Answer questions about the pandemic simply & honestly
Talk with children about any frightening news they hear. It is OK to say people are getting sick, but remind them that following safety steps like hand washing , wearing cloth face coverings, and staying home more will help your family stay healthy.
Recognize your child’s feelings
Calmly say, for example, “I can see that you are upset because you can’t have a sleepover with your friends right now.” Guiding questions can help older children and teens work through issues. (“I know it is disappointing not to be able to do some of the things you did before the pandemic. What are some other ways you can have fun with your friends?”)
Keep in touch with loved ones
Children may also worry about a grandparent who is living alone or a relative or friend with an increased risk of getting COVID-19. When safe, physically distanced visits aren’t possible, video chats can help ease their anxiety.
Model how to manage feelings
Talk through how you are managing your own feelings. (“I am worried about Grandma since I can’t go visit her. I will put a reminder on my phone to call her in the morning and the afternoon until it is safe to see her.”)