With each passing day, we are faced with more changes to our daily lives due to COVID-19. Most schools have closed and workplaces are urging employees to work remotely. Parents and their children are home together for days on end. It’s a far cry from normal and we are all struggling with this new reality. Being a parent during these times is particularly challenging, as we try to navigate this uncharted territory.
Here are some tips to help you support your children through the COVID-19 crisis.
Validate and Normalize
Kids may express a whole range of responses to learning about COVID-19. It’s important to normalize their reactions, whatever they may be. Some kids may act out, seem irritable, or become sad or anxious, while others may be excited to be home from school. Find a time when your kids are not preoccupied with another activity, and ask them how they are feeling. Reassure them that their emotions are valid and that they will be okay without denying the reality of the situation. And remember, be aware of how you are talking about Covid-19, your kids are always listening and absorbing information
Share information appropriately
We want to give information that is accurate and age appropriate. Be factual but brief. Leave room for questions and tell your children that the conversation is always open. Be mindful about how often and how much detail you share about COVID-19 while your children are around. They are listening and often can misinterpret what is being said. Limit consumption of the news and social media in front of your kids. While it is completely understandable for parents to feel anxious right now, kids feed off of your anxiety and are absorbing what you share. For more suggestions visit the CDC child information website.
Maintain a daily structure
Virus or no virus, establishing and maintaining routines and structure plays an important role in helping children thrive. Kids might equate having time off from school with being on vacation, so gently explain to them the difference. Create a schedule with your children to help them feel a sense of control. Offer reminders before switching to a new activity to help them transition between tasks. Sample schedules can be found online and aim for a balance between academic and play time. They also suggest consistent times for waking up in the morning, bathing, eating, and going to sleep. Make sure you also include exercise, which is particularly important for children’s physical and mental health.
Find opportunities to try new activities
Staying at home with your family for days on end can make anyone want some distance. It is absolutely normal to find it difficult to be in each other’s space all the time. While trying to carve out personal space and time for yourself, which can feel especially difficult, find ways to connect with your loved ones at home by trying new activities you always wanted to do but somehow fell by the wayside. Do art projects, bake and decorate cookies, learn a new game, throw a family dance party, or watch a family movie.
Help kids stay connected
Being social is a key part of regulating how we feel. To help kids stay connected with their friends while stuck at home, we recommend they video chat with their friends and relatives with apps like FaceTime and Skype. Get creative! Create a group video session with your extended family. Have kids do an activity together in their respective homes while connected through a video app. Rediscover snail-mail and have kids write letters to family and friend or send them individualized cards with drawings.
Take care of yourself
As parents, we always want to make sure our children are okay. To do that, we also need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves as well. We’re not effective when we don’t attend to our own needs. Take turns with your significant other so you each get a break and some time for self-care. Also, remember there is no such thing as the perfect parent and we’re all working to adapt to this new reality.
Click here for a list of some more online sites and activities for your children.