During times of crisis, we know children cope better when their parents cope better. Children follow their parents’ lead as to whether to over react, under react, or react in a healthy manner to stressful situations. As a parent, it is very difficult to know just how to react in this ever-changing situation. As a community, we started the beginning of the week thinking the children would be home from school for a couple of weeks and now we know they will most likely be home until the start of next school year. Now is the time to make a plan and lay the course for the next couple of months to help your family adapt and overcome.
First, remember we are all a work in progress.
This goes for both you and your children. If the plan doesn’t go well one day, then start with a clean slate the next day. There are a lot of demands being placed on families right now. They are being asked to suddenly become teachers, to cook more at home, to be more patient with their children, and to do it all from home. When developing your family’s plan please keep mental health at the top of the priority list. If the school work isn’t at the top of its game at the moment, that is okay. Here are a few tips to help:
- Children need consistency and predictability. A flexible routine is important. Maintaining the same wake time and sleep time every day is essential to good sleep. These times may be a little later than when school is in session. That is okay as long as bedtime occurs at the same time every day. Mealtimes should be consistent as well. Calendars and daily schedules can help provide a sense of predictability to children.
- This is a great time to make “lemonade out of lemons.” Children have more down time right now, making it a great time to develop a new skill or master an emerging skill. Learning how to cook, how to draw, or how to play a musical instrument are all ways to enhance your child’s development.
- Managing screen time is very tricky at the moment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day. How is a parent supposed to adhere to this when kids are at home and many of them are engaged in online learning? We may need to adjust how we approach screen time limits. We can think about passive versus engaging screen time and set limits around these concepts. For example, video games, movies, and mindless cartoons would be in the passive category and need to be limited. However, there is a lot of value to spending time engaging in online learning, going into chatrooms with friends, and researching DIY videos for activities.
- Even though we are engaging in social distancing, it doesn’t mean we can’t leave the house. Being outdoors, playing in the backyard, and going for walks are incredibly important for mental health. It is essential that children get plenty of time for physical activity. If it is raining (but not thundering) it’s okay to get out and stomp in mud puddles. Wear a raincoat (or a garbage bag cut into a raincoat) and go for a walk anyway.
- If you find that you and your child are getting into frequent control battles it is helpful to give your child some control. Children are resilient but this is a stressful time for them too. Let them help design your daily plan, your weekly meal plan, or choose some of the daily activities.
The bottom line is try to be patient with yourself and your children. If the plan doesn’t work today, start over tomorrow.