What strange and uncharted territory we find ourselves in as parents during the Coronavirus pandemic! While we all grapple with the fears and anxieties of this difficult period in our world, those with children face a specific set of challenges! So, what can we do to help our children weather some of their own emotional challenges in the face of such an unusual and isolated time for them?
While there are some amazing resources available online to explain the Coronavirus to your kids (https://www.facebook.com/CarrynHennessySocialWorker/photos/pcb.2532592533662584/2532591123662725/?type=3&theater ) – it helps to know what to do with them on the ground, day-to-day. I will be posting some of my favourite activity resources for younger kids over the coming days so keep an eye out. Meanwhile – consider the following:
First: develop some routine for your days. The days are going to start blending into one long blur. Having a routine establishes predictability and marks the time for children (and adults) helping them feel safe, secure and like they know what they are doing. Ideally, you can punctuate a lot of free time with a few predictable activities – for example – school work for older children, a few age appropriate chores, structured activities like arts and crafts for all age groups and then fun family events (have a Fancy Friday and all dress in your best evening-wear for dinner, a fun excuse to dust off that old cocktail dress and tux you never have a chance to wear anymore!).
Second: See what emerges in the moments of boredom. We are learning more and more in the science of child development, that a bit of boredom is good for children of all ages. For younger children, play play play! Imaginative, independent play releases energy and allows young children to process what they are experiencing day-to-day, including their worries and fears. For older children who are starting to leave the age of imaginative play, keeping busy is still crucial. Structured routine activities, as above, are part of this, but reading, audiobooks, board games, card games and the odd computer/playstation type game are also good ways to punctuate the day.
Third: Very importantly – keep physically active! Physical exercise is proven to improve mental health and plays an extremely important role in mitigating anxiety and stress on a neurochemical level – for all age groups. Outdoor active play is helpful in affording this. Ball games, riding bikes, bouncing on trampolines and playing catches/tag are good examples. If outdoor play is not an option, some of these types of games can be adapted indoors (think duster hockey, the floor is lava, obstacle courses with couch cushions). There are also a number of free online kids (and adults) exercise and yoga videos becoming available which are fun, healthy and could be great for the whole family to enjoy (and useful for parents to keep moving too!)
Fourth: Stay connected! Luckily we have phones and video calls. Call grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Let kids talk to their friends on video calls and chat – monitored as appropriate. For older children, arranging properly monitored group online gaming sessions can help them connect and keep them busy and even intellectually stimulated (if it is the right sort of game).
Finally: It is okay to dream about the lockdown free future! If children are missing people or activities, think and talk about them and make some plans for once lockdown is over (ensure children know that although we don’t necessarily know when this will be over – it will be over).
Finally, we as parents must remember that WE are our children’s greatest resource in times of change, stress or unpredictability. The best many of us can do for our children is to take care of ourselves. My husband and partner, Andrew has written a bit on this subject at https://www.durbanpsychologist.co.za/pandemic-and-panic-social-distancing-and-social-isolation/ .
If you need to, please reach out! Andrew and I may not be able to invite you to our rooms for face-to-face consultation, but we are both available to make an appointment to meet you online using Zoom or Whatsapp video call. Stay safe and look after yourselves!