How to Keep Children Healthy and Thriving During the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has been challenging for all of us. But for children, the pandemic has brought new rules and a new way of living that can be hard to understand—and even harder to follow. As adults, we know all the changes are in place to help us stay safe and healthy, but to a child, it may simply seem they’re no longer able to see friends, go places and do things they once enjoyed. That can be tough!
Despite the setbacks, you can help your children continue to thrive. Changes present the opportunity to learn new things, become more flexible and think in different ways. It’s all in your mindset—and if you remain positive and upbeat, your children will reflect your attitude.
With your focus set on everything good, follow these tips to help your children do the same.
Get the most from home schooling and remote learning
State to state and district to district, schools have been forced to adapt to social distancing requirements. Your children may now be experiencing remote learning and home schooling, which come with their own set of challenges. How do you help your kids stay focused, and how can you ensure they’re learning what they need from the curriculum?
- Keep a schedule. Just like being in school, children benefit from structure. Try to stick to a daily routine that mimics school. This can include getting dressed (i.e., no school in their jammies), blocks of time focused on work, and breaks for “recess,” art, music, lunch, etc.
- Dedicate a quiet space for learning. Distractions such as television, phones, pets, toys and anything that will pull their attention away from their studies should be kept out of their learning space. Remind your kids that there’s plenty of time for fun during breaks and after school.
- Include extra-curriculars. School often includes clubs and after school activities. Make time for kids to learn about other interests, hobbies and skills. Learning an instrument, working on an art project, reading about an interesting topic, taking a virtual tour of a museum… the options are endless!
- Encourage exercise. Sports and gym class may have come to a halt, but children can still get outside to be active. Work out as a family by playing sports, doing an online workout or finding an app. Take a hike or bike ride—exercise doesn’t have to be structured to be fun and effective!
Provide emotional support
Time away from friends and their usual routine can also take an emotional toll on your kids. As a parent, you play an important role as part of their support system. Just as adults need the benefit of the doubt right now, kids may not be feeling or acting like their typical selves. They’re also not immune to the constant reminders on TV of our current situation, people’s reactions, and all the changes in the world around them.
You can take these steps to help your children deal with the emotional impact of the pandemic:
- Be a positive role model. Try to stay calm—your children are paying closer attention to you than you think. Be careful how you talk about COVID-19—explain that you’re optimistic it won’t be around forever, and we’ll follow the rules so we stay healthy and feel great.
- Teach deep breathing. When you’re feeling anxious, deep breathing is a valuable tool to calm down. Show your children how to do breathing exercises—and Google examples if you’re not sure how!
- Spend time together. Though it’s tempting to have your phone within reach for updates, take time to unplug and fully engage in your time together. Interact, have fun, get outside, watch movies, cook and bake, do arts and crafts, play games… do things that help everyone breathe easier and relax. Value the extra time you have together that wouldn’t normally be.
- Remember to talk. Ask your kids how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. Be honest, but correct any misinformation they may have heard. You can also stay up to date by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online.
Reinforce preventive practices
It’s always good to share reminders of how to stay safe. These include:
- Washing your hands. Using warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds is the proper technique. Wash hands frequently, and especially before eating.
- Using hand sanitizer when hand washing is not an option.
- Limiting handshakes and hugs to only immediate family members.
- Keeping a physical distance of six feet from non-immediate family when out at public places
- Wearing a face covering. This applies to everyone, and children over the age of two.
For more information on parenting during COVID-19, visit the CDC website.