COVID-19 has upended life for all of us. With each day comes new challenges and realities. We know that many of you have children who will be at home for the foreseeable future. San Francisco pediatrician and Vice Chair of the CMA Board of Trustees Shannon Udovic-Constant, M.D., has compiled a list of tips and resources for parents to help them talk to their kids about COVID-19, as well as how to educate, entertain and stay engaged.
TIP: Talk to Your Kids
Despite their age, children can pick up on stress and tension around them, and older children may be absorbing information from peers and social media. As parents, it’s our responsibility to provide age-appropriate information and help manage any stress. Psychology Today has compiled a thoughtful guide to help parents manage their children’s stress and anxiety – from infants up to high schoolers.
Other resources include:
TIP: Create a (Loose) Schedule
Children thrive under structure because routines provide predictability, security and trust. Consider a schedule to help your kids during school closures, and also realize that in these trying times, a bit more flexibility and free time may help keep your home calm and centered.
Here’s an example schedule:
- Breakfast 8:30 a.m./Lunch 12 p.m./dinner 6:30p.m. (eat with whoever is home)
- Call and talk to someone (at least 10 minutes)
- Exercise (30-120 minutes)
- Family chores (30 minutes)
- Family no screen time (45 minutes)
- Meditation (use Headspace App)
- Outdoor time (chores or play 30 minutes)
- Take your daily multivitamin and/or Vitamin C
- Read (30 minutes) – non-electronic
- School work/study (45 minutes)
The issue of social distancing is particularly hard for preteens and teenagers. Reframing the situation as “physical distancing with social connection” can help ease their anxiety. And depending on your child and family situation, perhaps provide more time in the day for them to connect with friends over Facetime, Skype and other platforms.
TIP: Keep Kids Active and Engaged
It may sound counterintuitive, but now is a great time to instill more responsibility in our children – for themselves, their siblings and the family unit. Make sure they feel heard and seen, and then explain the new household expectations. Reinforce that challenging times demand everyone to step up – collaboration and connection will win the day. Younger children can help with simple chores, while older kids can assist with laundry and cooking. Help them understand that when we all pitch in, it lightens the load for the entire family (while creating some touching moments to bond or teach your children).
ACTIVITIES FOR EVERYONE:
- 500+ virtual tours of museums, historical events, art galleries and more! (Source: Google Arts & Culture)
- See also: Tips for making the most out of your online cultural adventures
- Huge database of free subscriptions from educational companies – be sure to bookmark this resource as it gets updated daily
- Online Learning Resources for Parents (National Parents Union)
- 300+ growth milestone games, sensory DIY and educational videos for newborns up to 6 years old - all were developed with and approved by expert pediatric physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists (Pathways)
- Check your local library – they may have books, games and resources provided online
- Get cooking! Now isn’t the time to waste food so here are easy meals to make with common pantry items: The Kitchn, Hunger & Health, and Weelicious
TODDLERS AND PRE-K:
KIDDOS AND TWEENS:
Need more ideas? Consider…
- Have each kid pick a topic they'd like to learn about and spend 30 mins each day
- Spend one day reading every single picture book we have in the house
- Go through all the old mail laying around (ok, that one's not for kids, although they do enjoy helping tear stuff up)
- Bake/cook something every day
- Have each kid write a letter and/or emails to a different friend or family member
- Wash our hands (!!!) while singing favorite songs
- Races of various kinds in the backyard (hopping on one foot, crabwalk, walking backwards, etc.)
- Try stop motion animation with playdough
- Facetime the grandparents
- Family movie time
- Catch some bugs! If you aren't too squeamish and have a spare clear shoebox size tote or 5-10-gallon tank, catch some pill bugs and observe them
- Write a short story and illustrate it
- Learn how to do simple book binding
- Make paper (from your old mail!)
- Have the kids help with yardwork – even if they’re little, they’ll enjoy getting dirty and "working" in the gardens.
- GoNoodle! has resources for guided movement and relaxation
- Board games and card games
- Build with blocks or Legos
- Wash or brush/groom pets
- Learn to sew
- Card making/scrapbooking projects
- Getting the garden ready
- Make tents and reading caves: flashlights, tidy snacks, books and pillows!
- Have a shadow show in the reading tent
- Get binoculars and learn about the birds near your house, look them up on Google and search for their birdcalls on YouTube
- There are a few easy "kitchen chemistry" type science experiments that are easy to do, like making slime (cornstarch and water), baking soda and vinegar reaction, etc.
- Make your own Flarp
Manage Your Own Anxiety
Kids aren’t the only ones feeling anxious in these uncertain times. If you have loved ones in your life that are having a hard time taking this crisis seriously or adjusting to a still developing and new paradigm, consider checking out “How to Have Impossible Conversations.” It provides social and emotional wisdom, as well as practical tips to effectively converse with anyone that has different opinions.
Mindful meditation can really help improve stress and health. Our brains are neuroplastic -- this means we can actively change the wiring of our brains in healthy ways, even as we age. Studies using MRIs confirm that practicing meditation can change our brains in as little as 8 weeks. People who meditate overwhelming report improved well-being, reduced stress, and increased compassion as a result of daily meditation practice. Meditation can also improve immune function as well as many conditions including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, IBS, insomnia, fibromyalgia, ADD, psoriasis, and high blood pressure.
Start Meditating Today:
- Sit upright comfortably in a quiet place
- Close your eyes (or keep them partway open)
- Take a few deep breaths and settle in
- Focus your attention on the physical sensation of your breathing. Many people focus on the feeling of the breath going in and out of the nostrils. It can help to think "in" and then "out" as you inhale and exhale. Others focus on the sensation of the lower abdomen or chest moving up and down. It can help to think "rising" and "falling" as you inhale and exhale. Beginners may also find it helpful to count breaths up to 10 and then start over (when you get distracted, you can simply start counting again).
- Your mind will have thoughts; this is normal. When you realize you are having a thought, simply note it, let it go without judgment, and return your attention to your breath.
Other options include focusing on hearing (simply receiving sounds) or walking (focusing on the physical sensations of walking). Even 10 minutes daily can make a difference!
Other resources for parents include:
And for health care providers, Headspace is offering all U.S. health care professionals who work in public health settings free access to Headspace Plus through 2020.