The global COVID-19 pandemic isn’t easy on anyone. While adults are bearing most of the burden, children are also prone to hardship during this time. Millions of children are currently out of school, and many are being ordered to practice social distancing, and this can be extremely disconcerting for young kids. Their typical routine is thrown off, older siblings might be competing for attention and activities at home, and in many places, parents are unable to take their children to normal playdates, libraries, or even running errands.
So, how do we help our young children cope during this time?
The answer is actually not that different than the advice for adults: maintain a routine, create new projects, establish new ways of communication, and carve out time for self-care.
Unfortunately, children listen in on adult conversations or the news on television, and the spread of rumors and misinformation is rampant. It’s important to be realistic in discussing the coronavirus with children, but in a way, they can understand. Try to avoid sensationalizing the news reports and instead focus on relaying factual information to your children.
Children need to maintain a routine. If your baby or toddler suddenly now has all the older siblings at home due to school closures, create a new routine to divide the “school week” from the weekend, and “school hours” from the rest of the day. Help older children with their work, but consider setting up new, exciting activities for your younger children as well. Many fun games for babies can be constructed using simple cardboard, construction paper, pom-poms, empty baby wipes boxes and other recycled materials! Now is a great time to have older children practice their reading skills by reading to younger siblings.
Another coping mechanism for children is to come up with new projects. If your partner is working from home, perhaps now is a time to do those projects around the house that you both never had time for before. Maybe you can build a new bookshelf for your little one, or create a busy board or busy book, or find online reading programs or learning videos to watch together. You can also come up with new games and activities to try at home, and include other siblings if you can!
If you are suddenly separated from your family and friends, establish new ways of communication. Consider sending videos back and forth to your little one’s play date buddies, or try to create an indoor activity center similar to one at the library or play space. Do video calls with family members. Even if your little one can’t talk, she might appreciate seeing some familiar faces!
Carving out time for self-care is important for parents, but it’s equally important for young children. Babies need time and space to rest throughout the day. They need relaxation methods such as warm baths or infant massage. Toddlers might need some extra space for independent play or quiet time if they’re overwhelmed by having to stay inside.
If your children are feeling anxious, these are some strategies to ease some of their stress. Use this time to create positive, lasting memories with your families. Focus less on the schoolwork of older kids, the difficulty of having to work from home, and the constant bombardment of negative news stories, but instead focus on keeping your family safe and healthy!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.