Ten tips for on keeping your family on track during the COVID-19 pandemic
Businesses and schools across the United States have shut their doors indefinitely, and the news cycle is dominated by stories of the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching economic and social impacts. Though adults are bearing the brunt of the anxiety and stress, children are not immune to the emotional and psychological effects of these uncertain times.
Amy Root, a parenting scholar and associate professor in our Child Development and Family Studies Program, offers the following tips for parents and families who want to maintain consistency and normalcy in this rapidly changing environment:
Everyone in your home should be on a schedule.
Root recommends that schedules should be developmentally appropriate and suggests the following guidelines for each age-group:
Many early childhood education classrooms provide a selection of hands-on activities for children to choose from, allow them to spend time at each center for as long as they like. Children in this age-group learn from play and should not be expected to do worksheets.
Mix breaks with academics and allow children in this age-group to choose their activities within guidelines that you set. Some elementary-aged children will thrive on a schedule that mirrors their typical school day, while others will want some autonomy to create their at-home schedules. Remember that learning can be hands-on with activities like puzzles or science experiments.
As with the other age-groups, make sure you allow adolescents to have some breaks throughout the day while still incorporating academic rigor. Engage with adolescents by starting an in-home book club or watching a documentary. Adolescents may also be interested in working on some community service activities, as long as those activities fall within the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing.
The adults in your home should build schedules for both work and home maintenance and try to stick to those schedules.
Go outside, regardless of the weather.
With many families crowded together in their homes, getting outside can provide much-needed breathing room and add some variety to your day.
Balance alone time with family time.
Everyone in your family is going to need some personal space, so it’s important to set ground rules.
“Carve out spaces for each person and set guidelines for how much alone time will be allotted before a child is checked on,” Root says. “Alone time doesn’t have to be in separate rooms, but you can create a quiet time where everyone chooses an activity they do separately without conversing.”
Engage everyone in your family in household chores.
“This is a good time for families to work together,” Root says.
Think of ways that children of all ages can connect to others and the community.
Allow your children to connect with their friends for virtual playdates via videoconferencing platforms like FaceTime and Google Hangouts. Try a fun activity like a no-touch scavenger hunt where families in your neighborhood leave items in their windows.
Change your routine on the weekends.
With many family members at home every day, it can become difficult to distinguish between weekdays and weekends. Provide your family with a sense of normalcy and continuity by varying your weekend routine.
Talk about feelings and what is happening with your children.
It’s important and appropriate to acknowledge what is happening is unusual and scary, and parents and children need to feel those negative emotions. It’s equally important not to allow those feelings to consume you. To limit stress, Root suggests meditation, yoga, exercise and deep breathing.
If you are feeling overwhelmed as a parent, find a healthy outlet for your anxiety.
Root recommends exercising or talking to a friend as some good options.
In this time of extreme change, try to reassure children of what remains the same despite the change.
“This can be the tangible/concrete (bedtime routines are the same) and the intangible (love for one another),” Root explains. “Create new rituals and routines that may lighten the mood, including dance parties or games.”
Be flexible and patient with your children and yourself.
According to Root, this advice remains true whether we’re experiencing a pandemic or not.
“We are in uncharted territory, so it is best to take things day-by-day” Root says. “Try to be child-centered and patient, and accept that you’re going to make mistakes. When you do make a mistake, be honest with your family members, apologize for missteps and discuss how the family unit can work together to do better next time.”
For continuous updates on West Virginia University’s response to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, visit coronavirus.wvu.edu.