Prior to social distancing, it was easier for families to overlook each other’s anxiety. Enter COVID-19: the virus that the entire world is talking about and fighting against. When news of the virus first appeared, few people thought that it would turn into a global public health crisis. Today, with the virus affecting people across the world, and even individuals so close to home, it is only natural to feel a sense of uncertainty and anxiety. This is definitely a time when family dynamics will become more apparent as we “shelter in place.” COVID-19 has uprooted daily life and shifted family dynamics, creating more anxiety, fostering feelings of isolation, and challenging work/school and home-life balance. Below are some healthy ways that families can encourage children and teens to adapt to this “new normal” and while creating a greater sense of connection among family members.
Tip 1: Practice Measured Honesty and Limit Media at Home
In families with young children, it is essential for adults to practice measured honesty. By providing children with just enough information, it will allow them to practice good hygiene and social distancing to stay safe and healthy without having the joys of their childhood completely taken away. Parents can ask their children what they know about COVID-19 to assess and address any misinformation that they may have received.
Not only can misinformation surrounding the virus create anxiety, but even exposure to media with reliable facts about the situation can do so as well. Limiting exposure to media with reliable facts concerning COVID-19 is helpful for all ages to contain anxiety that could mushroom out of control. Because children generally are intuitive and take on their parents’ feelings, parents can set the example for their kids by managing their own anxiety related to COVID-19. By talking about COVID-19 and responding to media coverage, parents will be able to work together with their children to adapt better to the new normal.
Tip 2: Create Structure and Have Fun
Having daily structure helps people maintain a sense of normalcy in which to thrive. With the current global health crisis and strong recommendations for the majority of people to stay at home, the typical meaning of maintaining structure completely changes. The more people that are living in one home, the more complicated it becomes to maintain individual schedules. Although routines have been challenged, there are ways to adjust schedules to benefit every family member and create a new, yet safe, sense of structure.
In an article entitled “Parenting with COVID-19,” Diana Chu, a mental health professional, emphasizes the importance of structure in the lives of children. According to Chu (2020),
“In stressful or uncertain times, it is important to keep a daily schedule for your child. A routine would create predictability, structure, and in turn allow your child to feel safe. This will dramatically decrease your child’s level of anxiety and increase their level of growth and creativity” (p. 1).
In working with children and teens to adjust their daily schedule, effective communication, creativity, and patience become integral to the process.
While education is important for children/teens and their families, it is also essential to include socialization, hobbies, and physical activity in a creative way that allows youth to continue pursuing their interests while social distancing and staying home. Although this challenge is unique, it is important to remember that with challenge comes opportunity to be creative and step outside our comfort zones.
Exercise. Exercising is an important way that families can remain physically and mentally healthy during the COVID-19 crisis, and it is easily turned into a joint experience. For families that enjoy structured exercise, using YouTube channels such as GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga provides fun yet creative ways to keep moving. For children and teens who may be in sports teams, brainstorm ideas on how to implement these interests at home. For example, if a child enjoys basketball and wants to play at home, parents can create a new version of the sport by using a lighter ball and setting out empty laundry baskets to use as basketball hoops. Adults and children in the family can work together to create rules for the game. Not only is it integral for parents to involve children in brainstorming rules for specific activities, but it is also helpful to remind children of rules to keep the whole family safe.
Creativity and Play. Some children and families enjoy being creative in other ways through activities such as arts/crafts, games, or puzzles. As creativity is encouraged in children, they are able to develop greater autonomy and confidence that will help equip them to be resourceful later in life when they face bigger challenges. When appropriate, allow children to take the lead to offer their ideas for a new activity. If you need help getting started, a web page entitled “100 Activities To Do At Home During School Closures” lists activities that foster creativity, physical movement, and critical thinking. A few of the suggestions are creating a life sized indoor board game, glow in the dark bowling, balloon pop rocks experiment, and creating a scavenger hunt that all family members can participate in (Entertain Kids on a Dime, 2020).
In a time when so many things feel out of control, reminding ourselves of what we can control to manage our own anxiety surrounding the situation becomes essential. Through practicing measured honesty with children, limiting media, and utilizing creativity to ensure structure while having fun, families will be more likely to come out of this pandemic with resiliency. It is important for all of us to come together and adapt to this unsettling time not only for ourselves, but for everyone including children and generations to come.
Entertain Kids on a Dime. (2020). 100 activities to do at home during school closures. Retrieved from https://entertainkidsonadime.com/2020/03/13/100-activities-to-do-at-home-during-school-closures/
Chu, D. (2020). Parenting with COVID-19. Retrieved from http://dianachutherapy.com/parenting-with-covid-19