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What to Do When COVID-19 has Your Family Stuck at Home

With schools across the country shutting their doors to slow the pandemic, many parents are launching into panic mode about what they’ll do all day (every day) with their kids for the next two weeks – and beyond.

It’s definitely daunting, but there are a few things you can do right now to set the stage for your extended time at home to make it more tolerable for everyone, no matter how long it lasts. Check out the following five steps, and check out the HelloJoey app if you find yourself needing a little extra parenting support.

Your Kids & a Quarantine Plan

Step #1: Create a daily routine.

As you probably know from your last vacation, your normally orderly life can quickly devolve into chaos when the schedule goes out the window. If you’re stuck home, sticking with your normal routine can help your kids know what to expect – and keep you from going insane. According to child psychologist and author Dr. Thomas Phelan, it’s also a way to encourage positive behavior. “You want to establish routines for going to bed, for eating, for getting up and out in the morning.” Keep things as regular as possible, following your normal mealtimes, “homework” times, and bedtimes and routines.

Along with a schedule throughout the day, consider designating specific days of the week for certain activities – like Math Monday “Math Day” or “Build a Fort Day” on Wednesday. No matter how you decide to break down your schedule, put it in writing and post it in a visible place – like stuck to the refrigerator - where the kids will see it several times a day. Your child is probably just as jarred about these coronavirus disruptions as you are, and they’ll do better when they know exactly what to expect.

Step #2: Embrace online resources.

While most parents try to limit screen time to some degree, loosening those restrictions right now might be one key to survival – but don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you have to let your kid binge watch Sponge Bob all day every day. There are plenty of educational resources that can help your child keep learning – or even start learning new skills.

Of course, you can start by checking with your child’s school to see if they’ll have any e-learning opportunities, but there also are other resources that may offer quality educational or entertainment content for kids. Here are a few ideas:

  • Check the local library and community bookstore websites to see if they’ll offer online reading groups or storytelling hours.

  • Schedule “play dates” with your kids’ friends where they can do the same activity (board games, imagination games, free play) together onscreen.

  • Look for cooking classes, art classes, or language classes targeted toward kids. You can watch together or have your child watch alone while you work and then put what they’ve learned into action together later in the day.

  • If your child’s old enough, start developing practical skills with software tutorials, website builders, or an “assignment” (report writing, brainstorming) related to your own work. This also could be a great opportunity for your kid to learn how to type – or even code.

Step #3: Move your bodies.

Burning off energy is a built in part of your child’s day – from waking up and getting ready for school to walking to the bus stop to daily recess. If kids don’t have a chance to work out the wiggles, eventually, they’ll explode (and probably break your lamp in the process).

Of course, the point of self-isolating is to stay away from others – but that doesn’t mean your kid can’t go outside, period. As part of social distancing, the CDC recommends people stay six feet away from others, so your child can absolutely run around in your yard or even ride their bike on your street as long as they’re not playing with other neighborhood children. If weather has you all stuck in the house, consider moving the dining room table to give your kid room to jump rope or play hopscotch. You can even turn on a fun (but appropriate) dance workout on YouTube and let your child learn a few new moves.

Step #4: Schedule together time.

Whether you normally go to work or you stay home and run your household, you’re probably used to a chunk of time during the day without your kid to get things done. Now that they’re home, you’re losing that alone time – so setting boundaries will become crucially important.

There’s no way to stop your kid from interrupting you throughout the day, but you may be able to minimize how often it happens. By scheduling time together every day, Dr. Neha Nevsaria says that you may be able to soothe your child so they’re less disruptive. “Typically, when you start doing that, kids pull back with the clinginess or whininess or complaining, because they know that there's some structure. They’re going to have something to do with their parent.” Let your child know in advance when it’s going to happen –or better yet, make it a regular part of your daily schedule.

Step #5: Watch, but try not to worry.

There’s no doubt these are stressful times, and it’s easy to let your imagination run away and start thinking the worse. Remember, for most people, the coronavirus won’t be a life threatening illness; many people experience mild symptoms that are similar to a cold or the flu. Your child will pick up on your anxieties, so do your best to keep them in check.

Following medical recommendations actually may help, because you’ll know you’re doing everything within your power. The CDC suggests that you keep an eye on your family (and yourself) with “self-observation” and “self-monitoring.”

  • Self-observation just means staying on the lookout for COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If those symptoms appear, the person who has them should be isolated, and you should call your doctor (or health department) to find out what to do next.

  • Self-monitoring means that you should take the temperature of everyone in your household twice a day to make sure no one has a fever. Watch for the other symptoms – cough and shortness of breath – too, and if they appear, isolate the patient and call your doctor.

For more ideas on what to do with your kids while coronavirus has you stuck at home, keep checking out our blog. You can also check out the HelloJoey app if you want to learn more about how to handle anything from whining to discipline to cooking at home together. Hang in there, and remember: You’ve got this!

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