By Jennifer Jacobson
Parents can act to make this stressful time safe, emotionally stable and fun for kids.
1. Talk to kids
Keep it simple and short: people can get sick. We must social distance and wash hands regularly. Ask older kids if they’re concerned. If you cannot answer, look it up. Honesty can prevent fear.
2. News watching
Watching the news with younger kids can make them think things are unmanageable. Older kids might be interested, but limit your time and watch something else afterward. Watch after they go to bed, get morning news on your phone, or listen to NPR podcasts.
Keep soap, paper towels, a trashcan, tissues and wipes near the sink. Put post-it-notes on the front door, fridge, and bathroom doors with hand-washing reminders.
Kids can select a brightly colored “to-go” bag and include alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wipes, water, tissues, snacks, etc.
4. Communicate with family
Call or video chat to help younger kids stay connected when they can’t see family. Virtual play dates are encouraged.
5. Limiting “feed time”
Scrolling through social media exposes kids to a lot. Limiting “feed time” for older kids and adults gives brains a break.
Choose age-appropriate books and novels. Designate a time for reading every day or week. For kids with focusing issues, let them pick a preferred space. Some may want background music. This routine can reduce anxiety and give you downtime.
Assign age-appropriate tasks to each child. Your youngest could make toast, or set and clear the table. An older child could chop ingredients for salad or load the dishwasher. For kids who like to cook, let them prepare the meal and you clean up.
8. Make a chore chart
Post each family member’s name and weekly tasks like feeding the dog, taking out the trash, cleaning the kitchen. Include non-chores like dancing, drawing, yoga or making music.
9. Go outside
If you can safely go outside, take daily walks. Sunshine and fresh air can elevate everyone’s mental state. Remind kids to wave and talk to familiar people from a distance. This may take practice. Once you’re home, wash your hands.
10. Give back
Kids can make “we care about you” cards for seniors in nursing homes. Kids can donate toys and clothes they don’t use or outgrew. Ask friends and relatives to do a virtual event where patrons promise to donate money in exchange for kids’ drawings. Host a virtual concert for charity.
Having a routine, things to look forward to, and open communication will help you and your kids cope with challenges. Kids may look back and find bright spots where they made a difference and positive memories.
About the author: Jennifer L. Jacobson is a communications professional, youth advocate and founder of Nimbus Haus — a volunteer youth art program. She believes every child has the potential to be an artist. Whether it’s through painting, drawing, writing music or filmmaking, Nimbus Haus seeks to help kids realize their dreams and thrive. Nimbus Haus especially advocates for LGBTQ+ youth and youth in foster care. www.nimbushaus.com.