Are your kids and perhaps you as well become zoned out or should I say Zoomed out during your stay at home experience? If so, you are not alone.
Social distancing is taking its toll. Humans need real contact with real other people. While FaceTime or Zoom meetings with friends, family and coworkers help us to stay connected, staying in touch may not seem as synonymous as they did before.
Children also are growing tired of screen time, spending hours on their digital devices for entertainment or learning as well. The activity that once may have been an obsession may now have become an averse experience as screen time recommendations become a new issue to manage for parents.
When Will It End?
Being cooped up for what is becoming months not weeks along with the constantly changing projections of when this will end and how things will look when it does are very difficult to process much less accept.
Children and adults are eager to get out and get back to the way it was. This uncertainty along with our waning capability to endure limits on our activity and freedom to go where we want to when we want to can trigger a wide range of emotions including boredom, frustration, anxiety and sadness.
Learning To Adapt: Creative Play Spaces & Social Distancing
Most individuals, couples, families and kids have found ways to adjust and make the best of it. We see homes being turned in to makeshift playgrounds, campsites, movie theaters, gyms, concert halls and recreational centers.
I have seen cul-de-sacs become playing fields for kids while distancing and recently seen a number of drive-by celebrations for graduating students. People have ventured out to visit friends and family while practicing social distancing.
Many people have expressed that those in their close living unit have become closer, more understanding and more cooperative as a result of this experience. Unfortunately, even when that has occurred (and it does not occur in all situations), it may be a good time to reflect, regroup and refresh the way we spend our time as a positive way to respond to the negative emotions we are experiencing.
Parents often want to take full responsibility and make everything okay for their children. However, helping them to learn to face the situation and find ways to make the best of it and get through it helps them to become more resilient and more self-reliant. These are very important traits for children to develop.
Don't Be A Fixer; Just Listen
So rather than always trying to sooth things or provide solutions, talk it out. Listen carefully to what your child is thinking and how they are feeling. Give them permission to express how they feel and provide validation letting them know that it is okay to feel sad, mad or worried sometimes.
- Let them know how you feel as well.
- Remind them of times when they have faced another tough time and how they finally got through it
- Share with them situations you have faced and how they were resolved.
- Point out how TV shows have changed, and I think most of us enjoy the “from the home” approach to some of them.
- Read: Helping Parents and Kids Stay Cool and Collected During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Let them know that this too will pass and for now we need to find ways to cope and make the best of it. Be sure to let your child know that you are always ready to listen to them and be there for them when they are feeling lousy or upset.
Help your kids identify areas in which they have at least some control. Ask them for suggestions on ways to make things better. Help your kids by teaching them about problem solving which includes coming up with tons of ideas and then sifting through them to select a couple that might be worth a try.
Problem solving is another important life skill that your children can either learn or improve during this difficult time. Focus on what is going well. Encourage all members of the family to feel proud about how well all of them have helped to make thing go as well as possible.
At Home: Kids Need Structure, Organization & Down Time
Continue to focus on providing a consistent home environment with adequate structure and organization. Take frequent breaks to either relax and chill or actively let off some steam with physical activities.
Continue to have family meals and family fun time. Encourage some alone time to regroup as well. Practice mindfulness technique alone and together. (See our YouTube playlist on Mindfulness for Parents and Kids). Try to spend some one-on-one time with each child as well as with your spouse or partner.
Parents are also worried about lags in learning as a result of this period. It has been difficult for school systems and teachers to readily adapt to the necessary changes. Everything happened very quickly, and the necessary resources were not always readily or fully available. If you do want my take on it, you can read Kids Home From School During Coronavirus Outbreak. There’s helpful info in there, but I don’t believe it’s overwhelming.
Educators are working on preparing for what the new school year will look like. Right now, my suggestion is to leave that up to the educators and not worry about something you are not responsible for fixing. Right now, tend to the emotional needs of your children and work with them to find new things to do with their time that are enjoyable and constructive.
Helpful Resources For Parents: How To Talk To Kids
Finally, I would like to make you aware of some new resources that you may find helpful in the quest to improve the new normal. Change for Kids is a New York based organization that has developed an amazing website, CFK Digital.
This is a free resource that provides a digital library of activities as well as daily live experiences. They provide activities related to music, art, dance, and science. They don’t just watch; they participate along with the teachers and other kids. It is fun, creative, and promotes child development and learning. They also have guest readers who read very cool books.
Speaking of guest readers, Read-Along with PBS KIDS includes Michele Obama reading on Mondays and now President Obama has joined her. Also children (K-6) can in enjoy free eBooks and audio books at the Tumble Book Library provided by the Chicago Public Library.
For hands on activities check out all of the craft projects, including free printable materials, check out Surviving a Teacher’s Salary.com. Also, 22 Fun Scavenger Hunt Ideas to Keep Your Kids Guessing in Good Housekeeping provides links to fun ideas for both indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts.