School's Out, Now what?
Many parents are realizing that family life is looking drastically different these days and will continue that way for the near future due to COVID-19. With the CDC recommending that we all practice social distancing to slow the spread of this virus, many activities that keep our children learning and growing are on hold.
You might be thinking, "What am I going to do with them?"
While social distancing is an important intervention to secure the health of your family, it brings some challenges for healthy active kiddos. The Child Life team at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children want to help support your family during this unique time to reduce the impact of social distancing and to inspire you to create opportunities to engage with your children in a way our busy lives don't often allow.
Check in regularly with your children to monitor their stress levels during this time of social distancing; do not let news outlets run unchecked in the home. Even very young children can notice the anxiety of the media. Take breaks from discussing the COVID-19 situation. Your kids are looking to you to learn how to regulate their emotions around this topic. Keep calm, acknowledge that this is a unique time for your family and extended social circles. Validate that this crisis will have some tough times but reassure them that you are there to care for and support them. Teens may roll their eyes at you. Toddlers may cry at the loss of playdates (so will the teens) but your calm assurance and validation of their frustrations will help them feel supported and may help decrease the anxiety this type of change in normal routines can create.
As your family starts this journey, it is tempting to think, "All bets are off, no school, no regular rules." In fact, my own child asked me at dinner Friday night if she could stay up as late as she wanted "cause there's no school". My initial response was "Sure!" However, when I stop to think about upsetting those routines, I realized it would be a mistake. Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to form. If your family has a good routine keep it in place. The routine will help normalize the days ahead so when COVID-19 is no longer part of our daily conversation and activities return, we will be ready to get back to normal. Now, I say that knowing it will be hard for even me to stick to the strict lights out at 9 rule, there is room for flexibility and special circumstances but try not to let the changes get too far out of the norm.
Creating and maintaining daily schedules will help kids know what to expect and what is expected. Morning, bedtime and mealtimes should stay close to normal. Structuring time for specific activities can help your child stay engaged, stimulated and motivated. If your district has moved to an online learning format it will be important to keep regular scheduled times for school. Create a place in your home that is dedicated to learning. Make sure the space is quiet, well lit and in view of supervision to help keep kiddos on task. Intentionally dedicating time and space to learning activities will help children maintain focus and continue their educational development. Playtime will also be important. We learn better when we have opportunities for movement and creative outlets. The time designated for each activity will vary based on individual children's age and development. Older school age children and adolescents will be more independent learners, younger kids might need more guidance and assistance with focus to help them stay on task.
That being said if your children are engaging in remote learning screen time will be crucial for schoolwork. However, if families plan intentional dedicated time for a variety of activities you can create an environment for fun learning and growth away from screens. This will help you engage your kid's creative brains, large muscle groups and thinking caps which can help this time be productive and might even end up being an experience that draws your family closer together.
This will end up being a defining time in your family's life, we at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children want to help you create opportunities to fill this time with good memories. The Child Life team will be posting ideas to help you stay creative with your attempts to keep your family engaged, growing and developing during this time of social distancing. We look forward to hearing from you to help you community learn and grow from this unique time in our parenting lives.