To help contain COVID-19 , many schools are turning to online learning at home. In addition, many parents have also been asked to work at home. These forms of social distancing are necessary to help slow the spread of the virus and prevent overloading of healthcare systems.
But many families now face new difficulties: how to pay attention to children when they are working and helping their learning, and at the same time not panic during this unprecedented outbreak? The first thing to do is: take a deep breath. We are all in the same predicament. And together we can overcome it!
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help you cope with this new reality until the virus is under control.
Slow down the spread
It may be tempting to organize play parties or sleepovers for the kids, but you should avoid doing so. Social distancing only works if we all participate. And slowing or preventing the spread of the virus will save lives.
Protect grandparents . Now is not the time to go visit grandparents or ask for help in taking care of the children. People over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, and should not increase their risk by being around children who may be ill with mild symptoms. However, this could make them feel lonely or disconnected during social distancing, so continue to communicate with them by phone, text messages, or video chats.
Keep a routine
Because routine changes can cause stress, it will help if you talk with children about why they should stay home and what the daily routine will be during the outbreak. Let them help you create a daily schedule that they can put on the refrigerator (fridge) or somewhere they can see every day. Make sure to include time to take a break from homework or schoolwork to connect with each other.
Here are some ideas to help you create your daily routine:
Wake up, get dressed, and eat breakfast at a normal time.
Decide where everyone should do their work in the most efficient and distraction-free way.
Include time for learning, exercise, and taking a break on the list.
For young children, 20 minutes of school work followed by 10 minutes of physical activity may be best for them.
Older children and teens will need more time to focus on their schoolwork and take a break when they switch subjects.
Include your hours as well so children know when you have finished your work assignments.
Schedule time to enjoy nutritious lunches and snacks . Many schools are providing take-home lunches for students in need.
Don’t forget to take breaks in the afternoons as well.
Have dinner together as a family and talk about the events of the day.
Enjoy more time with your family in the afternoons, playing games, reading, watching a movie, or exercising together.
Stick to bedtime routines as much as possible during the week, and make sure everyone is getting good (enough) sleep .
Try not to watch the news all day . It is best not to watch the news when the children are in the same room as it can add to their fear and anxiety (and you too!). If you let them watch the news, talk about what they hear and be sure to correct any incorrect information or rumors that you hear.
Should I worry about the extra screen time now?
Although it is still important to set limits, it is understandable that, under these worrying circumstances, the use of screens (digital devices) by children is greater. Here are some ways to keep using media positively and profitably.
Contact teachers for information on online education and other activities that children should do. Preschool teachers may not have an online curriculum, but there are some good options like PBS Kids , which sends out a daily newsletter with programs and ideas for activities.
Use social media for good causes . To get in touch with your neighbors, friends and loved ones. If schools are closed, find out if there is any way to help students who may need food / meals or to use the internet for learning at home.
Use social media to stay connected with others . Social distancing can be devastating. If your kids miss school friends or other family members, try video chats or social media to keep in touch.
Choose good quality content and use resources to find it. Common Sense Media , for example, suggests 25 games and dances and other apps, websites, and video games for families who are now staying home.
Use the media together . This is a great opportunity to notice and monitor what your older children are watching on the internet and to stay on top of what children are learning. Even watching a movie as a family can help reassure everyone as we appreciate the stories and meaning that movies can offer.
Take your child to work (virtually) Do you work at home? Use this time to show your children something that is part of their world. Encourage them to pretend to “work” with you as a way to “get them to work” without leaving the house!
Setting limits is still important . As always, the use of technology should not postpone the need for sleep, physical activity, reading, or time with family. Make a plan to determine how long you can play video games with friends, and determine where devices should be charged at night.
Staying home and other recommendations for social distancing seem inconvenient, but they are the best way we have now to protect our most vulnerable family members, friends, and neighbors.
If someone in your family begins to show symptoms of COVID-19 , call your doctor to discuss what to do.
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