How to prepare for extended school closings during Coronavirus pandemic

familyWe are just beginning to feel the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from widespread cancellations and closures to travel restrictions and more. In addition to the added stress many of us in the healthcare field face during a public health crisis, parents are also faced with caring for their children during the day as schools and day cares close for weeks at a time.

Though there’s no question this will be a challenging time for all of us, a few tips can help families weather the storm and not only survive during this unprecedented time, but thrive.

1. Establish a routine early. Children thrive on routine and will be happier and calmer if they know what to expect throughout the day. Set up a schedule that maintains routine times for eating, bathing, school work and activities and maintain your family’s regular bedtime routine.
2. Manage your child’s anxiety—and your own. Using age-appropriate language, talk to your children about what’s going on. Fortunately, we can truthfully tell children that most of us won’t become ill, but it’s important not to tell them not to worry, as this can lead to children feeling unheard. Instead, listen to their fears and use facts to help ease those concerns.
3. Keep moving: Regular exercise will keep everyone from getting cabin fever. If you can get outside to play in the yard or go on a walk, even better. Fresh air will help everyone relax and let off steam.
4. Address schoolwork in reasonable stretches: Many schools will provide work for students to keep up with at home, but be sure kids also have time to relax. Baking, doing hands-on projects together, and even board games can provide intellectual stimulation while still allowing them to take a breather.
5. Enlist your kids’ help: Kids like to feel important, so give them age-appropriate jobs around the house. Attach a reward to their chores, such as screen time, if you wish.
6. Establish new traditions: It’s hard to imagine now, but someday we may look back fondly on this extended time with our children. Look for opportunities to infuse magic into your days together, like reading together in a tent with a flashlight, or having family movie nights.
7. Plan time away from each other: Take time each day to occupy different areas of the house or spend time alone if you can. This will give everyone the chance to decompress during a time when tensions can run high.
8. If you’re working from home, relax your standards: You may need to allow more screen time than you’d like in order to get things done, or make meals more basic to cut down on prep and clean-up time. Do what you need to do.