Pediatrician Approved Tips for Helping Families Thrive During Social Distancing
Too much of a good thing can be a little overwhelming.
The current health pandemic has given us many things to be concerned about but has also provided many things for which to be thankful. Despite this, many families are struggling in search of some semblance of normalcy and peace amid the chaos.
Fear and anxiety affect different people differently, and families can either become stronger or weaker. As pediatric providers, it is our mission to help the entire family be well. Here are some pediatrician-approved tips:
Make a Schedule
Keeping a schedule cannot be overemphasized. Kids thrive with structure. Give them something for which to look forward. If they see something fun on the calendar, they will be more motivated to complete their schoolwork and chores. No structure = boredom.
The schedule you create does not have to be identical to their in-school schedule. I recommend that everyone take advantage of the change to bolster their immune system by getting a lot more sleep. Everyone, however, should be awake the majority of daylight hours and should have a bed and a wake-up time.
If you keep the kids busy enough, you will not have to worry as much about limiting screen time. Everyone should have a daily schedule posted in the house. Include as many of the following as possible on as many days as possible:
- School. The normal school year has breaks and downtime. Be sure to include them in yours.
- Meals and snacks. Choose foods that are as minimally processed as possible to keep your kids as healthy as possible.
- Exercise. Bonus points are awarded if the activity is outdoors to get Vitamin D. Double bonus points if you do it as a family. Virtual exercise classes are free and are great options, too! My kids loved dancing in the house to music on rainy days.
- Arts and crafts. Set up a special area for arts and crafts (kids love an art table) or music lessons. YouTube has many options for free lessons.
- Free play WITHOUT electronics. Help them clean up all toys and group them into types of toys. For younger kids, rotate the type of toys daily so that they do not get bored with their toys. If there are too many toys, store them or give them away. Kids get overwhelmed with too many choices and tend not to appreciate what they have. Examples of groups are:
- Socialization with their friends – Google Hangouts, Facetime, and Skype help kids (and adults) stay connected to friends and family near and far.
- Family time – mix it up and make it fun. This could be the best time of their lives if done thoughtfully! Take lots of movies and pictures of the activities and make a scrapbook!
Parents should think about the next day, the night before, and plan special (healthy) snacks and family time surprises into the day. If your kids have regular bedtimes, this gives you time to relax and to organize. Choose activities based on the age of the child/ren and your environment, but could include things like these pediatrician-approved tips:
- Take a cooking lesson – new recipes can be fun!
- Plan theme nights for dinners for the week ahead. Some ideas include the 70’s, sports night, superhero, etc.
- Plan a camping trip in the backyard or even the living room.
- Allow younger children to use your phone to practice photography. Have a contest and post the best of these pictures on your family’s social media account.
- Put on a family play, have a karaoke contest, or even make a TikTok video.
- Play board games as a family.
- Make a surprise basket of goodies for a shut-in neighbor or think of other ways to inspire someone.
- Take a virtual tour together of a museum at https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
- Make cards to send to a local nursing home.
- Have a spa day complete with home facials and pedicures. Teen girls especially love this!
- Organize or rearrange a room in the house.
- Clean up and get rid of things that do not bring joy, and make a Goodwill box. Play some music and dance as you go.
- Facetime a lonely family member.
- Take a nature walk and pick wildflowers to decorate your home.
- Get creative and paint a piece of furniture or even the bathroom (depending on the age of the kiddos).
- Create a scavenger hunt. Hunts can be in your neighborhood, your backyard, or inside the house.
- Have a family reading time. Use audiobooks for younger kids, or the adults can read to the younger kids. My family fav was the Narnia series.
- Create a reading corner and make it very inviting. Pillows and blankets are great. My daughter’s favorite is under a sheet. Everyone can read the book of their choice together here during the reading hour.
- Take naps. Family naps are the best!
- Groom and play with your pets. Some dogs like hide and seek using treats or favorite toys and are happy being dressed up.
- Set up a water table or sandbox outside, get out the slip and slide, the sprinklers, the hula hoop, and sidewalk chalk as the weather is warming. Be sure everyone has sunscreen before heading out.
Don’t Forget the Older Children (and adults)
- Appreciate every day. You have a precious chance to slow down. A great idea is to keep a gratitude journal.
- Fuel your body with as many plant-based foods as you can to keep your immune system high and serve these to your family. If you do not know how to cook, take free cooking classes online!
- Limit your news to a certain number of minutes a day only, and keep the younger children away from the news.
- Make a list of long and short-term goals and start working on them.
- Pray, meditate, and practice yoga.
- Take a nice bubble bath before bed and treat yourself to soothing music, your favorite podcast, and even candles.
- Get up one hour early before the rush to prepare yourself for the day and enjoy the quiet. Have a cup of coffee outside and let nature soothe your soul.