The COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to many activities young people enjoy with their friends, and they are likely spending more time at home. Although children and teens can be resilient, not having these outlets available may make it more difficult to manage stress or feelings of sadness.
To make staying at home easier for everyone, it may be helpful for parents to establish routines and find activities to do together as a family. Being present and in the moment and incorporating self-care techniques, such as getting enough sleep and engaging in enjoyable activities, can help reduce stress and bring a sense of normalcy to our lives.
Here are additional tips to make time spent at home easier for everyone:
- Set aside a time each day when you and your child can talk or play games together. This will help to establish some structure, which can help the family regain some sense of control during unpredictable times. For example, routines such as “Friday Movie Night” or “Taco Tuesday” and having to help out with household tasks on certain days of the week, can provide reassurance, encourage social interaction and help pass the time.
- Don’t assume your child is lonely. Rather, ask questions to explore their feelings and assist with solutions or adaptations. For example, if a child misses music class, there could be an online option. For a child who misses playing or watching sports, a planned game or activity with a sibling or parent can help.
- Family members can create arts and crafts projects, play board games or enjoy activities together on electronic devices. Educational toys and projects for children are not only fun, but can enhance growth and learning. Some children like to be independent, but they may need guidance from their parents when trying a new or somewhat difficult activity.
- If possible, connect with friends and family virtually to support social interaction among younger children. Older children with smart phones usually already have access to their friends through social media and texting.
- Schedule 15-30 minutes each day to connect with a trusted news source and then disconnect. It may be helpful to limit your child’s consumption of news regarding the pandemic, as this may increase stress and anxiety. This may be especially important for teens who have immediate access to trending news through social media channels.
- Be kind to yourself and teach your children to be kind to themselves as well. Just 10 minutes of quiet reflection, deep breathing or guided imagery may bring relief from stress and can increase your tolerance for it. Listen to music, relax and try to think of places and feelings that bring you joy. Your children are always watching, and if you practice healthy self-care techniques, they may pick up these healthy habits and integrate them into their own daily routines. Here is a good free resource for guided meditation: https://www.hss.edu/health-video-library.asp.
For a helpful tip sheet with resources for children and families, visit https://www.hss.edu/pediatric-social-work.asp.
Rosalia Duarte, LMSW, is a Pediatric Social Worker at the Ambulatory Care Center at HSS.
Giselle Rodriguez, LCSW, is the Social Work Program Coordinator for the Charla de Lupus (LupusChat®) Program at HSS.