The corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remotely, physical distancing — it’s a lot to navigate for anyone and quite hard for children, teenagers and caregivers. Making new routines and working together can help. Here are a few tips.
1. One-on-one time
Set aside time to spend with each child
It can be for just 20 minutes, or longer – it’s up to us. It can be at the same time each day so children or teenagers can look forward to it.
Ask your child what they would like to do
Choosing builds their self confidence. If they want to do something that isn’t OK with physical distancing, then this is a chance to talk with them about this.
Ideas with your baby/toddler
- Copy their facial expression and sounds.
- Sing songs, make music with pots and spoons.
- Stack cups or blocks.
- Tell a story, read a book or share pictures.
Ideas with your young child
- Read a book or look at pictures.
- Make drawings with crayons or pencils.
- Dance to music or sing songs!
- Do a chore together – make cleaning and cooking a game
- Help with school work.
Ideas with your teenager
- Talk about something they like: sports, music, celebrities, friends.
- Cook a favorite meal together.
- Exercise together to their favorite music.
Listen to them, look at them. Give them your full attention. Have fun!
2. Get structured
Create a flexible but consistent daily routine
- Make a schedule for you and your children that has time for structured activities as well as free time. This can help children feel more secure and better behaved.
- Children or teenagers can help plan the routine for the day – like making a school timetable. Children will follow this better if they help to make it.
- Include exercise in each day – this helps with stress and kids with lots of energy at home.
Teach your child about keeping safe distances
- If it is OK in your area, get children outside. Remember to wear your masks and keep distance from the next person.
- You can also write letters and draw pictures to share with people. Put them up outside your home for others to see!
- You can reassure your child by talking about how you are keeping safe.
- Listen to their suggestions and take them seriously.
Make hand washing and hygiene fun
- Make a 20-second song for washing hands. Add actions!
- Give children points and praise for regular hand washing.
- Make a game to see how few times we can touch our faces with a reward for the least number of touches (you can count for each other).
You are a model for your child’s behavior
If you practice keeping safe distances and hygiene yourself, and treat others with compassion, especially those who are sick or vulnerable – your children and teenagers will learn from you.
At the end of each day, take a minute to think about the day. Tell your child about one positive or fun thing they did. Praise yourself for what you did well today. You are a star!
3. Keeping it positive
It‘s hard to feel positive when our kids or teenagers are driving us crazy. We often end up saying “Stop doing that!”. But children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right.
Say the behavior you want to see
Use positive words when telling your child what to do; like “Please put your clothes away” (instead of “Don’t make a mess”).
It’s all in the delivery
Shouting at your child will just make you and them more stressed and angrier. Get your child’s attention by using their name. Speak in a calm voice.
Praise your child when they are behaving well
Try praising your child or teenager for something they have done well. They may not show it, but you’ll see them doing that good thing again. It will also reassure them that you notice and care.
Can your child actually do what you are asking them? It is very hard for a child to keep quiet inside for a whole day but maybe they can keep quiet for 15 minutes while you are on a call.
Help your teen stay connected
Teens especially need to be able to communicate with their friends. Help your teen connect through social media and other safe distancing ways. This is something you can do together, too!
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