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Parenting Do’s And Don’ts In Times Of Coronavirus

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These are uncertain and frustrating times. The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has thus far infected over 1.4 million people. The number of confirmed cases in the United States has surpassed 400,000 making it the highest in the world with over 14,000 dead. Many families are mourning the loss of loved ones who have fallen victim to the virus all alone. Millions of businesses, employees, and daily wage workers are dealing with unemployment and struggling to pay their bills. Grandparents are missing family get-togethers, parents managing work from home, and children keeping up with an array of virtual classes. Commencements, weddings, and even funerals are delayed.

It can be an unsettling time for children. They may be wondering how long it will be until they can once again play with their friends or go to school. Parents should communicate with them about the pandemic while explaining to them the importance of social distancing, washing hands, and disinfecting surfaces. Children need adults to not only be role models for following guidelines and remaining positive but to also calmly address their fears and encourage dialogue. Most importantly, children should feel love and a sense of security being at home. No parent should make their child feel like extra hours together is a burden.

By staying home we are playing an important role in flattening the curve of the virus and saving lives. If we have a roof over our head and are healthy, we are among the fortunate ones. Life has paused in ways that can also be seen as a blessing. We do not have to rush through mornings. Conversations with loved ones can linger longer as there are no after school activities to drive to.

Families can dust off puzzles and board games, do spring cleaning, or work on various projects together at home. Children can be involved in daily tasks thus making cooking, cleaning, or gardening fun group activities.

Developing a modified routine during times of uncertainty is not only important for children but also helps keep adults from feeling overwhelmed. Rather than keeping to rigid timelines, schedules can serve as loose guidelines offering flexibility in what we do with our time. There are resources and ideas available on how we can add some structure to our days alongside virtual schoolwork, chores, and more.

The Child Mind Institute recommends alternating schedules with highly preferred activities and less preferred activities and making sure to include some down time. They are offering free daily tips, including video chats with clinicians for help with anxiety. There are also colorful sample schedules making rounds on social media.

There are plenty of books to read, whether those are on our bookshelves at home or online. Audible has made a selection of books free for children and adults. Kindle is also offering two months of their unlimited service for free, giving families access to their entire library of online books. The National Emergency Library has made 1.4 million books available. Fatima Bhutto and other authors are reading online. And of course there is always the traditional retelling of family stories, especially those that provide a window into hardships faced by older generations.

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The extra time at home can also be a good opportunity for children to devote more time to their hobbies or find a niche of their own. There are various classes being offered online. For example, my sister in law who is an artist is hosting twice weekly online art classes for children to help keep us connected. The famed Pete the Cat author and illustrator is offering free story times and drawing classes daily on Instagram. Mo Willem, another New York Times best-selling author and illustrator is offering “lunchtime doodles.” There is also live online spirituality, daily online baking, and even online musicals.

You can social distance and still explore the outdoors. Hiking is a fun family activity that is one of the few outdoor activities still allowed. It would be best to pick spots that are more deserted, steering away from the main trails. Families can also tour virtual museums all over the world from the convenience of their homes or attend various virtual field trips. Google has launched virtual tours of National Parks.

Mindfulness is also important. Meditation, prayer, stillness offer necessary solace in these times.  GoZen! helps children deal with anxiety, and focuses on social and emotional learning. And there is the Cosmic Kids Yoga, even a Star Wars edition and a sample relaxation guideline for kids. Oprah and Deepak Chopra are offering a free 21 day meditation experience which can be done as a family. An app called Headspace has made meditations and mindfulness resources for children and families free in partnership with New York’s Governor Cuomo.

Self care is not to be overlooked. Quarantining should not be an excuse to let ourselves go. To the contrary, focusing on personal hygiene, a good diet, and working on reducing our own stress will also help keep us healthy and our immune system strong. And for those extra snacks we are eating, there are many free workouts that you can involve the kids in. Nike is offering a free month of their premium membership of some great workouts including yoga that children can practice with parents. All that is needed is to download their training app.

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It is also a time to let go of expectations and relax the rules. It can be OK to reward children with extra screen time, to let them sleep in a bit longer, or to go to bed late. Allow them to suggest games for the family to play together or activities they prefer, listen and learn from them about what they like, and find out why.

Incorporate their interests into homeschooling. For example, for boys that love Minecraft there is a special education edition of the popular game available for free until June 2020. There are also plenty of choices in Scholastic’s online learning resources including a whole variety of science experiments. 

During this pandemic we can help foster more empathy and a stronger sense of community in children. Social distancing should not affect our connections to loved ones, so make sure to schedule video chats with grandparents, relatives, and friends since non virtual family gatherings are not possible right now. Social distancing should also not stop us from helping those in need or supporting local businesses.

Find places your kids would like to donate online, restaurants to support, make calls to check on neighbours and be considerate to those who are most vulnerable.

Similarly encourage children to embrace the sense of community and appreciate those who are fighting this virus selflessly on the front lines in order to keep all of us safe. New Yorkers from all walks of life clap for healthcare workers every evening at 7pm. In Pakistan, people are donating generously to those in need. Be creative. Showing gratitude, counting our blessings, and realizing how much we depend on each other will help get us through these difficult times.

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