We are several months into COVID-19 and, unfortunately, it’s looking like we are in it for the long haul. Perhaps, your family has already established a plan for keeping safe and healthy during COVID-19, or maybe now, under new regulations that mandate the use of facial coverings in public, you are having to come up with a way to ensure that your family can stay safe and keep others safe until the number of cases goes down.
In times of uncertainty, plans can be very helpful for everyone in the family—especially children. Your plan is going to be unique to your family and your comfort level, but let’s look at some options for creating a family plan during COVID-19.
- Start with the basics.
Over the course of several months, it’s easy to slack on the basics of preventing the spread of an illness, but frequent hand washing, keeping a distance of 6 feet between others, and avoiding contact with vulnerable family members and friends, is the best way to keep everyone healthy.
- Remind your children to wash their hands frequently, especially when they return home from an outing.
- When in public, give your child gentle reminders to keep a distance between themselves and others.
- With allergy season also in full swing, remind your child about coughing and sneezing into their elbow.
- Remind your child to avoid touching their face, including eyes and mouth.
- Currently, masks aren’t required for children under 12 but they are recommended. Also, consider explaining to your child why other people are wearing them.
- Decide on a plan for summer activities
Have your kids been asking to go to the pool? To a sleepover? Have travel plans been cancelled? Let’s face it, kids—and parents—aren’t going to have normal summer this year, and uncertainty about what the rules are and what is permitted can cause a lot of anxiety and frustration for children.
Make a list of approved summer activities your child can do. You could make this a family exercise brainstorm, which allows your child to have some control as well as have some shared expectations. For example:
- Go on a nature walk/hike with a friend
- Play a video game online with a friend or chat virtually
- Have a picnic in the park
- Play down by a river, or visit the beach for the day.
- Be clear about what is not allowed this summer and why. This is the hard part, but being matter-of-fact about the issue will go a long way in avoiding meltdowns and power struggles around having to say “no.”
- Reinforce that these decisions are in an effort to keep the people we love from getting sick.
- Remind your child that it won’t “last forever,” and that eventually she will be able to go swimming or play with her friends at the playground.
- Look for the positive
Naturally, children will focus on what they can’t do right now, so why not use this moment in time to focus on what they can do. For example, do you have an elderly neighbor who needs help getting groceries? This could be a great opportunity to teach kindness to others by offering to help out. Make it part of your family’s plan that in times of uncertainty, your family will be the “helpers.” With this, brainstorm with your family how to best be helpers while still practicing safe social distancing.
If part of your family’s COVID-19 plan includes simply staying home more, find ways to make it more enjoyable by doing things you normally don’t have time for, such as taking walks around the neighborhood, having a picnic lunch in your backyard, or listening to music and having a dance party.
Your family plan can and should change
We are all talking this day by day, moment by moment. As new information comes in and government recommendations change, it’s OK to adjust your family plan to make room for more visits with friends or trips to grandma’s. For now, remember that we are all in this together—and together we can make a difference.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).