Keep your kids mentally healthy during this quarantine

All my thoughts and prayers with the sick fighting in hospitals, and the less fortunate struggling for survival.

It feels like the whole world has pushed the pause button.

The COVID-19 outbreak is giving our daily lives a frozen-like sensation, except in directly affected organisms struggling to regain their balance and routine such as the stock markets, medical institutes, and our kids (and teenagers).

I am a parent of two amazing boys, 11 and 8 years old. Luckily my husband and I can still do our jobs remotely without having to take risks affecting our safety and our family’s health.

We’ve been home now for 20 days. Our approach with the kids during this quarantine has been pretty flexible. We’re doing a half vacation half school-days approach because we strongly believe that our kids (and all children) are not immune to what is happening around them.

They can sense our worries. They know we are nervous, they are as afraid as we are and it is only normal for them to communicate their feelings through anger, tantrums and a clear change in behavior.

We decided not to contribute to their anxiety especially not with a strict schedule at home. On the contrary, we’re trying to make sure they are not alarmed and still feeling loved, cherished and safe.

We had a conversation about the reasons for this quarantine (we still talk about it and the virus almost every day) and the boys know they have school work and they are expected to help around the house. But we give them the liberty to choose what time to do so.

At the end of the day, all kids are on the same boat, and we’ll have time to catch up on studies and go back into the school system.

We are not (yet) breaking any of our pre-quarantine rules regarding screen time, but we’re being more flexible in everything else to compensate and relieve some of the boredom of staying home, especially with 2 super active boys who used to practice martial arts, rollers and cycling regularly.

Four main tricks we started doing organically and it’s been working like magic, allowing us to have somewhat chill days in lockdown.

A vacation-like approach. The kids are getting bored and frustrated and will show it in different ways. Freeing them from a strict schedule and embracing a more vacation-like approach to their days (without voicing it out) will help minimize tantrums and boredom.

It doesn’t really matter if they go to bed at 7 pm or at 9 pm, as long as they are getting enough sleep for their age. Don’t enforce the school days rules just because we’re still in April, and they might go back to school any day. They won’t, at least not for the next couple of months.

Go back to the basics. Crafts, painting, doodling, board games, singing, dancing, cooking, light conversations, movie nights and my favorite: long naps! Amidst our modern workaholic culture, our lives rarely allowed for much of such activities. They were restricted to Sunday mornings or sometimes Saturday evenings, but we never indulged. Now we are, and it’s been just amazing allowing us to discover so much about our boys.

Stay consciously calm and patient. I had all the reasons in the world to get nervous and impatient due to a crazy lifestyle I’ve been running around to maintain. A busy schedule at work and chores back at home with social responsibilities, activities, school requirements, etc.

All these reasons vanished now. You have no choice but to be calm and patient around your kids.

Be the fun parent. No matter how young they are, your children will remember this phase, like friends, parents, stock markets, politicians, media and the whole world will be mentioning it and referring back to it over and over for a long period. Practically, they will grow up living in the aftermath of this global pandemic. You want your kids to have pleasant memories, at least of the time spent with you, if not of the whole quarantine experience.

By now, you should have learned almost all there is to know about COVID-19, your local financial situation, and the global economic situation. So limit your news consumption to one specific hour per day, and just set your mind free from it for the rest of the day. You’ll be able to homeschool better, be more effective working from home, and more calm and patient around your kids.

Remember the most important thing now, is just to keep them safe, healthy (physically and mentally) and happy.

They do need to eat their vegetables (why not with an extra portion of home-baked chocolate cake?), sleep well and move a little, a light family home workout (not a serious one though) will be a great source of family laughter. Ever tried it?

What about screen time and how to limit and have a healthy relationship with all the tech at home? Coming up in my next post.

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