I know this may be a scary time for all of us. We’re worried about our parents, our grandparents, our spouses and, most of all, our children.
Schools, Disney, March Madness, conferences, recitals, professional sporting events and more are being canceled. This can feel overwhelming and frightening. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The main reason we want to maintain social distancing right now is in order to keep the most vulnerable of our population healthy. Those with chronic medical conditions and the elderly. We all know of many people in those categories, so let's do our part to help protect each other.
Wash wash wash. Make sure your children wash their hands, cough/sneeze into a tissue or elbow (not hands) and disinfect your home. Use common measures you would otherwise take for infection prevention at baseline. However, given that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, there are additional steps we should take to help limit the spread of this particularly contagious infection.
You may be hearing the term social distancing in the media. The CDC defines this as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gathers and maintaining distance (about 6 feet) from others when possible.”
Fellow pediatricians and I agree that it’s difficult to give any blanket recommendations on what you can and can’t do. As one of my colleagues suggested, “out and about can look very different in different settings, such as hiking in a state park vs. going to a playground in the city.”
By now, you likely know that I love referencing healthychildren.org. Amidst the coronavirus, the site has a great guide for parents on how to spot symptoms and how to protect your family.
It even has an easy guide on how to talk to your children about the virus. For example:
- Simple reassurance. Remind children that researchers and doctors are learning as much as they can, as quickly as they can, about the virus and are taking steps to keep everyone safe.
- Give them control. It's also a great time to remind your children of what they can do to help – washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeves and getting enough sleep.
- Watch for signs of anxiety. Children may not have the words to express their worry, but you may see signs of it. They may get cranky, be more clingy, have trouble sleeping or seem distracted. Keep the reassurance going and try to stick to your normal routines.
Listen and watch as a six-year-old guides us through a proper hand wash
Instead of thinking about this time home from school as “cabin fever,” use this as an opportunity to reconnect with your kids and allow them to reconnect with Mother Earth. Plant some seeds to learn about gardening, have a math activity in your backyard using twigs and pebbles or let them just dig in the dirt! Plus, playing outside not only builds physically healthier children, but also improves social and emotional development, sensory skills, attention spans and overall happiness. (Of course, after all of that planting and digging, have them wash their hands when they come inside!)
I’ve been in touch with physician moms who are friends, colleagues and members of some great social media groups. We’ve been chatting about how to keep our kids engaged and active while maintaining a safe, social distance. Here are some things we came up with:
“I think this would be a great opportunity to do outdoor things in close proximity to home, while still respecting social distancing. Plant a vegetable garden, look for and learn about local birds and other animals, take walks and hike local trails, and explore nature close by.” - Dr. Arcaro
Ideas from Dr. West, a mom of 4-year-old twins:
- “swimming” in the bathtub. Turn the lights off, throw some glow sticks in the water, and you’ve got yourself a good hour of entertainment.
- baking (pre-made) cookies, and decorating. A couple shakers of sprinkles always means fun.
- blow up a couple balloons, and make up games. Our favorites include “don’t let it touch the ground” and “baseball” — hitting balloons with foam pool noodles.
- hobby stores have tons of craft kits, so we keep a box of them around. The kids don’t care that they are decorating Christmas trees in March or painting a Turkey model in July.
“Jump ropes are a good way to get active without requiring going to a park or having to interact with large groups of people. They can look at local nature parks that have wide open space areas where children can get fresh air without being in close contact with others," - Dr. Pennicott
“Don't assume that screen time is necessary. Kids can be bored. This is a great time to pull out all those board games you have, learn some yoga, make an obstacle course with all those amazon boxes, or get the kids involved in cooking. Additionally, while we need to avoid mass gatherings, family hikes in the woods, a baseball game on the front lawn, or really any outdoor activity is okay. Take advantage of the excuse to be together." - Dr. Reck
Cruz and his family use rocks and twigs as a front yard math activity!
"This can be a great time for kids to explore their interests. Have plenty of craft supplies around and let them be creative. Go outside and practice their favorite sport. Reconnect with your passion and share it with them. Although there will certainly be stressful times being home with your kids, if you try to reframe it as a chance to engage with them and let them explore the world you may find it is a turning point for your family’s connectedness." - Dr. Haynes
Now, for our list (although I'm pretty sure we have way more in this blog):
1. Jump Rope
2. Use rocks and twigs for a fun math activity
3. Dig in your backyard
4. Make a bathtub "swimming pool"
5. Teach your kids one of YOUR favorite hobbies
6. Board games
7. Break out the yoga mats
8. Order crafts online or tap into basement stash
9. Let your kids help with dinner
10. Natural state or city parks with wide open spaces
11. Amazon box obstacle course
12. Balloon games
13. Baseball/basketball/favorite sports
If you are fortunate to belong to a healthy family with few risk factors, please be aware of how what you do can gravely affect others. While COVID-19 may not be deadly or serious for many of us, it’s still important for ALL of us to do our part to make the world as safe and healthy as possible.
At Ahimsa®, health and safety are our #1 priorities – from our dinnerware to important topics like this. We are on a mission to DO better and BE better for our kids and our planet. If you haven't already, now is a great time to join the Ahimsa movement! For more on my thoughts regarding playdates and parenting during this global pandemic, please see these articles from the Today Show and PopSugar (PopSugar: Playdates and playgrounds and PopSugar: Grandparents ).
With love and Ahimsa,
Manasa Mantravadi, MD