Life for many families is drastically different now than it was when the novel coronavirus reached the U.S in early 2020. So many aspects of our lives have changed, and they are likely to change again in the near future.
That’s why we at Children’s Hospital Colorado consulted our child psychologists, epidemiologists, pediatric infectious disease doctors and other experts to answer parents’ most pressing questions about how to adjust. They’ve gathered answers and some creative solutions to present-day challenges, but there are many more out there.
A few of the topics they tackled:
Staying safe during the pandemic
How should families go out and do necessary tasks like grocery shopping safely? We asked our epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists. The basics: make a list so you can get in and get out quickly, sanitize, wear a mask and try not to touch it while it’s on. If you can, try to designate one hand for touching merchandise and use the other to handle personal items like your grocery list or your phone – that helps to avoid cross contamination. And sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.
If someone in your family does get COVID-19, you can still keep the rest of your family safe by designating a safe space like a bedroom or basement area. Everyone in your family should continue washing hands regularly, especially if they’re sharing space like a bathroom with someone who may be contagious. And try to stay six feet apart – even better if you can interact outside.
And finally, if you and your child need medical care, don’t skip it. This year, it’s more important to get preventative care like well checkups and flu shots than ever, and most healthcare providers have implemented changes that make sure it’s safe for families to come in. Talk to your provider about what changes they’ve made at their office. At Children’s Colorado, families can skip the trip altogether in many cases through telehealth options like virtual visits.
Balancing home life, work and school for kids and parents
Remember: This the coronavirus is temporary. Cut yourself some slack and try to set realistic expectations with your family ¾ and your employer if possible. Routines help. Try breaking the day into one-hour chunks and encourage your kids to be involved in the planning. Give them lots of praise.
As far as school goes, try not to worry too much about your child losing academic or social skills. It’s likely there’s a lot they can learn at home. Encourage their love of learning and curiosity by following their interest outside of online school, particularly if they don’t like it. Don’t feel guilty about letting them choose not to follow a lesson. It’s okay to let them do some other learning activity instead, like reading.
One more thing to remember: Every parent snaps sometimes. Take the opportunity to model asking for forgiveness – it’s a life skill we all need.
Coping with anxiety, grief or depression
Our child psychologists have gathered several ways both parents and kids can ease coronavirus anxiety, including limiting coronavirus-related screen time and maintaining a healthy sleep and physical activity routine.
All of us are going to have good days and bad days. Allow your child the space to grieve everything they are missing: family gatherings, seeing friends, sports, milestones like graduations, vacations and anything else they’re missing. This is a good time to check in on your kids, especially teens, frequently. Try to spend some family time together having fun every day — even if it is for only five minutes.
Maintaining social connections and special occasions during the Coronavirus
It’s no fun missing someone you can’t go visit, whether they’re self-isolating or at-risk. Get creative with technology. Set up a video chat, or even have your kids draw a picture, write a letter or come up with fun activities to do during a call, like dance parties, story time, meals or games. Many gaming systems make it possible to enjoy entertainment together even if you’re not in the same room.
Online courier services can deliver a care package, or you can even just text an uplifting video. There’s also the option of an online-facilitated shared activity like a book club or yoga.
Parties are tough, which can be a bummer for kids celebrating birthdays. But you can still make a special dinner or dessert, decorate the house or do a fun activity as a family. A group video can make for a hilariously disorganized version of happy birthday. And if you do feel comfortable enough to host a birthday party, just be sure to mask up, social distance, wash hands, and if possible, keep it outdoors.
More where that came from
Our experts answer all kinds of parenting questions. There’s more on adjusting to the new normal of the pandemic, and much, much more of the latest coronavirus information. In fact, we even organize them by topic and age, and we’ll deliver them right to your inbox. It’s all free and as easy as signing up.