Stay at Home Kids: What Parents Can Do
March 25, 2020
Stress levels are rising with each day that passes during this COVID-19 pandemic. While we may be used to handling our own daily stresses, everything seems elevated with concerns about coronavirus and what to do for our kids now that they’re spending more time at home.
First and foremost, it’s important for all of us to remain as healthy as we can. The best thing we can do for our kids is to take care of ourselves. Some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for parents include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Look for one that is 60 percent or higher alcohol-based.
- Take care of your body. Keep to regular routines and eat good food.
- Aerobic exercise daily is an excellent way to manage stress. Exercise will help with sleep onset.
- Limit alcohol and avoid sleeping pills and other drugs. However, if appropriate, make sure you have a good supply of prescription psychiatric medication.
- Take walks outside and breathe deeply. Stretching, formal yoga or meditation will help your feel healthy and focused.
- Limit exposure to the news of the pandemic. The 24-hour news cycle can be very upsetting.
- Connect with others. Reach out through social media and apps such as FaceTime or even a simple phone call to share your feelings.
For our kids, the AAP recommends the following:
- Keep your kids away from others who are sick or keep them home if they are ill. During school closure, limit play-dates, sleepovers and, for adolescents, just hanging out with friends.
- Teach kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue (make sure to throw it away after each use!) or to cough and sneeze into their arm or elbow, not their hands.
- Clean and disinfect your home as usual using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes, particularly high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, toilet handles and TV remotes.
- Avoid touching your face; teach your children to do the same.
- Avoid travel to highly infected areas. Stay home as much as you can and take particular care visiting grandparents and other family members who may be at higher risk.
While school remains closed, try to keep a routine for your children. The AAP recommends:
- Read books with your child. It's not only fun, but reading together strengthens your bond with your child AND helps their development.
- Make time for active play. Bring out the blocks, balls, jump ropes and buckets and let the creativity go. Play games that kids of all ages can play, like tag or duck duck goose. Let your kids make up new games. Encourage older kids to make up a workout or dance to keep them moving.
- Keep an eye on media time. Whenever possible, play video games or go online with your child to keep that time structured and limited. If kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats to stay in touch.
Try to remember that everyone, even children, will have elevated stress during this unusual time in our country’s history. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Douglas Fleck, MD, is a pediatrician at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital has the region’s largest coordinated network of pediatric primary care providers, committed to delivering the very best care to children of all ages. Learn more about pediatric primary care at UH Rainbow Babies.