Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Quarantine

You may not literally be quarantined, but a large percentage of the United States’ population is under some sort of lockdown order. With schools being closed, that means that kids are stuck at home all day long, with their parents. No afterschool activities, no sports, no eating out, no movies. Both parents and kids are feeling the negative effects of this. So… how to help your children cope with the “coronavirus quarantine”?

What follows is a crowd-sourced guide, a compilation of suggestions and stories from real moms who are dealing with quarantine life with grace and zest. Read and along and be inspired!

Begin by leading yourself well. This is easily the single most important thing you can do. Children pick up what parents are feeling and adjust their responses accordingly. So take the time and care for yourself well. Maintain a schedule and include time for selfcare and whatever you need to be as much a calm and joyful parent as is possible.

This mom gives a great example of how she leads herself well, and her kids at the same time. She says, My kiddos are 4 and 6. We homeschool and so it hasn’t affected that major part of our daily lives. I’ve been extra intentional about keeping them on schedule with that. Which first of all means keeping myself on schedule. So it may sound strange, but my basic strategy has been keeping myself on track. Leading the way so they can follow. This includes knowing what I need in order to stay on track. If that’s getting up half an hour earlier than normal so I have a longer space of time to process alone I do that. If it’s a run out the lane, then I make sure I get that in. Even if it means taking them along.

Kiddos are resilient and great followers. So if I create an atmosphere where I’m handling it well, they’ll follow. We play lots of worship music here. And if I’m having a particularly rough day I adjust and do what we need to…watch a Little House on the Prairie show…play in the stream…send them outdoors for a few minutes while I collect my bearings if I need that.

We are all a team. And one of our core values as a team is honesty. So we’ve been honest about what’s happening and why there’s a quarantine and we need to stay home more etc. If I’m honest with myself and my husband where I am, it in turn opens the door up for them to be honest about what’s been hard for them. They miss homeschool co-op and their little friends. We talk about it, process it and then they move on easily for the most part. If they have trouble moving on, which at their age isn’t too often, then we sit down and come up with a focus plan to help us move through it.

I’ve tried to keep lots of additives to a minimum. Mostly because I want my kiddos to know we are resilient together and don’t need to depend on a lot of abnormal fun additives to get through difficult things. We’ll face it and walk it out well together.

I couldn’t have said it as well myself. And she addresses one of the next big things as well.

“What to do?” may be the most frequent question.

Here is one grandmother’s report on a successful strategy to combat boredom.

My daughter made a “bucket list” as my granddaughter excitedly told me! They put notes in a cup and every day they pick one. And do what it says. When I asked her about it, she was so excited that she could hardly talk slow enough. They will roast marshmallows one day. They write a letter. A few of those notes are there. They will have banana splits for dessert one day. They will play games, put puzzles together etc.

And from a vivacious young mother of toddlers comes this bit of wisdom and a list of activities for her 2.5 and 1 year-old sons:

It’s a daily logistical conundrum to parent, manage my home, and find my own refill time, so I love finding activities that keep them happily and independently busy in the same room with me. Here are some of their currently favorite things to do:

Older toddler:

💙 play-doh with fun tools

💙 trains with wooden tracks

💙 coloring book with crayons

💙 toy fishing pole with magnetic fish

💙 stuffed animals + cardboard house

💙 farm animal and toy barn

💙 pouring containers and water play at the kitchen sink

💙 vacuuming 😄

💙 jumping on couch or onto a pile of pillows

💙 magnetic drawing tablet

💙 building blocks

💙 romping around with little bro

💙 …and no time like the present for potty training!

Younger toddler:

💚 balls

💚 caps and bottles

💚 textured books

💚 also vacuuming 💓

💚 rough play

💚 small objects + container

Which brings us to a great principle to keep in mind during this time (and any time, really!). After sharing a story of a trip to a blackberry patch and how she hesitated to spend the money on it, until she realized that the trip was an investment that cost no more than a field trip would have, she said this. Don’t be afraid to invest in the creative, hands on things for your children…. (instead of the field trip/vacation) don’t be afraid to invest a little that will give hours of creativity.

Depending on your current job situation, that investment may not be money. It may be time and creativity, using objects and supplies already in your home. Check the trash bins and attic spaces and think creatively about what you find.

Several others talk about how to combat fear.

From a mom with 2 young children: Talk to them about it plainly. I tell them there are things they can do to stay safe and instruct them on hand washing.

From a mom with a large family: I really like for my children to know what’s going on in the world, but not from the news, from me, so I can color it the way I need to before they see it.

I like them to learn respect for people who are careful, but not be scared of it themselves.

I like for them to think about people who are stuck at home and don’t have big families to quarantine with and write letters.

She then adds some basic commonsense healthy routines: I make sure they get to go outside and play for hours, barefoot in the sun.

Faith plays a big part in how parents deal with their own and their children’s fears. This mom says: We have very openly and plainly discussed the world happenings with them since the beginning. More in depth with the older ones. We have guarded hard against fear. We make it a point to sit in the living room nearly every day and ask them what they are feeling. Missing friends is a very real thing with all social things being canceled. So, we arrange Group FaceTime chats with their friends sometimes. Communication with them is important. Also, God has prompted me to be more sensitive to their feelings. Particularly my 12 yea- old who is a feeler and a social person.

Healthy routines are important to promote positive coping. I love this next story, from a mom who has learned to value health very highly.

I invite them often to make fun and yummy things in the kitchen with me, French toast and brownies and pizza (all mostly clean, organic and healthy-ish, offset with lots of fruits n veggies). I also let them use my paints as I practice art, they often get inspired to sit down and draw and paint, too. They help with cleaning and laundry, splitting kindling, stacking the wood, caring for the chickens. We watch documentaries and shows together as a family, and they spend a lot of time outside as usual, which I think is essential to the immune system. We have more than our share of sunshine ☀️ here (about 300 days a year!) and we live almost 7,000’ above sea level on a high mountain desert which means our air is very fresh and clean, although not as oxygen-rich.

Since my ordeal with cancer 6 years ago, I’ve cleaned up our diet, reduced the toxic burden in our home, and various preventative wellness things on a regular basis. (Elderberry syrup, local honey ?, zinc, iodine, homemade soaps and body products, cleaners etc…)

They know about the virus, my husband shows them statistics and graphs online. They don’t seem scared, and my youngest son (6) has repeatedly thanked God for keeping us healthy during this time at our mealtime prayer.

Use this opportunity to teach (or reinforce) some basic life skills. One friend shared that they are working on this for their son. We talk about the coronavirus, around our son, in a factual way, not fearful. We are working with him to learn to wash his hands much more often, and using SOAP!

Bottom line: Keep life as normal as possible and lead yourself well. Make the best of things and use this opportunity to build happy memories as a family and to reinforce healthy habits for all family members.