Family Challenges in the Age of the Coronavirus

A three-year-old boy is jumping on the couch while his parents are trying to work from home. He falls and breaks his arm.

A nine-year-old girl with learning disabilities is being taught at home. Her mother struggles to teach her without a special education plan.

A nineteen-year-old boy with severe anxiety had finally adapted to college and developed a close group of friends.  Back at home with his parents, he experiences mounting anxiety with sleep loss and panic attacks.

Across the country families are coping with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. While children are thankfully at lower risk of health impacts of this illness, they are experiencing a host of other physical and psychological effects as a result of the emergency.

As the pandemic unfolds, families and children are struggling to cope with great challenges. Here are some rays of hope within the cloud of coronavirus:

  1. Schedule activities with your child

Young children thrive in routine and predictability. As families struggle without childcare or school, a written daily schedule that includes one-on-one time for you and your child can help ease the stress.  For example, schedule 30 minutes to write a poem about what you see out the window, 60 minutes for a simple science experiment or 90 minutes to walk outdoors, collect interesting objects and make a collage. The expectation of this special time will help your child relax while you work and can result in memorable experiences.

2. Promote creative alternatives

Teenagers are missing significant opportunities and events.  Many of these are irreplaceable. But current limitations can promote creative thinking and flexibility.  What opportunities can be found that can replace the lost opportunity? Encourage your adolescent to find creative ways to express themselves within current constraints. It will not be the same, it likely will not be as good, but it can still be rewarding.  It may even be worth repeating.

3. Cook with your child

Parents are cooking most meals at home.  Use this as an opportunity to cook with your child.  Cooking involves measurements, math and creativity. Include meal preparation in your home education and you can make the family meals while teaching math and cooking skills. Virginia pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando created the excellent Dr. Yum Project to help families cook healthy, child friendly meals

4. Explore the nature outside your door

Our busy lives usually give us little time to get to know what is living and growing around us. What plants are growing in your neighborhood?  What birds are around? For activity ideas, check out The National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour Program or the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s great kids education resources

5. Reach out to relatives

Isolation can be particularly hard for elderly people who may live alone. Engage your child in reaching out to grandparents.  Schedule a time for your child’s grandparent to read a story by video, have a tea party or even help with schoolwork. This time can also help support a working parent. 

The sudden, dramatic changes we face will have lasting impacts on all of us.  Amidst the losses and pain we experience, glimmers of light can help us to see it through.