Stick to schedules. Children thrive with consistency and predictability, especially during times of stress and uncertainty. The more you are able to stick to their regular schedule and routine, the better.
Stick to family “rituals”, or create new ones. Here is a link to an article I wrote with some ideas about family routines and rituals.
Exercise – Any type of exercise is good for mental health. Exercise is particularly important during this time because children are not receiving their typical amount of daily movement, simply because they are not going to school and doing all of the walking and other movement that being in school provides. Dance. Run up and down the steps. Run around the house. Skip rope. Stretch. Have a plank contest. Make an obstacle course in the living room. You can use videos on the Internet for guidance and instruction regarding an exercise/stretching routine.
Get Outside – Every day, make a point to get outside and get fresh air.
Games and Entertainment – try going back to basic! Play cards, board games related to child’s age, such as Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Backgammon, Life, or Monopoly, if you have them.
Alone time – Children and adults may need time alone. Everyone has different temperaments, personalities, and levels of need for alone time.
Social Needs – as human beings, we are hard-wired to be social. Children receive much social benefit by being among peers at school. Some may experience a change in mental health related to the lack of face to face contact with friends. Utilize methods of connecting with video so that children are able to “see” friends’ faces. You could use Facetime, Zoom, Skype.
Mental Health – Some children may be experiencing difficulties coping with the disruption of daily life. Here are some apps related to mental health.
If a child is really struggling, you may wish to reach out to a mental health professional. Many are providing telehealth – services through video or phone. If you feel that your child needs help, don’t wait. You do not need to wait until the crisis is over. Many professionals are providing phone and video sessions/consultation/education with the understanding that these are difficult times. Here is an article I wrote regarding some guidance when to seek mental health services.
Here is a recent article I wrote regarding taking care of yourself and children emotionally and mentally during this crisis.
Make the Most of Family Dinners – with children’s activities and sports being canceled, this is freeing up time for families to have more meals together. Here are some simple suggestions for making the most out of this time.
Provide Comfort and Show Love – Children may not be showing a need for it or asking for it, but uncertain times can leave children feeling uneasy, increasing their need for outward demonstrations of comfort and love – even teenagers. Here are some simple ways to provide that.
Begin Early Spring Cleaning – you can use this unexpected time at home to get a head start on spring cleaning. Children can go through their bedrooms, play rooms, and drawers and make three collections: 1) what to keep, 2) what to donate, and 3) what to throw away
Engage in Arts and Crafts
Children may become bored during extended times at home. You can engage in some simple, novel activities. These are very simple, but if they are new, they will be novel and capture children’s interest.
Make home made play dough – here is a link to some playdough recipes that do not involve cooking, some that do involve cooking, and/or are edible!
Corn starch and water – use any large bowl or small plastic bin and mix cornstarch and water. Change the consistency by adding different amounts of water and cornstarch. Don’t be afraid to get messy! This cleans up really easily with water.
Water and dish soap – use any large bowl, plastic bin, or simply a clean sink. Child can play with just bubbles, or “wash” toys and dolls.
Any craft with repetitive motion – Crafts with repetitive motion are great for quieting the mind and inducing relaxation.