Kids and Quarantine: A Few Thoughts for Parents

We are at the beginning of what could be a very long period of one of the strangest times in our shared history. We are fighting an invisible enemy with no end in sight, and dealing with uncertainty, confusion, and an overwhelming amount of information. So many families are home now with young children, trying to balance school closures, cancelations, work obligations, and a million stressors in between. For what it’s worth, and at the risk of getting lost in the shuffle, here’s our two cents about parenting during a Covid-19 quarantine.

Routines and Schedules are Still Important

Kids need order amid chaos. They need structure, routine, and schedules, but that doesn’t mean that every minute of your day needs to be allocated to some enrichment activity or another. We have a long haul ahead of us. It’s unrealistic to expect to maintain a colorful “schedule of the day” that you found on Pinterest – especially for weeks at a time. There’s a lot of talk on social media right now about homeschooling; don’t feel like you’re under some parental obligation to duplicate your child’s school experience at home. You can’t and no one is expecting you to.

Young children get through the day in blocks of time: morning, lunch, nap, afternoon, dinner, bed. Keep those times consistent and reliable. This is not a vacation or an extra long weekend; it’s a new normal with an unknown end date.  You get to decide what that new normal schedule looks like.

Our advice? Keep the basics consistent: wake-up time, meals, nap / quiet time, and bedtime. The details are flexible, but the structure stays the same. Take it day by day, chunk by chunk. This, too, shall pass.

Be Mindful of Your Words 

Your children are listening to everything. Every news briefing that plays in the background, every Facebook post you read out loud to your spouse, and every phone call, FaceTime chat, and conversation with the neighbors. Your kids are trying to figure out what is going on, so keep your explanations simple and age-appropriate. 

  • Focus on language that expresses concern for others, personal responsibility to the greater community, and service. 
  • Turn off the news around children and keep adult conversations private.  
  • This is no one’s fault. Avoid words like “we’re not allowed to” or “we can’t.” Instead, focus on how your actions, as a family, are helping keep others safe. Be the helper, not the victim.
  • Answer the question you’re asked. There’s no need for longer explanations when kids are little. They don’t need all the details. Use small explanations, in small amounts.

“Why is school closed?” Because everyone is being asked to stay home for a while. 

“But, why?” You know how germs make people sick? Well, there are germs right now that are making some people sick and, if we stay home, it makes it hard for the germs to spread around. 

“But why do we have to stay home?” Because we don’t want to accidentally get someone else sick. We’re healthy and can help others stay healthy by doing our part and staying home.

“But I want to go to school.” I know you do. And you will, I just don’t know when. We’ll go back as soon as it’s okay for everyone to do that.

Keep it Simple

You don’t have to “homeschool” your three-year old. Your four-year old will be fine. Your kindergartener will, too. In the grand scheme of things, these next few weeks (months?) are a blip in their lives. Focus on what’s important: their sense of safety and security, and your sanity. Keep it simple, let them have fun, and don’t strive for perfection.

Read together as a family, build a pillow fort, bake cookies, take art supplies outside, and go for a walk. Just don’t do it all on the same day! Pace yourself. There are a million resources out there for online activities. Bookmark the ones that sound interesting and get back to them later. You have time. Plenty of time.

You also have our permission to plop your kids in front of the TV so you can get some work done. They’ll survive. Kids are resilient (and, psst! so are you.) You’ve got this!

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