Happy father and son using laptop at home

By Erika Jones

CARE of Southeastern Michigan shares how to keep you and your children active and stress-free during the coronavirus.

Erika Jones
Erika Jones

As we find our balance in our new normal, while sheltering in place, parents and caregivers are presented with new challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We have become full-time educators, playmates and referees. We are also providing guidance and support through anxiety and boredom. Today, we are our children’s everything — more so than ever.

As parents, we want to make sure our sons and daughters remain happy, educated and, most importantly, not isolated from the life they knew pre-pandemic. As a mom, I always find it helpful to share resources and tips to help others, especially during times of hardships and unknowns.

These tips are not just mine, but also those of the experienced educators I work with at the nonprofit CARE of Southeastern Michigan. They have helped me with my 7-year-old, and I hope you find them helpful too.

CARE’s Helpful Tips:

Set a routine: Keeping a daily schedule helps children understand the expectations of them, and it will help you keep on track, especially while school is in session at home. The predictability of your home routine will help children and teens feel safe and secure. Remember to incorporate fun into the day. This can include “gym time” outside by going for a bike ride after lunch.

Be consistent: Establish consistent boundaries/guidelines and expectations for your children — no matter their age. Having a clear and consistent response among parents each time helps children be in control of their behaviors and feel calmer overall. Practice at home: Set a time each day where screen time (phones, television, tablets and computer) is allowed, and for the rest of the day those items are turned off and put away. Create family rules, write them out together and post them in a wall or refrigerator. Share consequences if rules are not followed.

Stay active: Be active with your children as part of your routine. Keeping children and yourself active will reduce boredom, fatigue and stress at home. Create an outdoor scavenger hunt, go bike riding or go on a nature walk — of course staying 6 feet away from others.

Keep it positive: Children thrive on positivity and, at times, being home all day can be so stressful, but try and maintain positive responses. Expressing positive responses when

talking to your children will help them feel more secure and will strengthen your relationship with them. Try saying, “It is time to clean up; make sure your bike is put away!” rather than “Let’s go! Clean up!”

Validate feelings: When your child shares how they feel, let them know it is OK and their feelings matter. Hearing from a parent that their feelings are OK helps children to develop a secure sense of self and feel more connected to their parents.

Be flexible: Things may not go as planned, and that is OK. You may have created a routine with your children and missed a few things. It is more important to be adaptable to what the day brings and find success in what your family did accomplish.

Incorporate literacy: Literacy can look very different at different stages of development. And it doesn’t always mean reading books. For young children, simply talking to them is building literacy skills. For older children, reading aloud or on their own and talking about what they read are great ways to connect with them and encourage reading.

Reduce boredom: Look online, as many organizations are sharing resources to keep children busy. For example, Detroit Public TV offers activities for children at every age.

Be gentle with yourself: This is a challenging time for most people. As parents, we sometimes are so focused on taking care of our children that we forget to take care of ourselves. Make self-care a priority, whether it is journaling, connecting with nature, exercising or simply breathing exercises. It is crucial to practice self-care for ourselves and model it for our children. If you need additional help, or would like to talk to someone more in-depth about parenting or mental health, visit careofsem.com. We are here to help. Together, we CARE!

Erika Jones is the chief development officer at CARE of Southeastern Michigan, which provides professional and emotional support services to those seeking to enhance their lives.

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