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Coronavirus: staying home advice for parents and children

With the coronavirus pandemic here, parents have been keeping their distance while sending me questions about how stressful social distancing their children from other children can be for families who are now spending so much time together confined to their living space. Let me see if I can infect a more positive spin into staying at home with your children.

A unique opportunity for positive family time

Being with your children for prolonged periods of time, especially if you are an out-of-the house working parent, is an opportunity for some great family time. To make it fun and enjoyable for all, build in predictability as to how the day goes, by designing a regular schedule of daily activities that will keep everyone engaged and busy.

If you have older children, have them help you design that schedule, perhaps modeling it after their school day. When your children are scheduled for school work or your young ones are napping, you can use that time to catch up on your own work, but make sure you also build into that schedule time for both of you to take breaks, snacks, and lunch together. Build in exercise time, play time, and even enjoy some outside time together — just not with other children and families.

When you come in from outside, set up a video chat with your children’s friends or family members to keep social communication lines open. At night, have a device-free family dinner where your children can share their concerns or fears about coronavirus, and you can take the time to answer their questions honestly and openly. You can follow this with some family reading time, playing a game or watching a movie together.

The importance of staying calm

The important thing for parents is to stay calm around your kids, and your kids will, in turn, stay calmer around you. If you stress, they’ll stress. Build that regular schedule into the day, maintain social distancing with others outside the home to prevent spread of the virus, and help your children gain added control of the situation. Teach them to be a part of the solution to prevent spread through their own good handwashing and coughing into their sleeves or elbows instead of their hands.

We will get through this together and eliminate this virus. And while we do this, you and your children can enjoy high-quality family time, time your children and you will cherish and remember, long after this virus has disappeared.

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Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5.

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