Navigating Children's Stress in a Pandemic
No one can really understand grief until you are a parent going through the pandemic — the grief of not being able to experience certain milestones with your children and celebrate them. For many in this new school year, there won’t be a first-day-of-school picture in front of their classroom, there won’t be a new swing or play structure to play on, and many kid-friendly spots are shut down. Learning to navigate the new way school is conducted via distance learning and finding other activities that can keep kids engaged is key to survival.
Since most places that kept kids active are closed, we were on the hunt to fill in that gap. The key to parenting and setting yourself up for success during the pandemic is to plan ahead and really set apart what your priorities are. Being a parent of extroverted children can be challenging in navigating the pandemic. My 7-year-old son would ask, “When will COVID be over so we can go see all of my friends and have fun at the park?” All kids want to play, but those who tend to thrive on social interactions have been affected the most. Oftentimes, we adults look to ways we can cope with stress, like turning toward food or filling that void with screen time. Kids are the same way, and this whole pandemic has turned their world upside down.
Safe Spaces for Kids
When kids are so used to being engaged and having a full daily activity schedule, slowing down can be hard. Fortunately, we were able to find a few activities that stayed open for my 7-year-old to participate in during the summer. We as humans thrive on the connections we establish with our friends and community. Therefore, creating safe spaces where kids can interact can really make a huge difference.
You may have heard of “pandemic pods” or “social bubbles,” which is the new trend of 2020. The importance of these small bubbles can really make a positive impact on school-age kids who thrive in that social atmosphere. Let’s face it, elementary school is mostly all about the interactions.
Thus, it’s important to create a small circle of friends with kids of the same age with whom they can interact so they don’t lose that human connection. It’s always about that comfort level, so make sure that everyone is doing their part to keep safe. Creating social bubbles can really help save kids from feeling isolated or depressed.
Other ways to keep kids connected is through video chat, especially with friends whom they were used to seeing daily in school and can’t see in person now. We created a backyard oasis for the kids to play in, bought bikes for family bike rides, had family picnics, went to the lake, went for daily walks, let our 7-year-old climb trees safely, and tried to keep their childhood innocence as much as we could to protect them from the fear and anxiety that the pandemic has spread. Family movie nights became a staple, and cooking together became a tradition. We have definitely embraced the slowdown and enjoyed the quality time together. We are grateful for the family bond that we have created during these uncertain times.