Social distancing with kids at home takes the challenge to an even higher level! Take the adjustments you're making as an adult and multiply that by at least ten! But your offspring are still depending on you and are taking lots of cues from how you behave as well. It's simply not reasonable that children, of any age, can figure out how to cope with this new reality on their own. Positive and constructive parenting counts more now than it would under "normal" circumstances!
Here are some age-specific observations and tips for dealing with them:
For preschoolers -- You may witness fear of being alone, bad dreams, speech difficulties and in extreme cases, bed wetting, a change in appetite or even temper tantrums. Being patient and tolerant really matters. And be sure to provide them with continuous reassurance. Like the rest of us, the little ones are creatures of habit, so be sure to maintain a routine that conveys security and certainty. At bedtime, make an extra effort to calm them down--lullabies and stories with happy endings still work!
For grade-schoolers (ages 6-12) -- You may see similar behaviors as those in preschoolers but with much more intensity. The desire for your attention can become urgent. On the other hand, you may witness a pattern of withdrawal, including an escape to gaming non-stop. It's important that you stay connected to them--don't hesitate to have a two-way discussion about what's going on and to seek out their opinions and observations about this current reality.
For adolescents (ages 13-18) -- The big issue here is that they are physically cut off from their peers. Expect them to get a little "cranky" about this forced separation and encourage them to stay connected with their friends through social channels, texting, etc. Don't let them get overloaded with media exposure, but feel free to discuss the events of the day with them. Unlike younger children who will likely be drawn to you, teenagers are likely to pull away. Give them their own space, but don't let them get isolated from the rest of the family.
If there's a silver lining for what we're all going through, it's the opportunity to draw our respective families closer together than ever before. But we have to work at it. Everyone staying in their own part of the house for hours on end needs to be avoided. Plan on having some structured family activities, and by all means, have the family sit down for meals together!
Better Health Advisors is pulling for you to make the best out of this challenging and disruptive time in all of our lives!