Engaging Children during Pandemic
Written by: Dr. Ravneet Dhaliwal
Children of all ages need social interactions to meet their milestones and social development. Kids have taken the brunt of the pandemic with a dramatic shift towards isolation, with some staying home with parents who are technically working during the day and others that are going to daycares while parents that are essential workers are going to work. Long story short, it has been a challenge for most!
Understanding science and the spread of the virus helps coming up with some safe alternatives to keep our children engaged socially and emotionally. We all know by now that COVID-19 spreads with interacting with someone within 6 feet for a longer period. It’s a people’s virus, it loves crowds and parties! Hopefully we are at the last stretch of the pandemic and that makes it even more important to keep hunkering down.
On the brighter side (Yes! There is a brighter side!), some parents are home more to spend time with their children. I am going to discuss a few positive things to do with our children to help maintain their light when things seem dim.
Being around doesn’t mean being engaged
Going back to our brighter side of staying home, I want to make one thing clear that being home is not equivalent to engaging with your child. Children of almost all ages need that one-on-one interaction without distractions. It is helpful to have that time set for each child on your calendar. Parents can take turns too! That uninterrupted time with a parent is so meaningful and electrifying for their little brains! Acknowledging and addressing their concerns and worry about the pandemic in an affirmative, positive manner is very important - remember they are what we teach them.
Shared activities around the house, giving kids ownership
Children love being in charge! Assigning chores at home such as laying the dinner table every night, discussing weekly dinner menus with them, sharing reading time at home, music/dancing/singing time on certain or daily evening time. Routine is what children thrive upon, although they will not verbalize this themselves. Engagements obviously vary from age to age, and small, easy-to-do activities goes a long way for children’s brain stimulation, for instance peek-a-boo is a great stimulator for toddlers! Yes, so easy! But it really helps their brain sparkle! Having weekend “travelling” plans to another room or basement or “camping” out in a part of the house is also something children will look forward to for the weekend. Removing ourselves from our smartphones, computers, and assignments after a certain time in the evening to fully engage with our children is important.
Finding alternative ways to socializing
Playdates are still possible. Asking about extended family’s social interactions and doing small meetings outside are meaningful ways to keep your child socializing safely. Fun reminders to mask up when possible is key!
Exercise is so important; as we as healthcare providers already have been seeing a slight increase in obesity in children since pandemic started due to being sedentary and snacking at home. Bundling up and going outside during the afternoons or just putting their favorite music on for them to shake their little bodies can be helpful in keeping them moving! Sport activities have been on and off during the pandemic, but are still safe with the correct precautions. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has many diagrams to modify sports so children can continue to remain engaged and healthy.
Prioritizing mental health
Last bu certainly not least, I want to emphasize that children’s mental health is very important and surprisingly it does not take much to keep them engaged. They bounce back much more efficiently and quickly than adults most times, so focus on keeping them engaged during this time and speaking to them with positive affirmations to elevate their mood.