Self care ideas for children include dos and don’ts for conversations, activities and easing fears during isolation

Self care ideas for children in isolation are just as important as self care tips for adults during this time of separation and uncertainty. Cheryl Clunk, Director of Family & Youth Services at Harvest House attended a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training, Supporting the Emotional Needs of Children and Youth during COVID-19 Pandemic, with Dr. Meghan Walls. From this and her personal and professional experience, she developed a list of tips for parents and caregivers to make these times a little bit easier for everyone. NAMI recommendations include finding as many ways possible to stay connected while keeping physical distance and finding activities around the house that encourage interaction, rather than watching screens all day. People need people. Social and physical isolation can lead to or exacerbate various mental health issues.

Emotional self care for children

  • Do not participate in the “Suffering Olympics” – there is no need to compare negative stories and try to outdo others. Celebrate positive things that are taking place as a result of these difficult times.
  • Talk openly and honestly about the virus, quarantine, and other aspects of what is happening, but at their appropriate age level. Don’t share more than they can handle for their age. Generally, if they can ask questions about something, they are ready for a simple and true answer.
  • Keep routines as “normal” as possible. It helps everyone to feel better.
    • Sleep schedules – set alarms
    • Meal schedules – eat as usual and try not to eat more or skip meals
    • Get showered and dressed as usual – it’s not good to stay in pajamas every day
    • Continue chores and home expectations
  • Keep realistic expectations of yourself and your children, especially in regards to schooling. Don’t try to be a superhero or push your kids beyond their limits. Take breaks when you and they need them.

Self care ideas for keeping active and engaged

  • Do relaxing activities together as a family:
    • Mediation – muscle relaxation – guided imagery – deep breathing
    • Art, music, dance, writing, etc. – expressive activities
    • Exercise – go for a walk as a family – get outside
    • Make family calls together to friends and relatives (include your children’s friends – coordinate with other parents of sports teams, church groups, neighborhood friends, etc.)
  • Plan activities you all enjoy such as games, reading, puzzles, arts and crafts, etc. Don’t depend on screen time all day and night – it’s too much and can lead to depression and vision problems.
  • Parents should model good behavior and get dressed, shut off the tv, follow a daily schedule.
  • Keep family rules as much the same as possible. Don’t give in to the temptation to relax the rules. Kids need and expect boundaries. It can stress children to see that things are “not normal” and it will be very difficult to regain structure in the home after this crisis ends if you let chaos take over.
  • Do things with your children that help them to serve others and reach out to take the focus off of thinking only about ourselves in this crisis. Write letters to people confined in nursing homes, bake cookies for essential workers, create positive signs to post in your yard for people to see when driving by, call people who you know live alone, etc.
  • If your child is struggling with schoolwork, communicate with teachers for adaptations. If your child does not do well with too much screen time, print out the work so they can write on paper instead or ask teachers if you can pick up printed materials or books for your child to complete the work.
  • Kids with ADD/ADHD NEED to have physical movement. Get outside if possible and keep their minds active indoors with blocks, activity kits, props for dramatic play, etc.
  • Make sure teenagers are getting enough time for social connections. Social life is “everything” when you’re a teenager. This is a good place for flexibility with rules about phone or social media time because they are not getting face to face time in person.
  • Many college students that are now home are not shifting out of Spring Break season because they don’t see the point. Reach out for help if you see signs of depression. Help your child discuss anger, frustrations, and fears. Help them to focus on what they want for their future and how they think they will get there – then encourage them to take steps in that direction like getting a job, working on studies, reading books from their field of interest, setting goals for the next school year.
  • Visit the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website for more information if your child has a mental health diagnosis or you believe shows signs of mental health symptoms. They offer a Basics class OnDemand that is FREE at https://www.nami.org/Videos/NAMI-Basics-OnDemand. Parents can learn about mental health conditions, gain support from other parents, learn how to advocate for your child, get tools to help your child succeed, and more.

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