Hello again to my fellow parents!
If you are like me, you may be looking around the house and wondering, how can I keep my kids engaged during this summer break while still being safe considering COVID-19? I’m sure you can agree that the summer was a welcome break from the daily stressors of homeschooling efforts, however now that they are officially off, the question remains, what next? Most of us are still working during this period and want to find meaningful ways to engage our children that keeps them physically, intellectually and socially active. Many of my clients have asked me, what can I do to keep them from getting cabin fever while also keeping my sanity intact? While there is no magic answer, I have compiled a list of resources and ideas that you may find useful as you plan for the long weeks ahead. It is important to know that each of you will need to assess your family’s comfort level when deciding when and how to leave the home during this scary time and that no two families will adopt the same plan. What I find acceptable and safe may not feel right to you, and I want you each to honor these feelings and know that there is more than one way. I encourage you all to continue to follow safety protocols put out by your local governments, wear masks and socially distance whenever possible. With that being said, let’s take a few minutes to discuss a few central areas that we’ll want to target for your children this summer.
How Can I Keep My Kids Physically Active?
Being physically active is important to your child’s growing body, but additionally it is a perfect opportunity to help them burn off some energy. With many face-to-face summer camps cancelled and youth sports put on hold, it can be challenging to find ways to keep your kids moving. Here are a few ideas that might help
· Find socially distanced outdoor activities for fun family time. My girls and I take daily walks to get fresh air, sunshine and to stretch our legs. Make it a family event, an opportunity for you all to put down the technology and dedicate 15 minutes to being together.
· Have a picnic! Kids love to feel like they are going on an adventure and what better way than to find a quiet corner in your local park to lay down a blanket and eat. For a bonus, bring some yard toys along to encourage movement! Cornhole, frisbee, jump ropes, bubbles, the list of portable toys to add to your picnic fun is endless. Fun tip, if it’s hard finding time to pack a lunch, grab a pizza on your way there to cut down on the stress.
· Create a family workout routine. Now I understand this option may be limited to applicable ages, but for fun, I’ve included a few links to free resources that your kids may find engaging. With so many providers offering free access because of COVID-19, you can’t help but find something fun to do!
o Cosmic Kids Yoga https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga/videos (Tip: Yoga and mindfulness activities double as awesome mental health tools for reducing stress and anxiety)
o Just Dance and other movement video games are great ways to have fun while working out. If you don’t have access to them, you can stream using links like this https://www.youtube.com/user/justdancegame/videos
o YMCA Movement Videos offer an amazing list of free videos for both you and the kids, check out all of the fun things you can do together here https://ymca360.org/on-demand
How Can I Keep My Kids’ Brain Challenged?
I’m sure by now you are familiar with the summer slide that all teachers warn us parents about. It is the dreaded loss of critically gained knowledge from the year prior when our child’s brain is not adequately challenged during summer months. This year many of you may be concerned about the lack of learning that happened in the final three months of school. What better time to implement a summer learning routine that adds fun activities to keep the kids focused and learning. Here are a few free options that you can find the help you prevent the summer slide:
· Your local school system. BCPS has a new summer offering, The Summer Learning Hike which can be accessed using your child’s BCPSOne Login. Not a BCPS Family? Check out your child’s school system to see if they also offer a similar program.
· Apple Podcasts offers several relevant podcasts for you and your children to check out. (Tip: listen ahead of time to assess for age appropriate content)
· Audible through Amazon offers a selection of free audio books for children for a limited time in response to COVID-19 (Tip: Looking for a way to talk to your kids about Coronavirus? Check out Coronavirus: A Book for Children under the Elementary section) https://stories.audible.com/start-listen
· The Smithsonian is now offering an amazing collection of resources at all age levels including live webcasts that you can register for free! https://learninglab.si.edu/distancelearning
How Can I Keep My Kid Socially Active?
Keeping our kids socially active in a time of social distancing can almost feel like an oxymoron. How can we safely engage other individuals in meaningful ways while also keeping us safe from the virus? This may be the most challenging task for us to tackle and will truly be the area that will require a family by family assessment. At the same time, I feel it is one of the most important areas we need to address. Our children are facing a reality that nearly nobody alive has had to deal with and the stress, fear and uncertainty brought on by this virus and the subsequent quarantine and isolation means that they need a sense of normal in their lives more than ever. You may start to notice signs of increased stress and anxiety in your children due to the impact of COVID-19. If so, I encourage you to talk openly to your children about their fears and concerns, validate their feelings and offer them age appropriate information about the virus and the ways they can stay safe. If you find that they continue to struggle, reach out to one of our counselors here at B’Well Counseling Services. We have children’s counselors ready to help your child learn meaningful coping skills while offering a safe space to share their feelings.
If you are thinking of gathering with friends and family or attend small social activities, the CDC has put together a list of ways to keep yourself safe here:
Here are some takeaways that might help give you ideas:
· Host gatherings in small groups in an outdoor setting whenever possible. If you do choose to host indoors try to limit to one other family at a time. Adding a friend or two to your picnic is a great opportunity to connect with friends while maintaining a safe distance.
· Find a quarantine buddy for your child. As a parent who struggles to find safe activities for my children, we are trying to find a friend whose family is following a similar level of quarantine safety to visit with. I understand that this still offers some degree of risk and that not all families will be comfortable. You should use your best judgment and practice safe distance/wear masks while visiting. Always remember to check in before the visit and cancel if any member is feeling at all sick.
· Video time! I know we are all pretty tired of Zoom calls, Skype meetings and GoogleMeet classes but remember if you want to completely sequester your family you can still reach out to friends and family using your preferred video chat platform. Your kids might even get a kick out of hosting their own video call with friends to connect and play games. Remember to monitor use and make sure parents are available on the other end.
I hope that this list offers you a jumping off point as you start to plan out what your staycation will look like this summer. I wish you all health and peace as you navigate these uncharted waters and remember, we’re here if you need us.
Therapist Amber Gray helps children and teens grow through less- expected life transitions. To read more from Amber, visit the