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Social Distancing for Children

Considering recent events, I could imagine that it must be an unnerving time to be a child having to try to understand pandemics and social distancing. Let's keep in mind, the minds of children are like sponges and are capable of plenty of information about their surroundings. For children, I think it's helpful to phrase 'social distancing' as 'physical distancing' or even describing it as a requirement of more personal space.

They can still be social, just in different ways. Teach them to think differently and creatively, not harder. In this day and age, children are masters of technology, which allows them to continue communicating, laughing, being creative, and problem solving with their peers. Between FaceTime, Snapchat, Netflix Party, TikTok, and an abundance of online gaming (all in moderation and perhaps some supervision), the options are endless. Teach them that the whole world is working together to help each other be safe and healthy, while keeping in mind the reality that people are getting sick. Having your children sing the chorus to their favourite song while handwashing will help them to understand the ways they can prevent becoming sick.

No matter what you decide to take part in that day, keep it simple. Simple rules, simple structure. Remember that their world just got turned upside down. No school, no playdates, and a lot more restrictions that they might not understand. You might see some maladaptive behaviors. It's their way of figuring things out. Just be present with them and hear them out. Do check-ins with them and find creative ways to help them express what they are thinking or feeling. There are so many helpful books about emotions that can help you create dialogue. Have your children be an active participant in helping with keeping their items clean by helping to wash their toys in a warm bin of soapy water, introducing sensory play while killing germs at the same time. Even after baking, give them some dishes to wash. It teaches responsibility and gives them the confidence that being inside their home is in fact a safe place and they are contributing towards.

I'd imagine they miss their sleepovers and playground dates, or visits with grandparents. If technology is not for you, have them compile letters or an art portfolio to share with friends and family members once they can revisit. Give your child a cooking challenge, do some family board games, or science activities. They share these experiences with the class when they return.

Yes, you might have to monitor the social distancing as it can be quite tempting for some children or youth, and may be hard for them to take this seriously. Ensure they remain virtually connected to others who comply and make the best of this difficult situation. Perhaps you can set up a virtual baking day or talent show with another family. Try out Cosmic Kids Yoga together on YouTube. Everyone could use some down time especially amongst the chaos these days. As little as they may want to hear about it, remind them of the importance of checking into educational websites. Scholastic has Learn at Home Day-by-Day projects, and PBS Teachers has various lesson plans and activities. Starfall is also great – it is an app with interactive activities and games.

Just remember – love, health, comfort, communication, and mental well-being are most important. Don't feel bad if you haven't been able to do some educational lesson plans with them. On the other side, let them come up with how they can spend their time, even if it means slowing life down and relaxing. Give them time to make sense of their temporary new world and let them take some control over this new situation.

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