The coronavirus has taken a turn no one expected. Before we were thinking about precautions we should take and now the entire San Francisco Bay Area is under quarantine for at least 3 weeks. This means 3 weeks of no school and 3 weeks of the kids at home. Many parents are starting to panic. They may not be able to go to work, but many people are being asked to work from home. So how do you work from home and cope with kids who are going to be very bored? In some ways it sounds like a horror movie, but it’s not. This is our reality.
The first thing to do is not to panic. If you panic it’s going to make it harder to make rational choices to get through the quarantine. Also if you panic you children will feel anxious and insecure and will be more likely to act out. It’s important to remember that you are all in this together and you will need to get through this together.
The first thing to do is to sit down with your children and discuss the situation. Reassure your children you are taking all necessary precautions to keep them safe and that children tend not to catch this virus. Explain that the doctors have decided to have this quarantine as away to get control of the virus so that more people do not get sick. It is important to explain this calmly so your children will remain calm. They will be watching you as a way to gauge the situation. If you are panicked and anxious, they are more likely to be anxious. If you are calm, they are more likely to be calm and not over react.
The next thing I recommend is a family meeting to discuss the new house rules during the quarantine. Explain it will be important to keep a schedule because the quarantine will end and they will be returning to school. Also some schools may have sent homework home or they may be having classes online. Therefore, they need time to do their homework. However, point out that you can use some of the time to have fun. You can have a family game night, a family movie night and other things that you may decide to do. Try not to have the news on a lot because most news stations are running stories about the virus 24/7 and this can provoke anxiety for children and adults.
As for IPads, texting and time online, this would be a good time to renegotiate your standard rules. Typically an hour a day is what is recommended. However, given the fact children and teenagers will not be able to see friends at school or go out with friends on the weekends, allowing more screen time would be appropriate. This can also help them cope with the quarantine by being able to maintain contact with friends. However, it is a good idea to checkin with your children about what their friends are saying about the virus. This way you can correct misinformation that your children may be hearing from their friends. Remind them their friends do not have all the answers and if they have questions or concerns regarding the virus to ask you.
As for a schedule, set a time for everyone to wake up, get dressed and have breakfast. It doesn’t need to be at 7 am, but I would suggest no later than 9am. After breakfast have everyone do something related to school. If the school has assigned work or having work online this would be a prefect time to do their assigned work. If their is no assigned work have them read a book or use their IPad or laptop to long on to a site that has school work. There are many sites devoted to learning. Your school website may have some posted or local news station such ABC7 are posting the sites on their websites.
After a couple hours of work take a break for lunch. After lunch, if the weather permits have your children spend some time in the backyard getting some fresh air and playing a game for exercise. After they have spent some time outside have them return to their school work. Around 3pm let them stop their school work and use their electronics to play and keep in touch with their friends.
When it’s getting to be dinner time have the entire family participate in preparing dinner and have dinner together as a family. Take the time to catch up with your children and teenagers about what is going on in their lives. Also take this time to decide on an after dinner activity such as a game, a movie or if there is a certain television show everyone likes to watch. Again this can be good family bonding time and can help you when the quarantine ends. If your teenagers find out spending time and talking to their parents is not torture, they are more likely to continue talking with you after the quarantine.
Again, since the quarantine is not forever and children and teenagers will be returning to school after the quarantine, set a bedtime for children and teenagers. It should be age appropriate, but make it slightly later than when school is in session. This will help your children are teenagers not resist the quarantine so much if they are getting some benefits from it. They may be small benefits but any will help. Also I would suggest allowing an hour after family game time for teenagers to be able to text friends and wrap up their day.
The quarantine is going to be stressful on everyone but if you remember you are in it together as a family, it can help you with the stressful times. In addition to settling a schedule, if you have neighbors who are elderly or family friends who are elderly, volunteer to help them with shopping or just stop by to check on them and see if they need anything. By helping others it helps you not to feel so sorry for yourself and to appreciate what you do have in your life.
The choice is yours, you can look at the quarantine as a disaster and feel like you are being tortured for the next three weeks or you can look at it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your children and teenagers. By trying to strengthen your relationship with your children and teenagers during the quarantine, when the quarantine ends you may have a better relationship with your children and teenagers. You may find out that strengthening your relationship with your family was worth all the difficulties created by the quarantine.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his facebook.com http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3