Over the coming weeks and months, your family will likely need to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While social distancing can look a little different for everyone, depending on your circumstances, this generally means cancelling large events, avoiding public places except for necessities, and protecting people at high risk of infection.
If your family has never needed to socially isolate before, it can be tough and maybe even confusing. Here are a few tips to help your family practice social distancing as comfortably and safely as possible.
1. Maintain a daily routine and healthy lifestyle.
Most likely, your family’s lives will look a lot different than normal while socially isolating. Establish a new routine early on to help your children adjust to these changes and keep the new situation from overwhelming them. You might, for example, always do homework in the morning and chores in the afternoon.
Also, continue to practice healthy habits with your children. Besides washing your hands and avoiding people who are sick, getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water can help your family feel their best while staying home.
2. Follow good distancing and hygiene habits when you are in public.
If you have to go out in public for groceries or other necessities, stay at least six feet apart from other people and wash your hands regularly. Also, avoid crowded places as much as you can. Most U.S. cities have cancelled events or closed large gathering places, but even if yours are still open, it’s best to be cautions.
3. Spend time outdoors as much as possible.
Although it’s wise to stay away from community spaces like playgrounds or pools, spending time outdoors can actually be a great way to stay healthy and avoid feeling claustrophobic while you distance your family. The key is to stay six feet apart from other people, even while outdoors. This still leaves plenty of room for hikes, bike rides, or any other activities that help your family connect with nature.
4. Stay virtually connected with people you can’t visit in person.
Right now, experts recommend that families limit playdates and events with extended family until the crisis is over. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can no longer communicate with them. Utilize digital communication as much as possible to keep kids socially connected with friends and family. You could, for example, schedule a video call with grandparents or encourage your children to text or message classmates they miss.
5. To avoid cabin fever, keep your child’s mind and body active.
No school might seem like a great thing to kids at first but, as the weeks pass, your child might feel bored or restless. Providing your child with plenty of mental, emotional, and physical stimulation can help prevent this. Make sure your child continues to do their schoolwork and exercises each day. For social activities, try playing board games as a family or writing to a friend.
6. Take additional precautions for at-risk family members.
While COVID-19 doesn’t seem to affect children or young adults as much, other groups such as elderly people, pregnant women, or those with underlying illnesses (like heart or lung disease) are at risk for severe symptoms if they get the virus.
If you have family members in your home who fit this criteria of greater risk, limit your family’s time in public as much as you can. Although unfortunate, the CDC also recommends not visiting relatives in assisted living or nursing homes for the time being because they are so vulnerable to infection.
7. Watch for and address negative coping mechanisms.
Some children may have a harder time than others while socially isolating. They might withdraw from others, lash out at family members, or turn to other harmful ways to cope with what’s going on. Recognize and discuss the pain behind what your child is feeling, and help them find positive ways to cope instead.
- American Psychological Association. Keeping Your Distance to Stay Safe. Retrieved from apa.org: https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-distancing.
- Partners in Health. 10 Mental Health Tips for Coronavirus Social Distancing. Retrieved from pih.org: https://www.pih.org/article/10-mental-health-tips-coronavirus-social-distancing.
- Safety and Health Magazine. COVID-19 pandemic: Tips to remain ‘sane and safe’ during social distancing. Retrieved from safetyandhealthmagazine.com: https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/19578-covid-19-pandemic-tips-to-remain-sane-and-safe-during-social-distancing.
- Miller, J.D. Coronavirus (COVID-19): Social Distancing With Children. Retrieved from kidshealth.org: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/coronavirus-social-distancing.html.
- Public Health Department: Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System. Information About Social Distancing. Retrieved from cidrap.umm.edu: www.cidrap.umn.edu/sites/default/files/public/php/185/185_factsheet_social_distancing.pdf
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- Flanagan, L. Tips for Managing the Stress of Social Distancing as a Family. Retrieved from kqed.org: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/55550/tips-for-managing-the-stress-of-social-distancing-as-a-family
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Are You at Higher Risk for Severe Illness? Retrieved from cdc.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Long-term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes. Retrieved from cdc.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/prevent-spread-in-long-term-care-facilities.html.