I think it is safe to say that 2020 has been quite a unique year for all of us, and we are only halfway through the year. EEK! I think it’s even more safe to say that quarantine has definitely affected us all, whether you were quarantined alone, with family, with kids, etc.
But today, I really want to focus on how quarantine has affected our little ones and how we can help them assimilate them back to this new normal after quarantine.
As a mother to a very active toddler, quarantine was challenging to say the least. And while I 100 percent acknowledge there are far more challenging situations in quarantine (such as actually being sick with COVID-19 or being a healthcare worker during a pandemic), I still think it is still important to acknowledge the issue at hand.
What it was like to be a teacher during peak shut-down
And I know I am not alone. After reaching out to a friend of mine, Natalie Cottone, who has been a teacher in Upstate NY for over ten years, she acknowledged that her students were very much affected by the isolation. She had to pivot from being not just a teacher, but to a virtual educator during such an uncertain time.
“When schools shut down, it was an overwhelming blur,” she shares. “No good-byes, no real direction, just a lot of unknowns for districts, teachers, students, and families. As I adjusted to my role as a virtual teacher, I realized what we all needed (myself, my students, and their families) were connections and structure.”
She continues, “I also knew that my students and I needed to see each other, even virtually, so we started GoogleMeets twice a week. During our GoogleMeet time, I stuck to fostering connections with check-ins, the occasional singing of “Happy Birthday”, and read alouds (Roald Dahl is our favorite author). These virtual connections made all the difference as up to 85 percent or more of my class would show up and turn in assignments!”
I truly admire the teachers who were able to shift to a virtual teaching style and keep their students connected during this time. I also found that keeping my toddler connected to family and friends through FaceTime and Zoom video was super helpful during quarantine.
The struggle of keeping kids occupied in the house
I also reached out to a homeschooling momma, Megan over at @LittleLoveLearning blog, who has two young children. We commiserated over how difficult quarantine was on everyone’s mental health and especially not being able to leave the house.
“My four-year-old didn’t quite understand why we couldn’t do our weekly Target run for mommy and me time, or why we couldn’t go to a park or zoo. It really challenged both of us because it seemed like we were always on edge,” she says. “What helped the most was just getting outside, even just to touch the grass and ground myself while my daughter ran around or played in the water. We had some water balloons left over from last year and that really helped on those bad days where you need to release any anger or frustration or sadness.”
“It’s been extra hard for us because we have a very young baby so we already spent the winter indoors,” Megan goes on to say. “It’s been a little bit better with restrictions being lifted and my kids have gotten to see their grandparents and hug them, but I can see that it’s another adjustment we have to make because now my daughter wants to go everywhere!”
I can also relate to Megan’s daughter’s response because even though my daughter is only 20 months old, she is always eager to get out of the house now.
I use joke that during quarantine my daughter would be waving to everyone who walked by our house, including the squirrels. But the truth behind the joke was not lost on me; these children have 100 percent been affected.
How can we help our children adjust back to life as (kind of) normal?
Since many states, including my own, have started to raise restrictions, I have been eager to get out and about with my little one and back to normal (whatever that is!). So I reached out to Dr. Anna Kress, Clinical Psychologist, regarding some tips on helping little ones cope with social isolation and how to shift into normalcy. Here were her five tips:
- Be a supportive space so that your child feels comfortable expressing their feelings to you. Talk to them about their concerns and keep an eye on their stress levels as well as yours.
- While some children will be more affected by quarantine than others, it’s a good idea to be aware of warning signs that your child might not be coping well and could benefit from professional help. Some signs to look out for include: loss of interest in activities that your child previously enjoyed; excessive boredom; changes in eating and sleeping habits; difficulty focusing; withdrawing; big mood swings; chronic worrying; and excessive tantrums.
- Take an inventory of how your kids are currently doing. Are they staying in touch with friends or classmates online? Are they getting some exercise or outside time? While it may be challenging, safe socializing and exercise can protect mental health and make transitioning back to normalcy easier. Try to ensure that they have some opportunities for both during the summer.
- As states start to reopen, continue to take precautions. If you are choosing to take your family out, continue to be safe and don’t overwhelm children with too much too soon.
- Keep in mind that children with social anxiety might have an especially challenging time readjusting to social interactions once it is safe to have them. It can be helpful to maintain online interactions and to take very small steps toward social interactions once it’s safe to do so.
I think these are great takeaways from Dr. Kress, but the one that stuck with me most was about creating a supportive space for your child. And in actuality – all the children in your life or even children you see in public as we all assimilate back into our everyday activities. Create a supportive space for your nephews. Create a supportive space for that child acting out at the grocery store – don’t stare or judge, maybe offer the parent a smile or help.
These children have been through a unique quarantine experience, with stressed out adults, without seeing their friends and being in social isolation, and I truly think we need to honor their feelings to help them assimilate back into the “new normal.”