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Parent’s Guide to Colorado’s Coronavirus Outbreak: Keeping kids busy, school closures and more

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Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order closing all of the state’s schools to in-person learning from March 23 to at least April 17 to guard against the spread of the coronavirus and said that we “will limit all mass gatherings to no more than 10 people for the next 30 days unless otherwise extended by the executive director of CDPHE.”

We recently shared these COVID-19 articles:

Children’s Hospital Colorado Answers Your Top Questions

 50 fun things to do when you’re stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

What CAN I do during a time of social distancing? 

Incredibly helpful online resources for students and families navigating learning from home

125+ ideas for online learning and fun for kids of all ages

If your children need to stay at home due to the outbreak, HealthyChildren.org suggests trying to keep their days as routine and scheduled as possible. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Establish daily schedules. Expectations should be clear about when teachers and students need to be logged on. A full day in front of a screen is a lot for kids and teachers, especially for families who may be sharing one device. Many schools are choosing two check-in times – a morning meeting and an afternoon check-in – and then allowing families flexibility about how they organize the at-home school schedule.
  • Address the emotional toll. Check-in with your child, especially those who are less comfortable with digital tools to see if they need any help or someone to talk to. Being sequestered at home can be isolating and exacerbate the fear of dealing with a global crisis. Taking time to check in about feelings of anxiety is just as important as checking on academics. 
  • Keep an eye on media time. Whenever possible, play video games or go online with your child to keep that time structured and limited. If kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats to stay in touch.

For younger kids:

  • Read books with your child. It’s not only fun, but reading together strengthens your bond with your child AND helps their development.
  • Make time for active play. Bring out the blocks, balls, jump ropes and buckets and let the creativity go. Play games that kids of all ages can play, like tag or duck duck goose. Let your kids make up new games. Encourage older kids to make up a workout or dance to keep them moving.

Talking to children about C​​OVID-19

There’s a lot of news coverage about the outbreak of COVID-19 and it can be overwhelming for parents and frightening to kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and others who work closely with children to filter information and talk about it in a way that their child can understand. These tips can help:

  • Simple reassurance. Remind children that researchers and doctors are learning as much as they can, as quickly as they can, about the virus and are taking steps to keep everyone safe.
  • Give them control. It’s also a great time to remind your children of what they can do to help – washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeves, and getting enough sleep.
  • Watch for signs of anxiety. Children may not have the words to express their worry, but you may see signs of it. They may get cranky, be more clingy, have trouble sleeping, or seem distracted. Keep the reassurance going and try to stick to your normal routines.
  • Monitor their media. Keep young children away from frightening images they may see on TV, social media, computers, etc. For older children, talk together about what they are hearing on the news and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.
  • Be a good role model. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate and neither should we. While COVID-19 started in Wuhan, China, it doesn’t mean that having Asian ancestry – or any other ancestry – makes someone more susceptible to the virus or more contagious. Stigma and discrimination hurt everyone by creating fear or anger towards others. When you show empathy and support to those who are ill, your children will too.

Parents: Take care of YOUR mental health!

  • Relax your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate or pray, or engage in activities you enjoy.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
  • Pace yourself between stressful activities, and do something fun after a hard task.
  • Talk about your experiences and feelings to loved ones and friends, if you find it helpful.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking; consider keeping a journal where you write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.

Stay Informed

Families are encouraged to stay up to date about this situation as we learn more about how to prevent this virus from spreading in homes and in communities. Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment should be your go-to source for the most updated information. 

And most importantly, remember we’re all in this together. Don’t hoard, look out for your loved ones and neighbors (especially those who are elderly) and remember that this, too, shall pass. 

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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