Helping Kids and Teens Cope with Social Distancing Restrictions

Published on in Health Tip of the Week

mom and daughter making video call To slow the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), health departments are encouraging "social distancing" (also called physical distancing) and many state governments have mandated "stay-at-home" rules for all but the most essential workers. The resulting lockdown is challenging for everyone, but especially hard for kids who don't understand why they can't play with their friends, and teens who are used to constant socialization at school, sports and activities.

With all the school closures and event cancellations, you may find yourself looking for new and different ways to keep your kids happy, healthy and engaged.

At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a child life specialist, child activity coordinator and hospital school teacher joined forces to provide tips on how you can help your child feel more connected to friends and family when they can’t physically be together. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your child cope with physical distancing.

Make a virtual connection

Use your computer, smartphone or tablet to help your child send a message to a classmate (or their parent), or email one of their teachers. It's a great way to connect with important people your child may be missing. For younger children, consider arranging a virtual visit or play date using video options like FaceTime or Skype. Consider adding grandparents or other relatives to your child's connections. They can read a bedtime story together or share a joke of the day.

Older children and teens, who are generally more independent and familiar with virtual connections, may continue to use social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Discord to stay connected to their classmates and other friends.

In addition to digital communication, you can also encourage your child to write a letter or make a card to send to a friend or family member. Everyone loves mail and it's a great keepsake.

Participate in a scavenger hunt

To help your child maintain a feeling of connection within your community, consider participating or even starting your own fun, safe and physically-distant activity in your neighborhood.

One popular activity is a window art scavenger hunt. While you and your child are walking around your neighborhood (for exercise), look at the windows of houses you pass for rainbows, teddy bears and other artwork. Your child may enjoy spending some time working as a family to decorate your own window or front door.

Similarly, you can encourage your child to use sidewalk chalk to draw inspiring art or write positive messages outside of your home. Later, you can take a walk around the neighborhood to see if you and your child are able to spot other drawings, messages, or other forms of artwork from members of your community.

Connecting in new ways

One important thing to remember while practicing physical distancing: It doesn't mean we can't have fun or be social! We just have to do it in new and different ways.

During this unprecedented time, we encourage everyone to think outside-the-box for ways to support each other and continue the connections you have — to your family, to your neighborhood, and to your world.

Additional resources

Read the articles below to find more support, information and advice to help you and your family cope with unique challenges brought on by the coronavirus:

Rebecca Rapone, M.Ed., is a hospital school teacher; Bridget O’Brien, BA, is a child activity coordinator; and Erika Sheaffer, BA, is a child life specialist, all at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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