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-by Christin Konz, OTD, OTR/L

During this unique time with COVID-19, families and parents are encountering very different circumstances than they have faced before. These circumstances vary greatly from family to family and are affected by parents being unable to work, parents working from home, or parents working out of the home as an essential worker while children are at home or being cared for by others. Whether parents are at home with their children or are at work, this can leave parents wondering if they are doing enough. There are many tools circulating through social media and the internet with useful ways to assist children during this time off from school which can be very beneficial. However, it is important to remember that now is a time for grace and to consider what limitations may be loosened. Specific schedules and routines may not work for everyone at this point, especially during this unique time when children may need more encouragement and love than anything. Following are some ways to incorporate grace for ourselves while children are at home for an extended time while also recognizing their individual needs.

• Routines are helpful in providing stability and security for many children and adults. However in this time when our environment is ever-changing, sticking to a strict routine may be difficult for some and this is okay. Aim for a few specific areas to be incorporated into each day, even if it is just for short periods. Focus on the areas that you feel is most needed for your specific child. Specifically, incorporate areas that are difficult for your child that they would typically be working on in school or therapy (such as specific academics, physical skills). However, just as important – if not more important – is to make sure that children are also still incorporating the activities that make them feel happy (movement for sports, socializing, playing games), but doing so while always maintaining social and physical distance. Be creative in adapting ways to still engage in these areas while ensuring important social and physical distance; technology can greatly assist us in this.

• Incorporate at least a little movement every day even if it is not as much as they would typically move. The American Heart Association recommends for children ages 6 to 17 to spend at least 60 minutes, 3 times a week of moderate to vigorous movement. Depending on family’s circumstances this may be different for every family and again during this changing time this may be difficult. However, it is best to remember that if you are not able to do the required amount, some movement is always better than none.

• Throughout a typical day, children’s environments provide multiple sensory experiences (i.e. touch, sight, smell, noise, movement). These days most recently are not typical and therefore it is beneficial to incorporate various sensory experiences throughout the day, no matter what this looks like.

• Arguing between siblings may increase. Families are spending more time in direct contact with each other. Be aware of providing siblings with time to be alone and apart from each other (whether in different rooms or different parts of the house).

• Under typical circumstances, finding a balance with the amount of allowed screen time can be difficult. It is realistic to consider making adjustments to screen time, but to be mindful of how each individual child responds to increased or decreased screen time. This also includes awareness of the purpose of the increased screen time such as schoolwork, watching programs or movies, gaming, and social media.

• Be proactive in attempts to boost immunity. Healthy foods, movement, and fresh air (while practicing social distancing) all aid in this.

• Remember that a child’s behavior can be seen as a form of communication. Sometimes the best answer is just taking time to relax with no agenda, extra hugs, a quiet movie night, or another relaxing activity.

Refer to Orange City Area Health System’s Facebook group, Lemons to Lemonade, for additional ideas on exercise, relieving anxiety, as well as other additional ideas for health and wellness.

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