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5 Ways to Help Your Children’s Mental Wellness During a Socially Distant Summer

Parenting is not easy. COVID-19 has quickly increased the challenges of child-rearing and so we are sharing with you easy child expert tips to help guide you during these unprecedented times.

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Photo by Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images

Parents Rejoice: The kids are finally done with school! 

Gone are the multiple daily zoom calls, forced teaching, non-stop bickering over academics, home classrooms, and the overly creative assignments from my children’s extra curricular classes (which I ultimately ended up doing myself).  Therefore, I feel as though I have once again graduated from kindergarten and the 2nd grade.  Although I feel sad that children nearly everywhere did not experience a proper end to their school year, I am 100% RELIEVED that the 2019-2020 school year is OVER.

Ironically, it used to be the other way around not too long ago.   Once the month of August began, so did my back-to-school countdown.  Oh how sweet that first day of school was. Students were happy to be reunited with their friends and parents were even happier to return to their normal schedule.  The only parents I knew lamenting summer’s end were the ones that had teaching positions.  I would rejoice all day and make it known to everyone that would listen that my kids were finally back in school.

Now fast forward to 2020…  COVID-19 has globally transformed what everyone’s normal was and is.  Our children’s thinking has also dramatically morphed and they too do not quite know what to expect. Our annual long awaited summer vacation to visit family in Greece and Cyprus was postponed to next year, swim team was cancelled, and we did not feel safe to send our littles to camp this summer.  

So what is left?  

For my family, the answer is simple: A daunting list of social distancing restrictions, a conservative amount of outdoor small group gatherings, and an endless amount of unstructured time. 

Like most parents of young children, my anxiety levels went soaring once my rejoicing period was over and the reality that the “Summer of Covid” was upon us all.  I am very fortunate to have a phenomenal group of educators and child experts within my close circle and so I immediately reached out to them for help on how to parent and care for my children’s emotional and mental well-being during a very unprecedented summer.

Melissa Kelly, child development expert and school counselor, has been pivotal in helping me parent better and has shared with me her suggestions for minimizing some of the challenges our children may be faced with during these long summer days. 

Here Are 5 Easy Ways to Help Your Children Cope & Remain HAPPY This Summer:

  1. Keep some level of structure 
    •  Since the normal level of scheduled summer activities are now obsolete, it is crucial to provide your children with some sense of a daily routine.  While you do not need to plan every minute of the day, school aged children genuinely crave structure. As a result your children will thrive and ultimately behave better.
    • Incorporating structure is easy.  Start with a regular wake up time, bedtime, and mealtimes, as well as straightforward jobs with consistent times for setting the table, walking the dog, sweeping the floor after dinner, and so forth.
    • Once structure is achieved, reward them with a non-screen based reward.  

  2. Limit screen time and be creative with activities and exercise
    • We have to be realistic and know that screen time is a part of our daily lives.  However, after several months of virtual learning and excessive screen time, kids everywhere need a break. 
    • Take this opportunity to do activities and plan for the day together.  Some simple yet fun ideas are: a daily family walk, trying out new recipes, reading outdoors, gardening, or learning to play a new sport.  Doing so will provide a natural opportunity for learning new skills and keeping your children’s minds engaged.

  3. Take care of you!  
    • Kids are so perceptive and often mimic their parents’ stress and anxiety.  This is not an easy time. Do your best to keep perspective and give yourself the okay to take a break if you’re feeling overwhelmed. 
    • Schedule time to do things you enjoy too—your kids will appreciate it as much as you do!

  4. Stay connected and make plans
    • Continue to schedule virtual play dates and remain connected with close friends and family.  This can be done via a drive-by visit, sending hand written cards or meeting in-person when under safe conditions. 
    • It is of paramount importance for our children’s emotional wellness to maintain social connections, particularly with other children their age.

  5. Finally, it is okay for your kids to be bored  
    • You do not need to provide constant entertainment.  It is often in these moments of pure boredom that children discover new interests, hidden talents, and passions.  I always remind myself how I used to entertain myself for hours as a kid, simply because I had no choice! 
    • If there is one silver lining to this pandemic, perhaps we can all come to appreciate the simple things again and feel a greater appreciation for what we have.  

As we continue through this very challenging time, some degree of sadness and anxiety is normal for kids to experience.  If you feel like your child is exhibiting any of the signs below, he or she may be having a more difficult time managing their emotions.  

Signs to look for may include:

  • Excessive crying, irritation, worry or sadness
  • Regressing to behaviors that you thought your child had outgrown
  • Unusual and unhealthy eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Extreme worry about being separated from you

We can help our children by recognizing their emotions and validating their feelings.  We should focus on helping them feel safe, but also be truthful and reassuring.  If you feel that your child’s fears are excessive, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.  

Speak to your child’s doctor, the school counselor, or reach out to your community mental health organizations.  There are a lot of resources available to help us navigate through this unchartered territory.  

Remember, we are all in this together!

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