By Dr. Safdar Medina, District Physician
Dr. Kerry Wilkins, District Child Psychiatrist Consultant
Mary Ellen Duggan RN, District Wellness Coordinator
As we continue to do our best to socially distance ourselves in our effort to contain the novel coronavirus, we want to make sure that our families have the support and resources they need during this challenging time to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally.
Thank you to everyone for following social distancing rules. We know this is challenging, and we appreciate your efforts. Please remember, children cannot have play dates or be together outside playing sports or hanging out. COVID-19 is more contagious than influenza. Children may be unknowingly carrying the virus, as data shows that a large number of children are asymptomatic (having no visible symptoms) or have minimal symptoms that could be confused for seasonal allergies or other mild conditions. No one is immune to this virus, and some children may also become seriously ill or accidentally infect someone in their family.
The next few weeks will undoubtedly be challenging. Whether you have a preschooler or an adolescent, routines and schedules help. Plan a very specific daily rhythm and set expectations. The daily schedule should be as consistent as possible, including time for work, time for chores, time for exercise, time to eat, and a regular sleep schedule, though this sleep schedule can look different for older children than their traditional school year schedule, as long as they are getting an adequate amount of sleep. Include breaks and carve out specific family times and outdoor times. Expect that everyone gets dressed in new clothing - ideally traditional daytime attire - every day if possible.
Rhythms are important. That being said, it is also important to keep the rationale for this rhythm in mind - the schedule is a way to minimize anxiety and provide consistency. If it is interfering with your ability to stay positively connected, parents can choose to modify it - you don’t have to be rigid. A schedule is intended as a tool, not a shackle. Focusing on keeping everyone feeling meaningfully occupied in the home environment and emotionally connected to one another are the highest priorities during this time-limited period of social distancing.
Take a moment to enjoy this time together as a family - start a new tradition, exercise together, write a letter to someone, learn a new game or a new skill, or just read together.
Avoid having the TV on in the background. The information is overwhelming for everyone. Consider playing mellow music in the background to provide a calm environment.
Provide an opportunity for age-specific conversations about the current situation daily, giving concrete reasons for why we have to do what we are doing. Middle and high schoolers will see false information on social media. Make sure that you have daily talks about things they may have seen and read; share information from trusted sources such as the
It is natural for children to be scared and feel anxious, even if they appear to be coping well. Give a bit more grace to children for inattention or unexpected outbursts, as these are likely manifestations of their anxiety with these abrupt unanticipated transitions. Children look to adults for reassurance. Be a role model for ways to cope with stress during this time - particularly when their actions are the ones that are triggering!
Let kids know that simple measures such as hand washing, keeping hands away from your face and social distancing will help keep them safe. There are many unknowns, so don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Find ways to make a difference as a family; everyone will feel better if they are helping others.
If you have any concerns about any health issue contact your school nurse, medical provider or mental health care provider.
Please reach out to us with any questions. Here some valuable links with advice on helping your family during this time:
Along with social/physical distancing, please continue everyday prevention including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Cough/sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue, dispose of used tissues immediately and wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick.
PLEASE, be healthy, and be safe.
Dr. Safdar Medina Dr. Kerry Wilkins Mary Ellen Duggan, RN
School Physician Child Psychiatrist Wellness Coordinator