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Important to talk to your children about what's happening, says expert

Children need extra love, attention and things to do during difficult times
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With children now facing an extended March Break and many workplaces going remote to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents everywhere are having to explore new ways to keep their children occupied. 

“What children will remember the most is the connection and the time they had together with their family,” says Nikki Martyn, Early Childhood Studies Program Head at the University of Guelph-Humber.

For many parents though, it can be a challenging time as they struggle with increased fears and worries to help preserve the continuity and protect and nurture their children through the crisis. 

“Anxiety and fear are high for both children and parents. It’s a reasonable response and for children, it’s all about the emotion.”

Martyn says parents should get into the emotion of the situation. What their children feel is what they will remember. 

“Talk to your children about what’s happening, and this will help create a loving and supportive environment” she says. 

“Honesty is paramount because children are learning trust and it’s better for children to understand what is really happening.”

Children tend to get their cues from their parents on how scary a situation is.

“The reality of the situation reduces the fear in the end. Parents should be mindful of the news in the background. Kids can’t filter what’s relevant and important like hearing about the first death in Ontario. When they hear this, they think this will happen to them or their parents,” Martyn said. 

Limiting exposure to news reports will minimize any anxiety children may feel. 

“So, if they are clingy or even angry, these are indicators that they are worried. Parents can express to their children what the reality is without getting into the nuances.”

Children need that extra love and attention during difficult times and it’s important to keep children close to parents and caregivers. It’s also a good idea to keep to regular routines and schedules as much as possible. 

And what better time to get creative with fun activities for the whole family? 

“This is a great opportunity to do science projects, bake or make playdoh together,” Martyn says. 

A daily schedule might differ from family to family but it should include scheduled meals, quiet time activities such as reading, schoolwork, creative play such as arts and crafts and outdoor active play.

“Having outside time offers so many health benefits but when indoors it’s important to remember to eat healthy and provide heathy options. And, there are so many fun activities you can do that are physical inside such as dance parties.”

Other activities recommended by parents include: crocheting, rock painting, building a fort, video chatting with friends and family, watching educational videos, use the FitOn app for fun workout activities, puppet or talent shows, a movie marathon, a scavenger hunt, create an obstacle course at home or in the backyard, board games/card games and online art classes. 

Belinda Gould is the director/owner at Level Up Kids Learning Centre in Guelph. She runs tech camps during the March Break but after having to cancel face-to-face classes, she decided to offer virtual camps on-line. 

Students at Level Up Kids engage in supplemental science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and camps include coding skills and architecture.

“Going virtual was new to me and I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off,” Gould said. “There’s lots of free stuff out there but with our camps, parents do not have to sit with their children. They are occupied for two hours every day for the week.”

You can learn more about Level Up Kids and program costs at https://guelph.levelupkids.ca

“We use Zoom so we can all see other and help each other out,” Gould said. “As long as you have wifi and a computer, you can join us.”

There are a variety of other fun learning websites available for kids including the TurfMutt Foundation’s environmental education program which teaches kids about the benefits of their family yard and taking care of the green spaces around them. Visit TurfMutt.com for some ideas.

Scholastic Canada has fun activities and downloadables for kids here and for those interested in bird watching, there’s this site.

This time of self isolation could also be a time to explore new ideas and get creative. 

“It’s about the experience we provide our children,” Martyn said. 

“Parents should think back to when they were kids and help build that fort. This is what kids will remember."



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