In the days, weeks, and months of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all had to make adjustments in work, school, and family life. As routines change, it’s important for us to stay engaged in our own health and wellness, as well as that of our families. Whether you’re trying to provide enough activities for your young children, looking for ways to get enough exercise, or you’re trying to figure out how to stay positive while spending time alone, there are ways you can give your family’s at-home wellness a boost.
Engage and protect your young child’s development.
It’s no secret that babies and young toddlers need a little more care and attention than the average human, but there are more ways to help maintain their wellness than the basics of food, sleep, and simple playtime. Simple activities can aid child brain development and promote a healthy mind, which can later translate into physical aspects, such as fine motor skills, crawling, and walking. Help your newborn gain strength by moving her head position to help engage neck muscles, and start early with tummy time to help build all the necessary muscles for moving and crawling. When selecting toys or mobiles, try high-contrast, black-and-white images, which are the most interesting to your infant’s eyes.
Additionally, while more people may be at home, and more activities may be occurring within your baby’s space, it’s important to remember that an infant’s nervous system hasn’t developed a filter. Overstimulation can happen in busy environments, causing your baby to disengage. Keep things calm around the baby, keep loud sounds and bright lights to a minimum, and make sure you and your infant get plenty of skin-on-skin time – resting the baby against your chest – which has numerous physical benefits for your baby, as well as yourself. You’ll both receive the effects of the hormone oxytocin, a feel-good bonding hormone that also reduces stress.
Stick to a routine.
Kids and adults alike have been largely shaken out of a daily routine, which provides important structure and stability for children. While they might have sometimes enjoyed the novelty of working on school from home, it likely left them with a lot more free time, and you with a lot less. One of the best things you can do is maintain a family routine to the best of your ability while you’re all at home. Wake up and have breakfast together, then “go” to school and/or work. Schedule in age-appropriate breaks, and include lots of physical activity (this is good for you, too).
Schedules and activities may become challenging when you have multiple age groups in the home, as children need different things at different stages. For preschool-age children, keeping stations of toys centered on areas such as blocks or artwork can help keep kids focused on an activity for a short time. They appreciate having you nearby, so try sitting on the floor and working on a task on your laptop while they’re busy with their own project. School-age kids can benefit from having some flexibility in their routine, such as being able to choose which necessary activities to complete in certain timeslots. Tweens and teens can manage well on their own but need check-ins to help keep them on task.
Eating together at regular meal times also helps promote stability. Having family mealtimes helps kids know they will have your full attention then, so it can help them to save questions or ideas for when you’re disconnected from work.
Pay attention to online time.
Out of necessity, you and your family are likely spending more time online. You’ve had to connect to work remotely, your kids may need to connect to teachers and classes online, and video calls and social media have been the best way to keep in touch with family and friends. It was easy before the pandemic to lose track of how much time we were spending in front of screens, and in a time when our lives are becoming more virtual, it’s just gotten worse. It’s especially easy to let older kids entertain themselves while we’re trying to juggle everything else.
Keeping online time as a part of your new daily schedule can help. Try scheduling time limits for the various types of online use, such as school, visiting with video calls, checking social media, and entertainment like streaming shows or playing video games. Older children may benefit from “free” time where they can decide how to use online time within certain parameters. Coordinate your online time with that of your children, and be sure you work in family activities around online use, such as calling grandparents or watching an educational show together.
Turn off the devices, sometimes.
Make sure you and your family are getting enough physical activity while you’re at home. It’s important to take breaks, particularly while working online. Our posture can suffer, especially if we’re sinking into our soft couches instead of working on an ergonomically correct chair. Working in 30- to 45-minute bursts can help with concentration and focus, and reminds us to get up and move at intervals. Kids, who have shorter attention spans generally than adults, may need shorter intervals and more frequent breaks between school tasks.
Taking breaks together to dance to a favorite song, have a race around the outside of the house, or do silly walks around the living room can be a fun way to remember to stop working and build in some family time. Scheduling an afternoon yoga class together with an online class can be a good way to work out the kinks of sitting most of the day. Taking nature walks alone or with your family is a great way to stay grounded during a difficult time.
Learn to be okay with downtime.
We’re a society that has forgotten how to be bored. With entertainment constantly at our fingertips, demands coming from all directions, and an endless to-do list most days, it’s no wonder we’ve forgotten how to be alone, be without something to do, or be without social media. If we’ve received anything positive from the forced time at home, it’s the power of creativity. Whether it’s dressing up like your favorite artistic masterpiece, recreating music videos, or finding unique ways to have distant-yet-fun celebrations of milestones, people everywhere are getting wild with their imaginations. It’s a good thing for both you and your family. New ideas, ways of thinking, and greater family connections can develop when we think outside the box, let ourselves be silly, or build in space to just create.
When you think about wellness for yourself and your family, remember that it’s about having a holistic approach – mind, body, and spirit – and keeping that in mind can help us to provide the best practices toward health and happiness at home.