This is tip four in a series from pediatrician Dr. Ray Fabius for families on maintaining health and wellness at home. Find more tips and actionable advice on our Dr. Ray resource page.
A tip for parents on mental breaks
This pandemic is forcing us to social distance to prevent direct contact with others. Some parents are either not working or working from home. The physical absence of work, coworkers, friends, and family may add to the stress of the current health emergency. How can parents support each other or take breaks to support mental health? The American Psychiatric Association has several recommendations to help deal with this anxiety.
First, keep a regular schedule that includes work time, family time, meal and cooking time, exercise time, cleaning time, and time for reaching out to loved ones. Social distancing does not mean complete isolation. Make sure you’re contacting friends and family every day by phone or video chat.
Exercise is also important for taking your mind off things. Perhaps transition a room of the house to a workout room, like the basement, garage, or spare bedroom. Get as much fresh air as you can. You should be able to walk in the neighborhood or local park while maintaining 6 feet from others.
If you’re out walking with your children, turn your walk into an educational game of I Spy. How many pets can you spot? How many neighbors are out working in their yard? Wave to them and say hello from a safe distance.
It’s best to limit media consumption, especially when children are in the room. Stay informed by checking news feeds twice a day for important updates, perhaps in the morning and evening. But dedicate most of the day to family, chores or work, and fun together.
As I shared in an earlier piece
, parents should also prioritize giving each other mental breaks as often as possible. And single parents should consider having a friend or family member step in to help, or even bunk with them for the duration of this emergency if possible.
It’s by supporting each other and giving ourselves permission to enjoy mental breaks and time off to their fullest that we’ll get through this with stronger, clearer minds.
Educational activities to help children understand
Note: These activities might be best enjoyed by school-age children.
- Ask your children to list of as many friends and family as they can. Try reordering the list by different criteria, like youngest to oldest or closest to farthest.
- Set up a schedule to contact them all over the next few weeks. Check loved ones off the list after you've reached out. Try prioritizing people who live alone. Celebrate when you've talked to everyone.
- Set up a point system for check-ins that encourages school-age kids to practice communication skills and curb screen time. Every time a child completes a letter or card, they get 10 points. If they make a phone call, they get five points. Emails get three points, and text messages get one point. The more points, the better the prize!
Resources to learn more about this topic