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Kids at home for another three months? Here are some ways to cope

Kids at home for another three months? Here are some ways to cope
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TORONTO -- For many families used to being partially occupied with homeschooling these last two months, the coming summer may prove extra challenging without that structure.

The extended social isolation can be particularly difficult for children, especially the younger ones who do not yet have the skills or the vocabulary to express how they feel, for example, or for families with special needs children who require constant care, but no longer have access to outside help during the pandemic.

“A really important consideration in all of this is the mental health of children. Right now, of course, they’re experiencing the huge impact of social isolation and the pressures that many families are under,” Sara Austin, the founder of Children First Canada , told CTVNews.ca.

And in areas where summer programs are available, there is also the added stress of wondering whether the health measures taken by program co-ordinators will be enough to keep children safe from getting sick. Trying to prepare them for a “new normal” could mean explaining why they might not be able to hug a friend at camp and why activities might have to be conducted at a distance without physical interaction.

It is important to give children more emotional support, help them talk about the stress of their experience, and be extra patient with them -- and with yourselves, said Austin. She said parents should reduce their expectations, expect more pushback, more temper tantrums.

“Kids often have a really hard time processing those big emotions -- even adults have a hard time,” she said, noting that parents, as role models, can learn to co-regulate with their children on how to manage those emotions.

Some things parents can do include having a schedule and sticking to it - this includes spending time together like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and incorporating a short “recess” into everyone’s afternoon, for example.

Even little bursts of time can be helpful: take just 15 minutes to play outdoors or in the basement, Austin suggested.

“It’s good for kids and adults to have that little mental break and connect.”

There are also programs and resources available for parents looking at ways to keep their kids occupied this summer.
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