With schools, daycares, March break camps and community centres across Canada closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents nationwide are scrambling. From figuring out work and childcare arrangements, to talking to kids about what’s going on, to keeping everyone occupied — parenting during this unprecedented time is full of questions. We hope these tips from our experts will provide some answers.
Playdates, playgrounds and play groups — what are safe forms of social distancing for kids?
The Canadian government has implored all Canadians to stay home as much as possible in order to protect our health and the health of those around us, and also to ensure that our healthcare systems can focus on those who most need help. Ultimately, the best course of action is to avoid group gatherings whenever possible.
Getting outdoors whenever possible is a must for everyone’s mental and physical health, and spending time in well-ventilated areas definitely decreases the risk of transmission. Remember that the virus can live on surfaces like playground equipment, so always wash or sanitize hands before, during and after going to a playground.
I need to work from home, but I don’t want my kids watching TV all day. What can I do?
An overwhelming number of individuals and organizations have stepped up to offer free resources to support families stuck at home during this time.
Scholastic Canada is offering free online courses including interactive stories, lessons and activities for kids in pre-K up to grade six and beyond, and a number of accredited homeschooling platforms like Other Goose have waived their fees so that parents can set up learning plans from home. Treasured kids’ authors like Oliver Jeffers have set up live daily story time on social media platforms, too. If you can, spend a few minutes each evening planning some remote learning activities — it’s an investment with a big payoff.
How do I talk to my kids about COVID-19? They have so many questions.
With a drastic change in routine and snippets they have likely heard about COVID-19, it’s understandable for kids to be feeling anxious right now. Do your best to save adult conversations for times when kids are not around, and avoid keeping the news on all day, but children have a right to ask questions and know an age-appropriate amount about what’s going on.
Try asking an open-ended question like “Have you heard about a new sickness that is going around?” to gauge what they know or what incorrect information they may have heard. Then respond calmly by telling them about the proactive measures your family is taking, like avoiding large gatherings in order to protect each other. Take the opportunity to teach good hygiene like hand washing and sneezing or coughing into the elbow, which helps gives kids a sense of control.
Remember that it’s normal for kids to seek more attachment and be more demanding of their parents and caretakers during times of stress. Establishing a daily routine while at home and letting your kids ask questions will help you both cope during this unprecedented time.
Some attractions and kids play places seem to be open in my area. Is it safe to visit those?
Unfortunately not. These places pose health risks right now because they are indoors and attract large groups. The same logic applies to classes like swimming or dance lessons, and birthday parties with many kids. Note that in some provinces, all indoor and outdoor public gatherings are now prohibited, or allowed, but limited to a small number of people.
Is it safe for my kids’ grandparents or older family members to help with childcare?
This is a personal decision, but we know that those over the age of 65 are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. As such, many families are choosing to keep their children away from older family members at this time. Of course, you must self-isolate if you’ve travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days, and/or if you have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, but there is also some evidence that we can be contagious during the incubation period of the virus (this is the time between when we catch the virus and when we start to feel sick), according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Since kids have been relatively protected from COVID-19 so far, they may still be able to spread the virus to grandparents or older family members even if they are not showing symptoms.
Note that some provinces recommend to stay home as much as possible and not let anyone in from outside, in order to limit community spread.