family

Tips for Families During Social Distancing

These are unusual times. Even us parents have probably never experienced anything quite like this before. So, it seems perfectly normal and understandable if our children are anxious. Personally, I have 9-year-old twins at home and they are experiencing a variety of emotions from anxiety to boredom.

My goal with the materials included below is to provide parents with tools to help their families “weather the storm.” I hope you find both spiritual and practical resources here to help you and your children cope. My best wishes to everyone during this time.

With love,

Matt Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

 

SPIRITUALITY & PRAYER:

This can be a time for families to deepen their home spiritual practices. Here are some resources to help you in that meaningful work:

1. The Unitarian Universalist Association (a big tent of belief) has an entire guide devoted to family spiritual practices; everything from ritual to crafts to alter building. Click here to view their guide.

2. Foothills Unitarian offers this nice page on prayer complete with a prayer bead necklace activity and a UU Family Prayer Sampler.

3. Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation has this page devoted to prayer before meals.

4. My family has a daily gratitude practice that we say before dinner. It goes like this: “We are grateful for everything and everyone we have in our lives and we promise to take care of all of it and all of them.” Then, we go around the table and say at least one thing (but usually 2 or 3 things) each of us is grateful for that day. It can be anything from the nice weather, to a kind word from a friend, to each other. If you start a practice like this now, I assure you that you will find that hard times are the times when gratitude for the good things and people we have in our lives really helps strengthen our spirits.

 

TEACHING TOLERANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE (From Momtivist)

1. Check out these amazing lesson plans on Tolerance.org. You can filter them by grade level – they’re designed for kindergarten through High School. Lots of great ideas that were designed for the classroom but can easily be scaled to work at home.

2. Find books that promote tolerance, spotlight underrepresented groups, counter racism, explore gender identity, etc., and read them with your kids! Consider creative activities around anything you read, like writing stories or puppet shows using the books as inspiration. This is a great resource for age appropriate books on all of these topics.

3. Play games learning about important women in history! We love the Little Feminists Memory Game.

4. Try out games, recipes and activities from around the world! Great way to learn about other cultures while having fun. This $10 deck is chock full of great ideas.

 

NETWORKING:

Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation!!

Face Time: Do you Facetime? Or Skype? Or Zoom? I believe that as cabin fever sets in children are going to be jonesing for connection with their friends and other caring adults in their lives. A 10-minute Facetime session with someone outside the home could really help brighten your child’s day.

Virtual Pen Pals: You can let your child draw a picture or write a note to someone and then text or email a photo of it to them. They can come up with creative ways to reply.

Virtual Story Time: This is a spin on face time. Have grandma, grandpa, an aunt, or uncle do a Skype session with your child and have them read your child a picture book they have around their house. Chances are that they own some different books than you do, and your child will get to hear and see a new book. My kids’ Uncle Jim used to do this with my twins from across the country when they were little, and they LOVED it.

Phone Calls: Make a list of people who haven’t heard from your children in a while and have your kids give them a call! The other person will probably delight at the surprise and your kids will learn proper phone etiquette. Seriously, do kids even know how to use phones anymore?

 

GAMES!

The number of family games available on Amazon.com are astounding. Not to be a commercial for Amazon, but with Prime shipping your family could be playing a new game every two days. Here are some of my family’s favorites:

Uno: This classic card game still keeps kids entertained for hours. And now there are even some wild variations on the game available like Uno Flip and Uno Attack.

Ticket to Ride: We started playing this exciting board game with our kids when they were in first grade and the whole family loves it. Essentially, you use train cards to build routes across the country. It’s great.

Catan: Children probably need to be in about second or third grade to really get this game, but it’s a lot of fun for children and adults alike. You collect cards to build and settle an island. It’s a bit hard to learn, but hours and hours of engaging fun. Watch out for the robber though… he’s the worst.

Xtronaut: Do you have an engineering-minded child? If so, then they’ll really enjoy this game that requires them to collect cards to “build” a rocket and launch it into space. It’s suitable for children in who are in second grade and up.

 

EDUCATION:

For virtual learning resources, I really only need to direct you to one resource. Someone has put together a vast spreadsheet of all of the virtual resources that are being offered free-of-charge during the this time.

 

YOUTUBE:

Your children might be watching more television than normal during this time. Well, I have good news. If you have a ROKU or similar device there are lots of educational channels on YouTube.

Here is a list of some of my kids’ favorites: It’s Okay to be Smart, Vsauce, ASAPScience, Crashcourse, SciShow, SciShowKids, SciShowSpace, MinutePhysics, MinuteEarth, MrDemaio, SesemeStreet, WorldWorldPBS, SmartGirls, HoustonZoo, TheBrainScoop and NASA

And here is a link to even more.

 

OUTSIDE!

Fortunately, one thing you can do while practicing social distancing is to get out into the great outdoors!

Gardening: My family is using this time to really get this year’s garden going. If you have space for a garden – or even a container garden – now could be a good time to get that garden going.

Painting Rocks: I borrowed this one from Momtivist – Decorate rocks (we recommend paint or glitter glue) with positive messages and/or drawings and leave them where other people will see them. Brainstorm with your child about what kind of images and messages might make people happy.

Explore Nature: If you have a magnifying glass, you can turn a young child loose in nature for seemingly forever and that magnifying glass will open up a whole new world of nature to them. Binoculars can have a similar effect, but they might need more help using them.

Go for a Hike! Or even just a walk around the block. Even though my family is staying home we still plan to get out for a walk each morning. Metro and regional parks can be a great place to really get out and stretch your legs, and they’re usually not too far from home.

 

HOW ABOUT YOU?

That’s my list. How about you? Do you have any recommendations to help families during this time? If so, please share them in the comments.