How To Get Your Family Ready for Quarantine

A father and his young daughter clean the kitchen
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The outbreak of coronavirus has many communities under some type of quarantine, or shelter-in-place orders. A quarantine, in simplest terms, is defined as a period of isolation for people who don’t have symptoms but were exposed to a disease. The quarantine reduces the risk of infecting others and helps protect the community.

People who have been exposed to coronavirus and who are at risk of coming down with the illness might practice self-quarantine, which is recommended for 14 days. This is enough time for them to know if they will contract the disease. It also ensures that they can’t spread it to others.

A shelter-in-place order means everyone must stay in their homes, only leaving for essential activities. These are things like picking up medicine, visiting a physician or getting groceries.

Social distancing means limiting how much people come into close contact with each other. This is accomplished by canceling gatherings of more than a certain number of people, closing schools, recommending that people work from home whenever possible and urging people to stay at home. If you must leave your house, stay at least six feet away from other people.

Please check with your local authorities to verify what type of measures are being taken in your area, whether that is quarantine, shelter-in-place or social distancing.

Infographic: How To Get Your Family Ready for Quarantine

Preparing for Quarantine With Children

Disruption in routine can be difficult for both adults and children. During COVID-19 outbreak, many families and communities are in quarantine and most schools have been closed. Families may have a jam-packed schedule of online learning that they must complete with their children at home.

This is an incredibly challenging situation. Even with social distancing, experts urge parents not to schedule play dates or get-togethers among neighborhood friends and families. Children may interact with siblings in the same household, but no in-person social interaction beyond that.

Explain What Quarantine Means

Take some time to talk with your kids about what the coronavirus is and how we’re staying safe and healthy at this time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it’s important to talk with your children in a way they can understand and not to overload them with information. Reassure them that you’re keeping them safe and make sure that they aren’t overexposed to news about coronavirus.

It can be hard to explain to children why we have to stay away from other people. You can reassure them that coronavirus generally causes a mild sickness for children, but explain that people can still pass it to others when they don’t have symptoms.

So to keep older people and those with other health conditions who are at high risk safe, everyone is staying home to stop the virus from spreading. If we do this, fewer people will get sick.

It’s a great opportunity to help your kids learn about prosocial behavior, where our actions help keep those around us safe. The AAP has a good resource to help you explain how and why social distancing works.

Let Them Know All Feelings Are Welcome

Some kids are missing important milestones at school — particularly high school and college seniors. They may have canceled or delayed graduations and are probably stressed about keeping up with their classes online during this time.

It’s important not to diminish their feelings; don’t point out that the outbreak is causing bigger problems than missing graduation or prom. The disruption to normal life is real and significant, and validating that they have the right to be disappointed, frustrated, worried and upset will help them process those feelings.

Together you can brainstorm solutions to help them complete their classwork. Get creative with technology. Try scheduling a weekly online video chat study group to help keep a connection between classmates while still focusing on their studies.

How To Structure Your Household During Quarantine

Keep a schedule. Experts agree that keeping a schedule or routine will go a long way toward maintaining some sense of normalcy during quarantine, which will reduce children’s anxiety. Take some time to think of a schedule that will work for everyone, and consider printing it out or writing the day’s schedule on a whiteboard each morning.

But allow for some transition. If you can, give the kids a few days to adjust to this abrupt change in their lives — you can have a minivacation at the start of your quarantine while you figure out your new normal. This may help reduce everyone’s stress levels and allow for an easier adjustment.

Your school day can be shorter. Home-schoolers have long understood that a typical school day is as long as it is because there is a lot of extra time needed when dealing with large groups of students. One often-used recommendation is to spend 15 minutes per day home-schooling for each year of a child’s life — so, for example, a six-year-old would do school for 90 minutes a day, while by fourth grade, he or she would study for about half of a typical school day, roughly 2.5 hours.

Make time for connection. Staying in touch with friends is important even when play dates are off-limits, and the same is true for family members who may be in different parts of the country or world. Consider online video chats during or after lunchtime where your kids can check in with their buddies, just like at school.

You could also get some writing practice in and encourage your children to draft letters to friends and relatives. This will help maintain connection and count as part of their education, too.

Play outside. Time in close physical proximity to friends is off-limits, but the outdoors isn’t canceled. If you have a backyard, a scavenger hunt can be a fun way to engage your children while keeping active in the fresh air. Encourage kids to explore the nature around them, even if it’s just looking closely at a bush or tree nearby.

Keep up with exercise. Try stretching together and see who can reach highest toward the sky. Take daily walks in fresh air — while maintaining your distance from other people — whenever possible.

Engage children in household chores. Having your kids help cook meals is a great learning experience and helps keep your meal plans moving throughout the day. When it comes to cleaning, younger children can help with easy tasks like dusting, while older kids can manage vacuuming and folding laundry, for instance.

Keep Your Children Calm

It’s normal for children to feel some anxiety and worry at this time. Watch for signs of anxiety like crankiness, clinginess, difficulty sleeping or distraction. Another sign of anxiety is reassurance seeking, where a child asks the same question over and over.

Children take their cues from us, their parents, so modeling calm is important to keep them calm, too. Focus on what you can do to stay safe and healthy — and remind them that quarantine and social distancing are the most important things to keep everyone safe and healthy right now.

Let them know that their worries are normal and okay, but also reassure them that everyone is taking steps to help stop the coronavirus and keep people healthy. Focus on the people who are helping: Doctors taking care of patients, neighbors and friends bringing each other groceries and supplies, and scientists testing vaccines and treatments.

Make Time for Self-Care

Managing your own stress during quarantine is vitally important to your ability to continue taking care of your children. Think about what helps you feel calm, rejuvenated and less stressed. How can you fit these activities into your day?

Consider ways you can reduce stress and take care of yourself while maintaining quarantine:

  • Exercise with a virtual instructor
  • Get outdoors (while staying away from other people)
  • Set aside relaxation time

Avoid your gym, but look online for instructor-led videos and streaming classes that are being offered. As the weather warms up, it’s a great time to take a bike ride or walk outdoors while staying at least six feet from others.

What do you find relaxing: A warm bath, or quiet time with a good book, perhaps? Schedule time for yourself into each day. If it’s keeping up with your favorite show, make that a priority for your evening downtime.

While the situation is still evolving, quarantine and social distancing may be needed for long stretches of time to stop the spread of COVID-19. Making sure that we keep up our reserves is important as we move forward.

Quarantine Questions

To stay up to date with the latest coverage on coronavirus, and for more information on how to cope with quarantine and social distancing, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub.

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