The word ‘crisis’ in Chinese is made up of two characters: ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity.’

So, if your child’s school is shut or your family holiday is cancelled, treat it as an opportunity to spend some quality time with them.

  1. Family meeting: It would be useful for everyone in the family to brainstorm ideas about how they would like to spend the time, both with the family and on their own. Your children will have some great ideas. Children love structure and routine, so make a plan each day of what you’ll do, and your child will be much happier and more settled.
  2. Time to play: Try to use this time to be more playful with your child. You may like to play board games, card games, word games. Or could you set up a ‘family disco’ and get your children to plan the playlist?
  3. Conversation starters: Google ‘conversation starters with children’ for things you can talk about at mealtimes– their favourite band, what superpower they would most like to have, who they would invite to a meal if they could invite anyone, living or dead. Etc.
  4. Screen time: Stick to screen time limits. Reiterate that they will only be allowed a maximum of 2 hours screen time a day. But help your child plan their viewing times and what they most want to do during this time.
  5. Project: Find a project you can do together. Such as building a den, bird table, clearing the garage, etc.
  6. Reading: Quiet time is OK too. How about setting aside an hour, where everyone just reads a book or plays quietly?
  7. Cooking: Children love to cook. This could be a great time to bake cakes, show your child how to cook their favourite meal, or, if they’re old enough, get the children to cook a three-course meal for the parents!
  8. Family movies: There are a whole host of brilliant films, old and new. Can you find ones that you can all watch, snuggled under a blanket, with some home-made popcorn?
  9. Exercise: if the weather allows, maybe go for a walk, bike-ride, or even just do some gardening with your child. Remember children need to exercise for at least half an hour a day. However, if it’s too cold or rainy, a pillow fight may be a good way to let off steam.  Or let your child plan and run an exercise class for the family.
  10. Become a hero: In every crisis, there are the heroes. Could you and your children be part of the volunteer army that helps elderly or single people who are suffering from Coronavirus, or who need to self-isolate, and deliver vital supplies to their doorstep?

One last, but very important point, your children will remember the Coronavirus Pandemic for the rest of their lives. When they look back on it, what do you want them to remember about you and how you handled this situation? What example will you set for helping your child deal with a crisis in the future?

Try to turn this enforced family time into an opportunity to reconnect and have some happy, fun memories to look back on. If you can stay cheerful and upbeat, and enjoy and plan your time, your child is more likely to have good mental health and stay calm, positive and connected during difficult periods, when they’re older.

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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