The current health crisis seemed like a faraway and (literal) foreign problem that we didn’t need to worry about until now.
But the fast-spreading and novel illness is very much an American problem now. In order to slow and contain the spread of this scary thing, we all need to be practicing social distancing at a bare minimum. This is why schools, businesses, events, group gatherings, and nonessential interactions are being canceled. Staying home means we are doing our part to reduce the peak of the outbreak to reduce the impact on our health care system. But doing our part to fight a situation like this doesn’t feel like the work of superheroes; saving lives feels like lonely boredom, especially if you have kids.
The good news is that while you are doing the right thing to stay home, there are plenty of great ways to stay active and connected. Here are 10 ways to beat the stress of social distancing.
1. Create a reading nook.
More often than not lately, I have been feeling like I need a place to hide. Books are a great way to escape. Designate a corner of the house, a room not used very often, or set up a tent to create your own reading nook that allows you and your kids to find quiet connectedness. Add pillows, twinkle lights, and blankets to make your space extra cozy.
2. Get outside.
We are still allowed to go outside during this time of distancing ourselves from others, and I highly recommend it. The vitamin D we get from sunlight, the benefits of walking or going for a run, and smiling and waving at neighbors we see from a safe distance of 6 feet away are all great for our mood and reducing anxiety. Kids need this, too. Start a family soccer game, go for a bike ride, do some yard work, or create chalk art. Your house is not a prison.
We all need a little comfort food right now. Dig out the cookbooks and whip up a batch of Grandma’s famous chocolate chip cookies — or try something new! Measuring ingredients means you can totally call this your kid’s science lesson for the day.
4. FaceTime or Skype with loved ones.
Thankfully, most of us have the technology to video chat with friends and family. Set times for virtual playdates, have long-distance story times, or just keep the stream open while kids are doing homework or having lunch. The ability to see and talk to people is still vital to our mental and physical health, even if we have to do it through a screen.
5. Livestream all the things.
Zoos, opera houses, musicians, and artists are turning on their cameras to keep us entertained and connected. Watching penguins roam empty zoos and doodling with Mo Willems is good for all ages.
6. Watch a Broadway show from your couch.
I and many parents will be relying on screen time more than usual while most of us try to work from home and keep pieces of our sanity. But I also want some of the screen time to be educational or culturally beneficial. Call it a field trip to the theater and watch one of these 15 stage performances from your home.
7. Create a neighborhood scavenger hunt.
For St. Patrick’s Day, community members taped paper shamrocks on their windows. Caregivers and kids then went for walks and bike rides to see how many they could find. We waved at friends through windows, excitedly found shamrocks also taped to lampposts and electrical boxes, and were in awe of one household that had plastered almost 40 handmade clovers to their windows. We plan to keep it going with a new theme each week.
8. Keep learning.
I have always appreciated my kids’ teachers, but there is no way I can fully express my gratitude for what they and their school offers my kids and me. My kids are craving routine and a sense that they are still in school while at home. My gratitude has now turned to online learning sites and apps that will keep my kids engaged in math, STEM/STEAM, and literacy. PBS Kids, Scholastic, ABCya, and Khan Academy are some of my favorites.
9. Indulge in movie marathons.
Pop some popcorn, grab some blankets, and snuggle in for a day of binge-watching Netflix, Disney+, or Hulu. If you don’t have subscriptions to those services, consider taking advantage of their free trial periods. It’s OK to let go of expectations and routines once in a while.
10. Write and send letters.
Sit with your kids and make a list of folks who could use a thank you note, a postcard, or one of their million pieces of “very special” artwork. Our essential workers are exhausted, and folks at the highest risk for testing positive for the virus are lonely. A handwritten note goes a long way to keep our spirits high and our gratitude strong while we lean on each other, even while distanced from one another.
Right now feels scary and so uncertain. Humans are social creatures, and our instinct is to huddle together for safety and comfort. But that is not an option or is a very limited option for many of us. We need to be mindful, patient, and creative right now.