7 Tips for Social Distancing (with Kids)

social distancing with kids

I’m feeling grateful that I have the ability to work from home during this season of life. But having the whole family home right along with me isn’t exactly a “walk in the park”. Today I’m sharing my 7 best tips for staying sane in an extended time period of social distancing.

The Recap: 7 Tips for Social Distancing (with Kids)

  1. Schedule screen time without shame
  2. Take care of your physical health
  3. Get outside
  4. Expansion and contraction
  5. Create a multi-faceted project
  6. Gratitude
  7. Decluttering

Hi there. Welcome to episode 205. Today. We're talking about social distancing with kids, how to do it and stay sane. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hi there. Thanks for tuning in. I know that you all have been equally as inundated with the news of the spread of coronavirus and here in the US things have been really heating up over the past week or so in particular, here in New York schools are rapidly starting to close businesses are closing I miss, all the many, many different feelings that we're having. A one is definitely that of uncertainty and uncertainty can easily lead to fear and to worry and to anxiety. Something that the news and the media has been focused on is emphasizing the importance of social distancing. Now, if you're not familiar with this phrase, I had never really seen this phrase used much before all of this started in the past couple of weeks. What social distancing is? Is distancing yourself socially, right? It's just, as it sounds, limiting social events, increasing the distance between you and your social groups in short, that looks like canceling activities, canceling birthday parties, staying home whenever possible, all in an effort to flatten the curve and to prevent the pandemic from spreading.

In some ways, social distancing can really be synonymous for familial closeness, because if you're not out in the world, socializing and working and doing things that you do, you're going to be home in your house with your family, the people you live with now, the thought of a staycation can be really great, right? If we choose to take a week off work and stay home and get projects done and enjoy our family time, it can be really lovely. But when it's forced and it's surrounded by fear and uncertainty, it's rarely interpreted as a positive thing. So in today's episode, we're going to be talking about social distancing with kids, how to do it and stay sane easier said than done. But before we get into that, here's a quick word from today's sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is Prep Dish, Prep Dish is a meal planning service.

I will tell you, first of all, that I'm not a great cook. I'm not great at whipping up delicious things on the fly. I need recipes. I need simple, but I'm also pretty frugal and I'm not one to buy something that I can get for free. And when I found out about prep dish, which is a meal planning service that sends you recipes each week, I thought to myself, why am I going to pay for recipes? When there are billions of free recipes online, the reality is Prep Dish is more than just a handful of recipes sent to you each week. It's a carefully outlined plan that tells you exactly what to do to prep your food in advance so that when the day comes to serve the dish, it takes just a few minutes. This has been such a relief for me because usually during the dinner time hustle and by myself, I don't have an extra set of hands helping me.

Prep Dish has allowed my husband to jump in and help me with the meal prep during the weekend so that I feel more supported. I highly recommend you check it out, go to prepdish.com/families for two weeks free again, go to prepdish.com/families to try it out and get two weeks for free. Okay? Moving on to today's episode, I'm going to be sharing with you seven ways to stay sane and healthy, mentally healthy. That is during a time when you may be social distancing with kids. In other words, that often looks like staying home with your kids. During this time of uncertainty, we can be filled with stress and overwhelm. And I have a concept that I like to refer to as the Teeter totter of overwhelm. So if you're not familiar with a teeter-totter, you might know it as a Seesaw, depending on what part of the world you're in, but basically a Teeter totter bounces back and forth from one side to the other.

Rarely is it ever fully balanced right in the middle. Now most of us lean in one direction or the other. We either Teeter towards anxiety or we Teeter towards depression. And in times of big stressors, like the birth of a child, the death of a parent, a divorce, we're going to be slamming down hard on our teeter-totter in times of lighter stress. Like you get stuck in a long line at the post office with three kids waiting. You're going to be tipping slightly in your direction on the teeter-totter. Now all of us either tip towards anxiety or the other side, which is depression. And you don't have to think about this as a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, but rather a tendency towards anxiety or depression. I tend towards anxiety. So when I'm faced with stress and overwhelm, I start to plan. I start to worry.

I start to talk fast. I'm a doer, I'm on the move. I'm trying to plan my way out of my anxiety. Now, other people who tip towards depression might withdraw. They might start to feel hopeless, and that's their way of coping with the stress and overwhelm. So think about that. As you're moving through this period of uncertainty with your family, what is your tendency? Do you tend towards anxiety to tend towards depression because of your feeling stress and overwhelm intensely. You're going to start to notice one or the other, and some people Teeter back and forth between the two, but again, rarely ever balanced perfectly in the middle because we're human. So if you're dealing with social distancing, first thing that I want you to do is schedule screen time without shame. If your family uses screen time, and you're worried about it, getting out of control, take a deep breath.

I know because I have kids who don't behave well after long periods of screen time. So I try to avoid large amounts of screen time when possible, but sometimes they get more than I want them to have. So my advice is to schedule it. If you know that you're going to need about four hours a day to get work done, schedule four hours a day of screen time, maybe schedule it from eight to 10:00 AM in the morning. And then again from two to 4:00 PM in the afternoon, when you schedule it, you write it down, you make it official, you reduce the amount of begging you reduce the amount of seeking of the screen time. When they know that they can expect it later, it also gives you something to look forward to if that's what you're using for relief. So don't feel shame, but do schedule it.

It will help to give you a sense of control. It'll help you. So it doesn't get out of control and it will help your kids understand what the limits are. So my second tip is to eat healthy. There's research that shows in times of stress, that our diets go out the window. I remember back to when we moved across the country, I think we ate frozen pizza every day for two months. At least that's how it felt. Keep eating healthy, try to stick to your regular diet as much as possible. I know it can feel hard, but it is going to have a big impact on your mood and how you feel on a day-to-day basis. And if you're going to be cooped up in your house or outside of your house, wherever it is, if you're going to be social distancing, you're going to need to be feeling good.

And that includes exercise, integrate exercise as much as possible. That can definitely help you find balance. Exercise brings me on to number three, which is get outside. Our kids need to move. If you have a huge house, maybe they can move in the house, but otherwise they're probably going to need to get outside and move. Regardless of the weather, getting them the movement that they need is going to help reduce the problematic and frustrating behaviors that come with being cooped up inside, but getting outside, isn't just good for getting energy out in kids. Getting outside is good for stress. If your teeter-totter tips towards anxiety, getting outside and getting fresh air helps to lower your cortisol levels so that you feel more calm. And at ease, if you tip towards depression, getting outside can give you an extra boost of energy that you need in order to keep moving forward.

The whole family needs to get outside. It benefits us in far reaching ways that we can't imagine not to mention that germs are spread less outside as opposed to inside, which is why I always think it's fascinating that schools do indoor recesses when it's too cold outside, because they're afraid of kids getting sick because those types of germs are definitely going to spread more so in the classroom than they are on the playground to semi-structured ways of getting outside for kids who are resistant are a scavenger hunt and a sketchbook. If you have a kid who loves to draw and as an artist, take a sketchbook outside and look for something in nature to draw might be a sunset, might be a tree, might be an acorn, whatever it is, create a drawing project out of it. The other is a simple hunt pick the season, maybe it's winter, maybe it's spring and go on Pinterest and type out spring nature, scavenger hunt, or winter nature, scavenger hunt.

And you'd find a bunch of examples of really simple, straightforward scavenger hunts. My kids love these because they give them a little bit of a focus and some goals for our time spent outside. And I love it because they become noticers of their environments. So that brings me to number four, which is expansion and contraction for the whole family. If you've been listening to the podcast for any amount of time, you know, that expansion and contraction is something that I use every single day, day in and day out, particularly to manage the relationship between my kids. But today I'm talking about it in a whole family sense. Every single person in your family needs to expand and contract regularly. What does that mean? That means that we're good spending time in close quarters, doing intimate things like reading a book, doing a Lego project together, doing a puzzle, being pretty much on top of each other.

That's great for short periods of time, but once it starts to get to be too much, we need room to breathe. And you'll see in particular, if you have multiple kids and they're on top of each other, that things start to break down pretty quickly. That's a sign that they've been contracting for too long and they need to expand. They need more space things to go outside. They need some separation from one another. It's not something negative. It's not something that should be punished. It's not like go to your room. You're arguing. It's Hey, it looks like you guys need some space. So don't penalize it. Just notice it and help to facilitate it. Give your kids some cues because often they're not good about noticing those needs themselves, but we as adults also have needs for expansion and contraction. And fortunately we're a little better at noticing those needs.

I don't need to expand quite as much as my husband does. He's definitely the one who always wants to run to the grocery store, run to the bank, do the errands, just to get out of the house. I'm okay. Being cooped up a little bit more, whatever your needs are for expansion, make sure that those needs are being met, because if they're not too much, contraction is going to cause you to explode. So be mindful of expansion and contraction for everyone in the family, even your animals. I know that our dog is going to be getting a lot of contraction. My kids are going to be driving her crazy, which brings me to number five, which is to create a multifaceted project. So what do I mean by that? We are planning a dog birthday party. So my dog who is well loved sometimes too well loved is turning 10 and we've never had a birthday party for her before.

Pre-kids I think we had like a little doggy cupcake or that sort of thing, but I've decided that I think this would be a great time to plan an intimate family gathering where my kids craft, some decorations, make some cards, make some gifts, bake, some cupcakes, dog friendly cupcakes, maybe record a couple of little videos saying what they love about her. Basically giving them a project to work on, to stay focused on that the whole family can participate in and it can be fun. Definitely not something we would do under normal circumstances. But if we've got extra time to kill and our kids are needing something a little bit more focused and structured, maybe they've been expanding too much than finding a project for the whole family to contribute to. It can be a great idea, especially when like this, that can take several days to execute.

It's also great for executive functioning skills, the planning and listing of tasks and executing of tasks. Number six is gratitude. It's hard to have gratitude in a time of crisis, but the reality is we can be grateful for this extra time that we have together to connect with one another. We can choose that or we can choose to dread it and to hate every moment of it. It's our choice. What are we going to choose to do? Choosing gratitude always feels better. I can promise you that. How can we think positively and see the light at the end of the tunnel and see the good that comes in spending intimate time together. And finally, number seven is decluttering. If you're going to be stuck in your house for a long time, might be the perfect time to declutter. I always tell people to start with the area that's driving them the most crazy.

Maybe your drop zone, where everybody drops their backpacks and their bag is when they come into the house. Maybe it's your closet, whatever it is. Start there, encourage your kids to get on it as well. You might want to do something fun, like set a timer for 20 minutes and everyone makes a pile of things to declutter. In that 20 minutes, I did this recently just for myself, it was highly productive. I will tell you that in getting some of that extra stuff out of your life is going to lead to just a little bit more peace for the days to come. But in the end, there's going to be a lot of boredom and that's okay through boredom comes creativity, beautiful things are born in boredom. It can be hard to tolerate, but there is wonder on the other side. So kids are going to be bored for a little while and that's okay.

Social distancing means not planning, play dates, not planning birthday parties means staying home and keeping to ourselves. And that's really important to do it, right? It's not fun. And it can be really disappointing to kids, but it's part of our job as parents to help make good decisions on behalf of our families. So if you are doing some social distancing in your house, take some pictures, tag me on Instagram. I want to see what you're doing as long as it's something simple and reshare it so other people can get some easy, quick ideas on ways to spend time and ways to stay positive throughout all of this. My hearts and thoughts go out with all families who are affected and impacted. And I want to say, thank you for tuning in this has been episode 205. If you want to get a list of the things that I'm talking about here, you can go to the show notes. That's simple families.com/episode205. Have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.