The Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered family life for most people. Schools are closed, many parents are working remotely, and most activities are either canceled or moved online. Everyone is navigating a variety of unique challenges during these unprecedented times, making it increasingly difficult to manage kids daily needs.

In addition to all these changes, parents need to develop new ways to manage kids’ daily needs. Children need to feel safe, stay occupied, and keep up with their education as best as possible. Here are some practical tips to help parents meet their kids’ challenging needs during the pandemic.

1. Have reasonable expectations of yourself.

Many people are learning how to manage different stressors and a lot of unknowns. It’s essential to have reasonable expectations for yourself and your kids. Sometimes it’s helpful to relax traditional boundaries a bit.

For example, you might not usually allow your kids to have screen time or watch television on weeknights during the school year. But, now that school is canceled or moved online, many parents are relaxing the screen time boundaries. It’s okay to explain to your children that this is a unique situation and that the boundaries will soon return to “normal.”

2. Have reasonable expectations of your children.

It’s also helpful (and important) to lower your expectations of your children. These changes in daily life are stressful for them, too. Most children manage well, with the support of their parents and other family members. Still, they’re no longer going to school, seeing their friends, and attending their regular activities. Don’t be surprised if your kids show some unusual behaviors.

For example, some children express their fears and anxieties by throwing tantrums or getting upset over small things. Kids might also have shorter attention spans or become more irritable, defiant, or clingy.

It’s okay to relax your expectations to help manage kids’ daily needs and focus on maintaining healthy relationships and a calm environment.

3. Develop a routine, but be flexible.

A “free-for-all” schedule is great for snow days and very short breaks. But it can quickly lead to boredom, anxiety, and other issues if it lasts too long. Routines help manage kids’ daily needs (and adults) feel safer, especially during stressful times. Kids are used to daily routines, and sudden, unplanned breaks in daily schedules can be difficult for them to understand (especially young children).

Kids are healthier when there is a schedule for each day–especially weekdays. Develop a routine that provides some rhythm and structure to your time at home. It’s essential to have regular bedtimes, meal times, and set periods for schoolwork, chores, and other activities. If you have older children, allow them to help plan the family routines, so they have some sense of control over their new circumstances.

Schedules offer much-needed structure, but the key to success is flexibility. If it is too rigid, it will be hard to follow and add unnecessary stress. Don’t be afraid to try new things and take things one day at a time. It may also be helpful to include children in planning the schedule or allow them to make suggestions on how their day should be scheduled.

4. Help children feel connected to peers and family members.

Especially older kids might feel the need to connect with their peers. Thanks to modern technology like Zoom, parents can help their children stay in touch with friends and classmates while observing social distancing rules.

Now that many states are entering phase three of reopening, some face-to-face interactions are approved. Kids might enjoy meeting with friends to ride bikes on a trail, play at a park, or other safe outdoor activities that allow them to connect with friends and have safe social experiences.

While many kids are adept at using technology, this is an excellent opportunity to help them develop excellent communication skills. Have kids practice their writing and spelling by writing letters to their friends. Before setting up a Zoom playdate, consider having your child come up with a few fun questions they want to ask their friend to find out how they’re doing.

You can also use technology to stay connected with family members. Parents are getting very creative about incorporating grandparents, aunts, and uncles into their daily lives with Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and other video call options. Invite grandparents or relatives to call and read stories to your young children. Host a virtual craft party with family or friends. The possibilities are nearly endless!

5. Take the opportunity to connect and try new things.

Incorporating new activities and experiences into your routine can create fun family times, relieve stress, and combat boredom. Plus, kids often learn best through hands-on activities and experiences.

Find recipes you’ve wanted to try and do some family baking or cooking! Kids will love practicing measuring ingredients and learning to follow instructions. Playing board games is a fun family activity that also helps children learn cooperation, strategy, counting, and other vital skills. Trying new arts and crafts spark creativity and allow young children to use their fine motor skills. You can even find projects that might help others, like writing thank-you cards to healthcare workers!

Despite the challenges of managing a kid’s daily needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the positive side-effects can be spending quality time with your children and making positive memories during a difficult time.

One way to help everyone recognize and process their emotions is to create a vision board or document with pictures what you did that day. You can incorporate some play therapy strategies by asking kids to choose an image that best represents how they’re feeling today. Then, you can talk about it together.

6. Take time for yourself.

Caregivers must also take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s completely understandable to be tired, anxious, and overwhelmed. Find ways to take breaks to care for yourself as you care for your kid’s daily needs.

Try to eat healthily, get some exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Limit your consumption of news and social media and keep a sense of perspective.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a break. Take a shower, go outside or to another room, or go for a short walk. Try some deep-breathing relaxation techniques, journal, or even take up yoga! (There are plenty of great free yoga tutorials online.)

Taking care of yourself and keeping your own worries in check will positively impact the whole family and help you be more present to your children as you manage their daily needs.

7. Remember, you’re not alone!

Above all, it’s essential to remember that these are challenging times for everyone in your house. But, you’re not alone, and it’s okay to reach out and ask for help as you care for your children. Be creative, be flexible, and be gentle with yourself and your kids as you stay sane and stay healthy through these unprecedented times.

Contact the Center for Speech and Language Development if you have any questions or concerns. Our staff are available for virtual consultations and we now offer virtual options for pediatric therapy.