The coronavirus outbreak has changed many things about our daily lives. But even during this uncertain time, it’s a sure thing that our children are still learning, growing, and developing.
Everyone can help support a child’s healthy development (and it may even help relieve your stress!). Just a few minutes and some simple, free activities from Center on The Developing Child ( Harvard University) can make a difference.
1- Practice “Serve and Return”
Practice “serve and return,” or back-and-forth interaction with your little ones. Even before they learn to talk, infants and children reach out for attention—babbling, gesturing, or making faces. When young children “serve up” a chance to engage with them, it’s important to “return” with attention. It can be as simple as a game of peek-a-boo. Or, if a toddler points at a toy, name it out loud as you hand it to the child.
Why? Serve-and-return interactions help build developing brains and resilience, something we all need in these challenging times.
2- Maintain Social Connections
Stay-at-home measures are helping to slow the spread of the virus, protect our health, and protect our hospitals. But, while we are staying apart from each other physically, it’s even more important to connect socially, to protect our emotional well-being. Keep up relationships and social contacts—while maintaining physical distance outside your own home.
Why? Responsive relationships—like those with lots of serve and return interactions (see #1 above)—between children and adults, adults and other adults, and children and other children all help buffer us against the effects of ongoing stress.
Tips & Helpful Resources:
Talk with family and friends via video chat or phone. This is a great way to connect children with other adults (and give you a short break!).
If talking live isn’t an option, write emails or old-fashioned letters to friends and family. Encourage children to ask questions of their grandparents and other adults.
Make encouraging posters and signs and put them in your windows to support your neighbours. This can also be a fun craft project to do with children!
Go outside and say hello to neighbours, friends, people passing by. Just make sure to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you.
3- Take a Break
Take a break (with or without children). If you feel overwhelmed, find a way to give your stress response a rest. Take a walk around the block. Try a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing. Call a friend (see #2 above).
And, give yourself a break. Remember that you’re not alone—everyone is struggling with these unexpected changes to our lives, and many of us need some extra support from our communities. Be kind to yourself and understand that you can’t do it all.
Why? When you’re able to find ways to give yourself a break, you’ll return to your children better able to meet their needs and support their development.
4- For More Information & Resources
Many communities and organizations offer supports and services such as crisis hotlines, food delivery, and relief funds. If you don’t know how to find them, we listed a link to the Emerging minds toolkits for supporting children during a pandemic and a few urgent contact links to visit:
24/7 crisis lines
You can call these crisis lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you or someone you are with is in immediate danger, please call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Talk to a trained mental health professional any time of the day or night. Calls are confidential. They will listen, provide information and advice and point you in the right direction to seek further support.
1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue chat online
Open 3 pm to midnight, 7 days a week