Family Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Jontue Koff, Pediatric Occupational Therapist

While I am happy that we have the opportunity to slow down, take long walks as a family, and play a long game of Scrabble… I also realize that during all of this uncertainty that my girls, like most children, need a plan. A plan for each day of the week that was previously filled with school, sports, dance, religious school, and friends. This is a time of uncertainty for our family, community, and world. Our lives have been totally turned upside down these past few days. Everything that was so normal for our children has become rather non-existent for now. So how to do we navigate this new day-to-day as parents? How to do we keep our children happy, healthy and balanced? What can we do to make sure they feel challenged each day but also successful?  Remember, this is not an endless vacation that we are all on. Right?

Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Harvard Medical School recently stated “It’s important kids don’t see this as an indefinite snow day”.  And it’s true. Our children can learn to school themselves once the foundation is set by an adult. Now I don’t mean that your 4 year old can teach themselves geometry once you put it on a schedule. However, if you have recently been in a preschool classroom, you will see that a 4 year old can follow a routine rather consistently because the adult teacher has set them up for success with visuals, timers and prompts. Having our children home gives them an opportunity to practice  dividing up time and sticking to a plan which is a great life skill and also an opportunity to self-regulate. 

This past Sunday night (the night before our first work week home), we sat down as a family and talked about a schedule that would make sense for the girls. It includes activities of daily living like making their own breakfast and getting ready for the day. You know, a basic self-care routine. Their schedule contains chores such as cleaning their bedrooms and bathroom and caring for our family pet. Remember, our children love helping out around the house. It feels good to help the family. With their teachers posting assignments online, we made sure the schedule encompassed academic time along with quiet reading time as well. But we thought it was important to include social time – a time for the girls to connect with friends via instant messaging or FaceTime. And every single day we are strongly encouraging them to get outside and play! 

What I’ve come to realize over the past few days is that I love our new schedule because it has provided our  family opportunities to enjoy each other without feeling like we are rushing off to the next practice, sports game, or social gathering. We can take our time and slow down. With that being said, I also realize the certainty of their daily schedule has wonderful benefits as we all adjust to our new life at home.

Jontue Koff is a licensed and registered occupational therapist who received her Masters in Science from Columbia University. She founded At Play Occupational Therapy Services located in Solana Beach in 2013. Jontue has worked in the home, school, and clinical settings for over 12 years. Her therapy practice uses a holistic approach by treating the whole family to ensure carry over in the home. You will often find Jontue at a variety of school sites collaborating with a child’s educational team. Jontue is SIPT (Sensory Integration Praxis Test) certified and trained in feeding. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and is registered with the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy. 

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