Social Isolation 101

I’m sure most parents have experienced one of those rainy weekends when you are all trapped inside the house. It tends to start off well enough with a lazy morning in pyjamas, maybe a few board games, a bit of craft and then a movie. But sometime after lunch things start to go a bit pear-shaped. Meltdowns over who gets to sit where, running races or wrestling matches that end with some piece of furniture getting destroyed, lots of tears … What started as such a promising, quiet day indoors quickly deteriorates into chaos.

For many parents at the moment this has become our new reality as we adjust to life in social isolation. The rainy weekend, day after day after day. Amusing children when they can’t go out or see their friends. And then throwing some home-schooling on top of it. Sound challenging?

How are we going to survive this period of social isolation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic? How do we provide for all of our kids’ needs when they are confined to our home for the vast majority of the week with no physical contact with their friends, teachers and (sometimes) family?

This is a huge challenge. Chances are that we will learn a lot more about how to handle this situation as it progresses. But for now, here are some ideas to get us started.

Routine. Routine, routine, routine. In a chaotic world, children increasingly need routine. There is a lot out there at the moment which is unpredictable as the global and national situation changes all of the time. However, we can to some degree have some say over how their world looks at home.

Following a daily and weekly routine is key to a child feeling safe and secure. It’s also the only way that we are likely to get anything done!

You’ll also need a clear system for managing their behaviour as part of this routine too (but more on this another time).

Secondly, we need to be increasingly deliberate about meeting the needs of our children. Needs such as physical activity and contact with others will no longer get met as readily as they did when life was “normal”. Children do not have peers to bump into and chat to in the playground. As such, we need to deliberately schedule these activities into their lives. Having weekly remote playdates will be key as will scheduling in times for physical play in the day, particularly in the mornings and late afternoons.

In terms of social contact, it is probably worth keeping in mind a rule of thumb of doubling the contact that they would normally have.

So if we normally spoke to grandparents once a week pre-pandemic then twice a week is probably best during the pandemic. This tends to account for the lack of richness in social contact and the lack of length of these interactions when they are conducted remotely.

Thirdly, look for some longer term projects and interests that you can do together. It can be worth taking a bit of an opportunity mindset to what has happened. This doesn’t mean that we discount what our children have lost during this time, we need to ensure that we grieve with them in this regard. However, it is worthwhile to also take some time to identify some of the opportunities that this time will offer. Slower mornings, more time together as a family, the opportunity to knock over some jobs that have been hanging over our heads. Some of those bigger jobs such as yard work, or organising our family photos, may prove useful in keeping the children occupied.

Lastly for now, make sure that you take care of yourself. The principles above apply to us as adults as much as they do to children.

No doubt, we will have more wisdom to share collectively on how to manage this time as the year rolls on. Stay connected with each other for tips and hacks that work for you. Wine and cheese nights via Zoom, Netflix movie parties, grandparents reading bedtime stories via FaceTime.

We should all be experts at this by the time that it is over.