Schools in New York state have been closed for nearly two months now, and we know the students won't be headed back into the classroom this academic year. 

This situation is tough for many of us, kids included.

School buildings are shut down, playgrounds are off limits, and friends are no longer face-to-face for most kids. 

"The loneliness is tough. The seclusion from friends, the friends that she has in school," said Kristi Moscato, a parent of a middle school daughter and son in Hamburg.

Like many families, they're dealing with something almost unimaginable a few months ago. Regardless of their age, it can be difficult to deal with. 

"It's very important to be open with your children that it's very important to talk through your problems," said Lynne Shine, mental health therapist at Audubon Counseling.

She says for younger grade school kids, it's a good idea to limit their exposure to the bad news, but try to answer their questions about COVID-19 and why they can't go to school or see their friends in a limited way, while also reassuring them. 

"You can certainly tell them about what we need to do to remain healthy and why we can't infect other people, but keep it short so they're not getting as anxious," she said.

Shine recommends keeping a good routine, and letting kids use technology to find the social interaction many are missing.

"There's really clever ways to do it just like we do with Zoom and FaceTimes, allow them to do it," Shine said. "Facebook has done a messenger program where you can allow them and see who they're connecting with. That's a very safe way to connect with their friends."

Older kids might be missing out on high school graduation, prom or their spring sports seasons. Shine says that can lead to grief and depression.

"Number one, acknowledge it. It is painful. It's painful to lose something that we were so looking forward to, and they're losing it," Shine said.

But she also suggests pointing out the positives, like looking ahead to the time when people can get back together. Finding creative outlets is also important. Whether that's artwork, writing in a journal, family games or even volunteering to help others in the community. 

And those who need extra help can call counselors, agencies like Child & Family Services, or look for resources online.

"This is a time to show people that yes, it hurts. It hurts very, very much but we will get through this," Shine said.

Below are a list of activities, reminders and resources Shine provided to help during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Activity Ideas:

  • Coloring, painting, some sort of art work with scraps around the house, etc.
  • Art projects for a group (i.e. everyone draws or paints the same image, everyone draws someone else in the family, etc.)
  • Pillow fort
  • Reading
  • Journal – come up with prompts each day or let everyone free write. Everyone keeps their journals/papers in their own private space
  • Book club – everyone reads the same book, article, or short story and has a group discussion.
  • Dance party – blast some music and just dance, or freeze dance
  • Musical chairs
  • Nap time
  • Indoor or outdoor picnic
  • Indoor or outdoor hide and seek
  • “American Idol” (2-3 judges, everyone else sings)
  • Guest of honor night – each night someone gets to be the guest of honor (cook their favorite meal and/or come up with a fun list of questions centered around a topic that they are knowledgeable or passionate about)
  • Sensory bins
  • Bubbles
  • Reorganizing things in the house (bedrooms, closets, pantries, etc.)
  • Family cleaning – everyone gets a chore
  • Family workout, taking a walk, or spending time in the yard
  • Baking/cooking a new food
  • Scavenger hunt (in the house or outside of the house)
  • Board games
  • Breathing exercises (set time aside each day to do structured breathing exercises as a family)
  • Learn a new skill
  • Have someone teach a new skill to everyone else
  • Have a costume night
  • Film a “newscast”
  • Karaoke
  • Puzzles
  • Tea party
  • Set up a stage and put on a show
  • Fashion show

Virtual Resource Links

Setting Structure:

  • It’s important and helpful to set a schedule during these times
  • Set a wake up time and breakfast time; try to keep things in the norm
  • Set up structured time around studying and academic work, just like a regular school day. Utilize the materials that will be provided by your children’s schools and teachers
  • Set up free time as well. Break up the academics with some free time to play, walk outside, exercise, etc.
  • Set a time for lunch, and stick to it. This will help break up the children’s routines and give them a sense of normalcy
  • Try and incorporate breathing or meditation or some sort of relaxing activity into the schedule. Normalize anxiety reduction. Normalize these tools. They are helpful for current circumstances, as well as normal day to day things you all experience
  • Perhaps try and incorporate journaling into the schedule for each day
  • It’s OK to include some age appropriate and developmentally appropriate chores in the schedule – responsibility is important
  • Make the schedule together and keep it posted somewhere in the house where children can see

Some Reminders:

  • Take breaks! Remember, there was no preparing for this. You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and feel a need to utilize your own self-care at this time
  • Communicate with others! Set up video chat dates, calls, and other virtual ways of communicating with friends and other family
  • Community is everything, compassion is essential – for others and for yourself
  • Reach out when you need support! Ask for help. We all need each other