Advice for parents during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic

How do we create good days when kindergartens and schools are closed? When families are together all the time, it creates both challenges and opportunities. 

This new situation has brought challenges none of us have ever faced before. We have lost many of our regular routines. This is true for all children, and most of us adults as well. We are spending more time together, and more time indoors. This will be challenging. It might therefore be a good idea to prepare for what you can do when it all gets a bit too much, or when you need some good advice.

As humans, we are good at adapting to new situations when we have to. Children are especially good at changing course, but they still need us adults to explain things to them and give them guidance.

We have tried to collect some things it may be good to know and tips for fun activities to do as we try to make sure children, teenagers and parents make a positive experience out of this new situation. 

tips

General tips for having a good day

  • Get up when you would normally get up and do what you would normally do. This applies to both you and your child. If that is no longer possible, create new routines that work in the current situation. 
  • If possible, split child care time between parents and work in a separate room.
  • Set aside time for a good lunch break in the middle of the day.  
  • Eat dinner together at the regular time.
  • Try to maintain a regular bedtime.  
  • It is not realistic to expect children to be able to focus on schoolwork for 7–8 hours. Breaks are essential, and perhaps they also need shorter days. Make sure to allow enough play time for younger schoolchildren. They need to be able to burn off some energy in order to be able to focus on schoolwork.  

Talk to children about Covid-19 and the coronavirus

It’s important to talk to your children about what is going on in order to reassure them and eliminate some of their fears.

  • Remember that most people who get the virus will not be seriously ill. We are all doing our part to protect the most vulnerable among us.
  • Explain why schools and kindergartens are closed, and why some people have to be in quarantine where they can’t meet others. Why can’t we go and visit the children's grandparents right now?
  • Pay attention to the information children and teenagers may find online. Talk to them and establish a dialogue about what they are seeing and reading.

Babies and toddlers (aged 0–3) 

These children primarily need an adult who is not stressed and who is present for them. Children this age live in the moment, have a limited perspective of time and tend to worry less than older children. Babies and toddlers use their parents or immediate caregivers as anchors, so if you feel safe, they feel safe.

Young children (aged 4–6)

Children aged 4–6 will need explanations. But the explanations you give them must be brief, so that the child can understand them. What you say must be true. Explain that the kindergarten is closed because of a virus that can infect many people and that to stop it, all children and all parents who can must stay home until we can stop the infection. Reassure them that everything is going to be all right.

It is important that you give the child enough information, because at this age, they tend to “fill in” any missing information themselves, in order to make sense of what is happening around them. And the information they invent on their own is often much worse than reality. Listen carefully and explain things as simply and as accurately as you can.

School-aged children (7–12 years) 

Between the ages of 7 and 12, children’s development makes quite a leap. Among other things, they develop the ability to put themselves in other people’s situations and to understand serious consequences. That’s why it is especially important for children in this age group that you, as the adult, help reassure them by giving them reliable information.

Children in this age group will get information from other sources than their parents, by searching online, watching TV and reading posts on social media. There is a lot of information about the new virus out there now. It would therefore be a good idea to talk to your child about what they have read. Listen to them and tell them you understand why they are worried.

At the same time, you can correct any misunderstandings if your child believes something is worse than it actually is. Help your child find and understand information from good sources, such as the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

Teenagers (aged 13–18) 

Teenagers probably don’t expect you to have all the answers. That’s why it's a good idea to ask some questions before you start explaining and informing — like you would with younger children.  

It's also good to keep in mind that from age 13–14, friends and social networks are the most important things in their lives. It will therefore be a major transition for many teenagers to spend less time out and more time inside with their family. And while it may not always be easy, try to remain a stable, reassuring adult role model, even though you may feel exasperated and tired of having a frustrated teenager around the house. Give them of yourself, even though they think you’re a dinosaur. We just have to make the most of this situation, as best we can.

Can children play together now?

In this unique situation, the health authorities are recommending that we all limit our contact with other people. This also applies to children, but children need to play, and there are some guidelines for how children can be together. Some children also have more than one home — what are the recommendations in these situations?

Find updated recommendations from the Norwegian Directorate of Health at helsenorge.no.

Read more at Foreldrehverdag

Below are a few articles in English from Foreldrehverdag, which may be especially useful for families right now.

tips

Things to do together

Generally, it’s a good idea, whatever the child’s age, to find nice and positive activities to do together. This includes:  

  • Watch a movie — perhaps explore something new and exciting?
  • Video clips online — ask the child to show you something they enjoy. 
  • Bake something new nobody has tried before.
  • Play a game, perhaps one that brings out the playfulness in everyone?
  • Conversation cards — fun and interesting questions for family members. There are several different games available for purchase, but this is also something you can make at home. Examples of questions include “What makes you happy?” and “What was your best ever summer holiday?”. Ask questions about opinions and interests. This is a great way to get to know each other better and the questions can be adapted for ages 6 and up.
  • Organize some form of competition (low stakes!) — such as a drawing/painting contest, or just paint/draw each other or something the child enjoys drawing. Perhaps a teddy bear or other favourite toy?
  • Find an activity to do together that may be a slight deviation from normal routines (e.g. eat popcorn and watch a movie that isn’t finished until after normal bedtime).

Explore what works for your family! And remember, things will return to normal and you will be all right. Hang in there and make the best of your time together!  

Online resources in English

Published 24. March 2020
Updated 25. March 2020