As we all navigate this new normal of schools being closed and children being home all day, filling your child’s day can seem pretty intimidating. For those families with a child with a disability at home, this can be even more daunting. Many children with disabilities respond well to routines and daily schedules and this is certainly a disruption for which we were not able to prepare them.
For all parents and caregivers out there living in this new world, it is important to remember to relax. Take a deep breath. We will get through this. I gathered some tips from our amazing employees at the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities that families with children of all ages, and all abilities, might find helpful.
• Routines and daily schedules are important for children with and without disabilities. Knowing what is coming next can reduce some of the anxiety of the changes they are experiencing. A regular sleep schedule is also beneficial to maintaining a routine.
• Children can often perceive when their caregivers are feeling worried or anxious. Spend some time talking to your child about what is happening and provide some reassurance.
• The news can be scary to a child. Make sure the information they are watching is age appropriate and spend some time explaining concepts that they might not be familiar with. Many professionals are also recommending limiting exposure to the news for children.
• Some caregivers are working from home during this time. Locating activities that children can do while caregivers accomplish work can be difficult. Some ideas could include sticker books, puzzles, art projects or coloring. Nursing homes around the country have limited visitors and I am sure residents would enjoy a card or a drawing from your child. In addition, PBS Kids offers a channel available 24/7, as well as a video app with educational videos for children of all ages.
• Reading a book with your young child or talking about a chapter your older child has read is a good activity and can prevent the loss of skills while they are out of school.
• Check out the internet for virtual tours of museums, virtual field trips, zoo visits and on-line story times. A simple Google search can bring up many results.
• Learning time does not have to be serious. A variety of activities can help children stay engaged as well as build upon skills. For example, playing cards or board games together can develop math skills, social skills and language skills all while having fun.
• Children can still play outside during this time. Playing outside is not only good for continuing to develop gross motor skills, but exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety for children and adults.
If you need additional ideas for activities, the internet is full of great ideas for activities and resources for parents during this time.
As always, the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities is committed to ensuring the health and safety of children and adults with disabilities. If you have specific questions, please call our office at 937-497-8155.
The writer is the superintendent of the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.