Many Americans are entering week three of social distancing and sheltering in place. For parents, that means another week without school, day care, parks, playdates or one-on-one interactions for their kids.
Social media is full of mommy vloggers sharing schedules and tips to keep kids engaged and videos of impromptu teacher parades. But, as a parent of a 3-year-old myself, I have been wondering how social distancing is impacting young kids.
Children start building their social skills around age 2 to 3, says Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist with Duke University Medical Center. “Seeing that there are children that like the same things I like … [b]ecomes so important for child development. It helps with language. It helps with social skills. It helps with trust in the world around them.”
As little kids become stressed, parents might begin to see some behavioral changes: more temper tantrums, becoming more clingy, and developmental regressions like thumb-sucking or potty training accidents.
But not to worry, says Dr. Gurwitch. There are simple things caregivers can do to limit the impact on their kids:
- Create and stick to a routine
- Set small goals each day
- If you’re working from home and parenting, give your child undivided attention for 20 minutes every hour or so
- Talk to them about what’s going on
- Stay connected virtually
- Take care of yourself
And if you’re worried that these aren’t working or your child’s behavior is significantly different, here are some additional resources you can use:
- Talking to Children about Coronavirus (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
- Coping During COVID-19: Resources for Parents (Child Mind Institute)
- Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Disaster Distress Helpline (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Psychology Help Center (American Psychological Association)