Dr. Gilboa's Tips for Sheltering In Place with Your Elementary-Aged Kids

Mom and Child doing homework

Shelter in Place with a Schedule in Place 

Parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa does not want you to worry if you are not following an intricate color-coded daily schedule, but she shares that structure helps elementary schoolers. During quarantine, the best way Dr. Gilboa shares is to have structure with plenty of flexibility, by saying, "It's okay to parent like a kindergarten teacher -- have a schedule but don't worry if stuff gets knocked over and spilled." 

Just like field trips and fire drills, kids are able to handle all kinds of breaks in their normal routine. Dr. G shares they can handle these breaks at home too. She does stress having a basic guide that you go back to each day in order to give them a sense of calm, no matter how successful you were at it the day before. She also stresses that you should strive to have weekends feel different, like keeping pancake breakfast on Saturday a special weekend tradition. 

Read: Parent's Guide to Coronavirus Quarantine Survival

Three Tips to Take Some of The Pressure Off You

Dr. G shares two very useful tips about how to have other adults stay involved in your kids' life during this time of social distancing. 

Tip 1: She urges parents of elementary school-aged kids to lean on grandparents, babysitters, and other adults that are normally in the child's life for a half-hour of structure, or virtual visits at different times during the day. So, your 5th grader should still try and meet with his or her tutor on Tuesdays, or if you have an after-school babysitter perhaps you pay them for a half-hour visit over video chat while you make dinner. She stresses that it's important to have your kids keep their connections with more adults than just you right now. She suggests recruiting grandparents to read bedtime stories two nights a week, as they may not have a lot to do right now. 

Tip 2: Dr. G also encourages parents to barter their time with other parents. Perhaps one night a week you do storytime for your child and their friends, the next night another parent teaches a half-hour sign language class.  

Tip 3: Dr. G thinks this is a great time to be teaching your kids how to help around the house. There are things you know your kid is capable of doing that you haven't taken the time to teach them. She says that If you do that this week, it's off your to-do list next week. She shares, for example, your 7-year-old can do the laundry and your 9-year-old can help make lunches. Should parents be more hesitant to pass along cleaning obligations because of the virus that everyone is worried about? Dr. G argues it's even more important for kids to learn to clean right now. 

Bonus Hand Washing Tip!: Dr. G suggests you let your kids pick the smell of soap they like - put their name on it - since they like the way it smells, they are likely to use it more often, and you can smell their hands to see if they actually used it. 

What Do you Want Your Kids to Learn During this Time? 

Instead of making a plan for schoolwork, Dr. G wants parents to think about the purpose. What do you want your child to get out of these weeks as they are learning at home? Knowing your purpose will help you guide them. She shares some useful things kids can get out of this unique situation:

  • How to be good distance learners
  • How to self-motivate
  • How to keep connections with classmates

For the vast majority of parents who don't have virtual learning opportunities, this is a great time to ask your kids what they want to learn. There are lots of free resources online right now.

Read: Positive Coronavirus Coping Strategies for Toddlers During Quarantine

Stay Connected to Your Kids' Mental Health

Dr. G warns that elementary-aged kids communicate through their behavior and shares, "If you are seeing them act out in ways that frustrates, confuses or surprises you, try to get curious and figure out what your kid is trying to communicate."

Are they frustrated more easily and having more meltdowns? When they are not in that moment of crisis, check in about how they are feeling. She shares that having a nightly check-in about the challenges they are experiencing can be very helpful. "We sometimes ask people less about their day when we're spending it with them, but you don't know what you don't know about your kids inner experience or the things that happened when you weren't in the room," she shares. 

For All Parents -- How to Help Your Kids Develop Coping Strategies for Resiliency: 

Dr. G shares that right now is a perfect time to model coping mechanisms for your kids. Statistically, 99.8 percent of all kids are going to live through the pandemic. That’s fantastic! However, they are going to face other times of major upheaval and uncertainty in their lives so the most important thing right now is they are learning how to manage these times.

What Can We Do:

Dr. G shares that you should make a list of all the things you do to make yourself feel better or comfort yourself like listening to music, 20 minutes of yoga, a long hug, a quick nap, and whenever you feel uneasy, pick something from your list.

She shares to make a list with your child too, so they have their own list of coping strategies on hand as well. By modeling and encouraging this behavior, you are setting your kid up to tackle all times of upheaval and uncertainty in their lives, not just this one. For more suggestions and help, check out Dr. G's site and learn how to develop resiliency in your kids. 

*Stay informed on the latest information on the coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization and learn about prevention methods and what to do if you are infected.

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