How to build quality family time during COVID-19
All over the world, physical distancing means that families are spending more time at home together to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This often means that the lines between home, work and school have become blurred.
For Fresenius Kidney Care nurses and clinical technicians who are parents, COVID-19 probably means that one parent is an essential worker on the frontline and another parent is working from home – where they may also be caring for children and supervising their schooling. If both parents are essential workers, or if you are a single parent working on the frontline, your extended family may be caring for your children while you are working.
Family time is definitely different during COVID-19 and each family situation will be unique with its own set of challenges and opportunities. No matter what your situation, there are ways your family can spend time together that will help make this period a positive experience where you are able to build deeper connections. When COVID-19 is behind us, you may just find that many of these ideas will become part of your new family life.
We are all used to having routines at work and school. Routines are good for our wellbeing and help children and teenagers to feel safe because they know what to expect. COVID-19 has taken many of these usual routines away, and so it can help to create new ones. These ideas can help:
- Create a routine for each family member that includes time for schoolwork, outside play (if it is allowed in your country), exercise, quiet play, reading, screen time, connecting with friends, and helping with household chores.
- Remember to include free time in your routines – you don’t need to plan everything!
- Include one-on-one time with each child as part of their routine and ask what they would like to do during this time. Making this the same time every day gives children something to look forward to. This factsheet from the World Health Organization (WHO) has ideas for one-one-one time for children of different ages.
- It’s also good for the parent who is working on the frontline to have one-on-one time with each child – helping both the frontline parent and child to still feel connected. Depending on the shift you are working, this might need to be at different times of the day.
- Get older children to help create their own routine. This helps them to develop a sense of responsibility.
- You can write routines on a template that you can find online (search for ‘daily schedule templates’) or draw them with colored markers. Children can decorate their routine, making it even more personal.
- Put your routines up in a central place where everyone can see them: like on the fridge.
Stay in touch
When we are physically distancing, it’s important for your own and your children’s wellbeing to find new ways of staying in touch with friends and extended family.
Here are some ideas you might like to try:
- Organize a virtual playdate for your child using a free video platform so they can see and talk with their friends. You could make this a part of their regular routine and connect with different groups of friends on different days.
- Set up a regular time that the whole family can chat with extended family members such as grandparents on the phone or with a video chat – once a week works for many families. Make this a time when the Fresenius Kidney Care frontline worker can be on the call as well. This is helpful for you and your children and also for grandparents, aunts and uncles who may be feeling isolated.
- It’s especially important for teenagers to stay in touch with their friends and they are sure to have their favorite platforms for doing this. Online games for multiple players are a fun way for teenagers to stay connected too. This WHO factsheet includes tips for keeping children safe online.
Playing is fun and educational. There are lots of free and low-cost ideas you can try:
- Use jumbo chalk for children to make drawings in your driveway or footpath together if it is okay to go outside in your country. Children around the world are drawing rainbows and writing messages of hope.
- Play a board game or card game. This can be a good time to teach children new games and to learn about taking turns.
- Try some storytelling. You could read a chapter from a book each day or take turns making up your own stories. Your children might like to write down their story, add pictures and make it into their own book.
- Coloring-in is relaxing for children of all ages – and for adults too! You might have coloring books at home or you can choose from free coloring pages online, where you’ll also find a new at-home learning activity posted every Monday.
- Encourage you children to draw a picture, then take a photo of it on their phone send it to a parent who is working on the frontline to surprise them during their workday. You could also send a picture photo to a grandparent who you can’t visit at the moment.
- Talk with teenagers about the things that they are interested in – sports, music, technology, fashion and friends.
- Here are some more great ideas from the WHO on Learning through play.
With restaurants and cafes closed in many countries, we are all doing more cooking by necessity – and this can also be an enjoyable and educational way for families to spend time together. The bonus at the end is a homemade snack or meal for everyone to enjoy.
How you get children involved will depend on their age and ability. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- If you have more than one child, it helps for each to have their own tasks and bench space to work on.
- Start with simple recipes like banana bread, muffins or pancakes. You can find many healthier versions of these online – try The Healthy Chef for ideas. Older children might be in charge of measuring ingredients in cups, spoons or on scales (a great way to develop math skills). A younger child might be in charge of stirring at each stage.
- Get the whole family involved in making a simple, healthy dinner like vegetable noodles or fried rice, or homemade pizzas (you can use flatbreads as a base). Each child can choose a vegetable they would like to include in the dish and then be in charge of preparing that vegetable. Use this as an opportunity to talk about why eating plenty of vegetables is good for health. Remember to supervise children while they are using knives.
- Cooking can be a good one-on-one activity with older children and teenagers. Talk with your child about what they would like to cook and look up recipes online together. If you don’t have all the ingredients, making do with what you do have in the pantry can be half the fun and a good lesson in learning to compromise.
- For countries where it is okay to go outside, try to enjoy a walk, ride a bike or have some backyard fun with your children every day.
- You can also try some old-fashioned activities that help to keep everyone moving – like hula-hooping, skipping rope, hide-and-seek, and jumping games. Or see who can touch their toes the most times or do the most jumping jacks.
- Play the party game ‘musical chairs’ – a game where family members walk around a group of chairs while music plays. When the music stops, each player tries to quickly sit on a chair, but because there is always one less chair than the people playing, the one person who is left standing must leave the game! Here’s a quick guide and some clever twists to keep the game interesting.
- Ask children to come up with their own ideas for being active and use a different child’s idea for movement time each day.
- Put on an online dance or exercise video and have a good laugh while you all follow along.
We hope you find some ideas here to help your family have fun and connect during this time. You might like to try a different activity each day and then make a list of favorites that everyone in the family wants to try again.
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