Intel gathered from my patients, neighbors and personal grapevine has produced some creative coping approaches for increasing fun, generosity and connection during the crisis, while complying with quarantine and healthy safety measures.
Kids naturally know that they need to figure out mental well-being. This health crisis is certain to be a long haul, and just entertaining oneself with screens, socially isolating and focusing on news about the pandemic will make everyone depressed and irritable. As one of my young patients noted, “If I don’t figure out ways to have fun, I’ll go berzerko!” (That’s a twist on an Eminem song, he informed me.)
Here’s the inspirational guidance I’ve gathered from my survey question, “How can kids stay mentally healthy and help others during the quarantine?”
Volunteer to tutor younger kids on Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.
One kid told me he is better than most teachers because he thinks of funny things to surprise his “students.” During breaks, he blows bubbles, demonstrates dance moves and savors cookie dough to “break the work drudgery up.”
Play with kids in the park with social distancing.
Fly kites. Play kickball. Ride bikes. If we move to shelter in place, then we will have to figure out how to do major aerobics in the home.
Stock little neighborhood libraries and read more.
Public libraries are closed around the Sound. The little library in front of my house has never been so popular, and it is re-stocked regularly by Good Samaritans. Remember life before screens? There were lots of books. During high school, my son reminded me that he read Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series of 14 volumes — twice.
Learn a new skill online.
One of my patients is learning ukulele so she can be the next Billie Eilish. YouTube is chock-full of teaching videos. You can improve your math with Khan Academy, take art lessons, start a yoga practice and really learn to cook!
Communicate with your grandparents and family members more.
After acknowledging the coronavirus realities, decide to pivot and not talk about it, since everyone needs a break from worry. Plan ahead. One kid told me that she found “Knock, Knock” jokes on the web and kept her homebound great-aunt in stitches for a half an hour with them. The aunt said it was the best tonic for her virus anxiety so far.
Schedule game night with your family.
What’s your jam? Taboo? Scrabble? Charades? One of the families I work with is creating a game-a-thon. Each family member comes up with a new game to play each night. It is a “no-fail venture,” i.e., no one is allowed to criticize the game. They are employing a complicated point system I can’t recount. Figure out your own!
Create a “March Madness” bracket of songs.
I’m waiting for this family’s idea to go viral. Essentially, you start by gathering a bunch of family members and friends. Have everyone choose and bracket two songs, broadcast the brackets to your email list and have people vote. Repeat and repeat until you have an ultimate winner. Together, you’ll create an awesome pandemic playlist you will all remember forever.
Winston Churchill once opined, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Unlike the days of WWII, our quarantine limits face-to-face interaction. But we are creative! We are desperate to improvise. We want to prioritize healthy and loving acts undertaken for ourselves and for others. And kids can be some of the most imaginative among us, so let them lead us!