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Coping with COVID-19 -or Spring Break II

March 15, 2020
By Mara Mauze, PhD, ABPP

Welcome to Spring Break 2.0!  So here we are.  Schools are closed. Most large group events are canceled and kid friendly places like the Zoo and the Doseum are closed.  Do we need to take this seriously? Yes. Is it time to panic? No.  But let’s be realistic, it’s hard not to when you get to HEB and all paper products, milk, and eggs are gone.  So how do we address this as parents? How do we prepare our kids for changes in routine while also keeping them safe from potential germs? The below list will give you some tips for talking to your kids about what’s going on while also giving ideas on how to manage the days ahead. 

Use Kid Friendly Language.  When we learned that school was canceled, we had an open discussion with our kids.  We explained that there is a germ going around that spreads quickly from person to person.  I reminded my kids how quickly flu spread from friend to friend and said that this virus spreads quickly too so schools and other places we like to go are closed for a while to help prevent the spread of germs.  They seemed to understand this without too much fuss. 

Remember Little Ears and Eyes.  The news can be terrifying as it cites borders being closed in different countries, statistics etc.  Consider allowing yourself a set amount of time to check the news each day (i.e., 15-30 minutes after your kids are down or before they are awake) to mitigate your own potential anxiety. We don’t watch the news in front of our kids.  We are careful about what we talk about in front of them.  We try to be very matter of fact and specific in what we discuss within earshot. Remember that they are watching and listening.  Their reaction will mimic your reaction. If you are panicked, they will be too. If you adopt a calm demeanor, at least in front of them, their reaction will be calmer too. 

Wash Your Hands.  I know, how many times have we all heard this, particularly in recent days?  But we are re-emphasizing it at our house and this is a great opportunity for lots of soap and bubble play.  If you have a funnel and some dish soap, you can create all kinds of fun.  Put an old sock or thin cloth over the wide end of the funnel, dip in dish soap and blow.  Lots of fun bubbles! 

Stick to a Routine. We are all creatures of habit and kids especially crave routines.  Yes we are mostly at home right now but you can create a routine within that. We are sticking to our meal times, rest times, and bedtimes.  This morning after breakfast we had some creative painting time.  After rest times it will likely be lots of Lego and puzzle building.  You don’t need to schedule every hour of the day but keeping some of your basic parameters in place will help everyone cope better. 

Find the Silver Lining. This morning my oldest asked if we had time to make pancakes. He always wants pancakes for breakfast but on schooldays we rarely have time. Bonus Spring Break means lots of time to make pancakes. My youngest wanted pajama day. Well, good news, we have nowhere to go. Pajama day it is. I have a long list of house projects I’d love to get done so perhaps this is our opportunity to tackle those. 

Outside, outside, outside.  You and your kids will get stir crazy if you don’t get to go run around.  Consider parks or trails you can explore.  Focus on bike riding or playing in your yard.  I know there’s some rain in the forecast so maybe this is a good time for puddle chalk art or putting on rain boots and coats and puddle hopping. 


Above all, keep your perspective.  This is inconvenient for everyone but it will pass, and we will hopefully be better off from taking this time to hit pause and stop the spread of the virus as quickly as possible.  In the meantime, try to find the joy in this unexpected time together as a family.  Our kids are little for such a short period of time and as challenging as that period of time can be, for the next several days, hug your family close and try to focus on the opportunity before us to weather this storm with as much grace as we can muster.