Three tips to keeping a happy home during the pandemic
Being in the middle of a pandemic can be stressful for anyone. Children who are not in school and adults not going to work are radical changes to a family's environment and dynamic.
So, how do you continue to keep your children engaged and in good moods while stuck at home?
Manage your time
Set a time to get out of bed each morning and a time to go to sleep at night -- then stick to it!
Having a routine is the most important rule of this entire dynamic and necessary for everyone in the home. If you only follow one rule, make sure it's this one. The goal of emotional well-being is to feel happy and calm, for which a good night's sleep is necessary.
Did you know a child's internal clock, the timepiece in the brain that determines when you feel tired and when you feel awake, is longer than a 24-hour day? Without clues from the environment, like sunshine, children will stay awake a little later and wake up a little later every day. Without school, it's tempting to sleep and wake whenever they feel like it. Each passing night they fall asleep later and later. Their body clock will then not be the same as the earth's rotation from day into night.
This is called a "circadian rhythm sleep disorder" and it leads to depression, daytime tiredness, poor sleep, poor memory and poor focus, as well as obesity and poor health.
If your children are having trouble sleeping, make sure they're using their beds for sleep -- no phones, no homework and no TV allowed. Help them teach their brains and bodies the bed is for sleep. Other commonly overlooked causes of childhood insomnia are anxiety and depression, for which help is available, even when sheltering at home.
Keep your child's mind productive
Create something productive for your children to do. Most online schools have temporarily relaxed their grading standards and attendance requirements. But this is no time to slack off -- idle minds are not healthy minds. Students should continue to work hard on their schoolwork, completing as due.
Everyone must keep a daily routine. Make sure your children are getting cleaned up every day, even though they aren't going anywhere. It's also a good idea to get dressed in street clothes every day, too.
Work it out!
Make sure your children -- and you -- are exercising for 20 to 60 minutes every day, if they can. Exercise will help with their sleep, mood and health.
They can do whatever they like to do, as long as they're moving about, making their heart beat faster and feeling exerted. Online resources from your local community center or YMCA are great places to start.
They can also do some calisthenics, such as deep knee bends, jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place and stretching. Playing active games utilizing balloons or sponge foam balls inside the home is also a great form of exercise and distraction.
That's all there is to it! Make sure your kids keep a daily routine, stay productive, exercise, and go to sleep and wake up the same time every day. This way, your family will better achieve emotional well-being while at home.
• Children's health is a continuing series. Dr. Mitchell Glaser is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and medical director of the Child Psychiatry Program at AMITA Health Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center Chicago. He is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry for the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University.