Coronavirus Closures, Flight Cancellations, Quarantines and Travel Restrictions have many people staying at home these days, and rightly so. But it's not necessarily easy, especially for families living in close quarters in tiny apartments, in cities from NYC to Hong Kong. Kids and other animals don't like to be cooped up, nor do most of them like to wear masks–so what do you do to keep everyone healthy and manage stress? A few ideas based on our experience and that of friends:
1. Explain Social Distancing to the Kids, Then Go for a Walk or Run
Kids need to have a good understanding of why they're being asked to stay inside for so much of the time, and also why they need to stay about 6 feet away from others when going outside or to wear masks. Fortunately, most kids aren't suffering severe symptoms from coronavirus, but that also means that many of them are likely carriers, and need to be kept away from those who are more vulnerable, either because of their age, underlying health conditions, or because their immune system is compromised.
Young kids may still have a hard time remembering to social distance, and need plenty of supervision and reminders, but older kids should be able to internalize this new normal once they understand the reasons. At the same time, be leery of sharing too much of the rapidly changing news and statistics with kids or having worried conversations with your spouse and partner in front of them–kids can get quite stressed, especially if they sense a good deal of parental anxiety or worry.
Kids (and adults) also need exercise though, both for physical health and overall well being. We've made it a point to get out at least once a day for at least 30-60 minutes of brisk walking, increasing our heart rate but also our mood.
2. Get Better Sleep
For those able to work from home, commute time has been cut to zero, so that should mean it's possible to get more sleep. It's also important to focus on sleep quality, which can be negatively impacted by too much ambient light, by caffeine, by alcohol, etc. While it's tempting, when at home, to make and drink more coffee or have more wine with dinner than one would normally, we're making an effort to significantly reduce our caffeine and alcohol intake during this time, since getting better sleep can help the immune system in fighting potential coronavirus exposure.
3. Eat Better
Along with sleeping well, healthy eating is key to a robust immune system. And although my family has something of a sweet tooth, we made a New Year's resolution to cut back on dessert this year, which has now coincided with another reason to eat better: the coronavirus. While we already had a quite decent diet, we're having even more salads, vegetables and fruits these days. Vitamins, after all, are best consumed in the form of food, rather than supplements.
4. Run the Humidifier (if in a Cool and Dry Climate)
Growing up in Hawaii, with its tropical and humid climate, I never understood the need for moisturizer or humidifiers. That changed once I experienced winters in Norway, Russia, and NYC. Low humidity environments can dry the mucus in the nose and throat, making them more susceptible to viruses, including the coronavirus. Keeping your home at a 40-60% humidity level can help combat the dryness and reduce transmission of the coronavirus. Of course, you can't humidify your environment when taking walks, but we've been using an old trick that some flight attendants swear by: applying moisturizer or balm to our nostrils, to keep them from drying out.
5. Stay Connected with Friends and Family via FaceTime, Emails, and Phone Calls
Staying inside so much can be isolating, especially for kids used to plenty of interaction in their classroom, recess and at lunch. Online classes provides some interaction with their teacher and classmates, but it's not a great substitute for in-person learning, especially for younger kids.
Some kids, if they already have their own phone or iPad, are already frequently in touch with friends outside of school. Others, such as our son, strongly prefer in-person socializing, so the transition has been harder. With our encouragement he's used FaceTime to catch up with a friend, and we've had calls on speakerphone with relatives and friends. Meanwhile, my husband and I email and text our close friends to see how they're faring, and trade links to helpful articles, or to snarky or funny tweets or clips to take our mind off the pandemic.
6. Take a Virtual Vacation or Get Absorbed in a Great Book or Film
There's only so much coronavirus news one can take. Lower your stress levels by going reliving a favorite vacation through a family video of a past trip, watching a video about a place on your wish list, or reading a great book to take your mind off current events.
7. If You Must Travel, Take Your Own Masks, Wipes and Hand Sanitizer With You
If you do need to travel, make sure you bring your own masks, wipes and hand sanitizer with you, since these may be hard or impossible to find at your destination, and you'll likely want to use these items on the plane and in transit.
8. Remove Potential Coronavirus Around Your Nose and Mouth Before Sleeping
In addition to social distancing and thoroughly washing hands and avoiding touching your face, it can be helpful to limit sedation (such as alcohol and sleeping aids) before sleep and to try to remove potential coronavirus around your nose and throat before sleeping, to avoid coronavirus reaching your lungs via fluid from the nose or throat. A Seattle doctor recommends washing your face well with soap and water, including about a quarter inch into each nostril, followed by gently blowing your nose before going to bed. For your throat, the usual dental hygiene of brushing teeth and tongue and gargling with an antiseptic mouthwash can help minimize the virus burden for your throat.
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