Helping kids deal with the effects of social distancing



Guest Columnist

Kids and parents could never have imagined a summer with empty pools, shuttered summer camps and canceled holiday celebrations. Despite some slow re-openings, many continue to socially distance themselves from friends and extended family due to COVID-19.

It’s easy to focus on the hardships adults face through these rare circumstances – after all, health and economic crises are worthy of our attention – but children are also affected by this unusual start to summer with drastically reduced socialization away from friends and family. Just because kids might not talk about these changes doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not affected by them, and there’s plenty of things parents and caregivers can do to help.

  • Establish a household routine. Kids might not be able to articulate this concept, but a sense of normalcy is important to them. Incorporate family time, alone time and quiet time into your family’s household routine.
  • Play with your kids. Even if your home workload has increased and/or you’re now working from home, be sure to set aside time in your day to play. Playtime doesn’t need to be complicated; in fact it can be completely unstructured. The simple act of playing with your kids can benefit them physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively, and it can even help encourage their communication and creativity.
  • Improvise. If camp is closed and your usual Fourth of July event is canceled, you can still make it all happen and with minimal effort, but include your kids in the conversation. Talk to your kids about virtual summer camps and research the options online together. Find holiday activities to do as a family to still make the Fourth a memorable day in your home (i.e., make fireworks in a jar!).
  • Think beyond the screen. Some say too much screen time is problematic. Some say screen time in quarantine is essential. Whatever your philosophy, a healthy balance of on- and off-screen time is important. Check out this link for ideas of things to do without a screen.
  • Still connect with loved ones. You can’t see them in person, but you can see them online. Virtual play dates, story times and quick chats with family and friends can make all the difference in keeping kids socially engaged with those they can’t physically visit.
  • Include your kids in the discussion. A global pandemic is ripe with learning opportunities. As a parent, it can be second nature to take over and run the show, but your kids can help you think through these new strategies. These simple conversations with your kids can give them a chance to acknowledge the challenges associated with COVID-19 while also allowing them to impact their solutions. For a good resource on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19, social distancing and more, click here.

Additional Helpful Resources

  • Fun ideas and resources to get kids up and moving. Virtual field trips and tours, arts and crafts, music and more.
  • PlayWorks.orgFun and easy games to play, including ideas on how to play while social distancing.
  • PinterestDIY arts and craft ideas and water play activities
  • Provides families with the information and inspiration they need to make play an important part of their child’s day.

Carrie Starnes is a Carmel resident and Child Life Specialist at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center in Indianapolis. Carrie helps children to develop age-appropriate techniques for handling their rare bleeding or blood disorders and to grow in confidence and independence as they transition through childhood.


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