UGA Extension Office

Madison County Out of School Resources

Here are some ways parents can take care of their children's mental health as well as their own and make it through this disruption. (adapted from Colorado Public Radio article: What To Do With Kids At Home On Coronavirus Break For Who Knows How Long (Without Losing It) )

Don’t throw out structure. Map out how the days will flow. Set up specific times for reading/homework, chores,  free time, meals, family time and bedtime. It's helpful to post the schedule.

Make time for yourself. Everybody will need a breather right now. Make sure your children know that you will plan blocks of time for yourself and that they will need to self-entertain. This will give you time for needed chores and your own mental-health time. Making time for your own self-reflection, checking in with other parents and exercise time will help keep parents sane in the days ahead.

Free play. While officials are asking people to distance themselves from others, getting outside is still allowed and encouraged. Outside time and fresh air has huge physical and mental health benefits. While children might complain about not knowing what to do, they will quickly find something to explore or create while outside. Zoom sessions for your children and their friends are also available. This is also a great time to break out old hobbies and jigsaw puzzles. That said, playdates may not be such a great idea right now.  

It’s OK to loosen screen rules ... a bit. Experts typically recommend that families have a limit of a half hour of gaming during the school week and several blocks of gaming time on the weekends. Given these circumstances, you could go with weekend rules just to help you and your kids survive. The same is true with TV and Netflix. While binge-watching might be an appealing alternative, you’ll pay the price in your child’s moodiness after you pry them free of their screens. Several one-hour blocks a day is better than binge-viewing.

Get out all those old-fashioned board games. Watch TV together or share an electronic game or two. This would also be a great time to watch old family videos. Connecting with happier times is always good for our mental health.

Stick to a sleep schedule. While it might be tempting for your older children to stay up late every night and sleep late every morning, that’s not going to be beneficial to their physical and mental health. You’ll also be left with very moody children the next day. Stick with your bedtime schedule.

Stay in touch with your community. Rather than being on the phone or social media all day long yourself, try to schedule set times to check in with your adult friends. You can also consider setting up a Zoom community of friends where you can have a designated time to check-in with each other. Have grandparents do regular videocalls with the kids. Engage in a little virtual babysitting.  

Limit the news. For your own mental health, and the mental health of your children, titrate the intake of news. Constantly following the latest coronavirus news will only increase the entire family’s anxiety.

Give kids an outlet to discuss emotions. Journaling is a good way for adolescents to process their feelings in this uncertain time. You can also set aside a time to talk as a family about how everyone is feeling and coping with the outbreak. It’s important to acknowledge their anxiety but also their loss and grief about upcoming trips and school programs on which they will be missing out. Then turn to your family game time and your usual routines.

Adjust to your unique child. The above recommendations need to be adjusted to the age and nature of your child. Children who struggle with impulse control will need more structure and rules than other children. Teens will need to be in contact with their friends over social media. You’ll also need to be aware of teens that will be tempted to sneak out at night to meet-up with their friends.

Have an adventure mindset. In good times and bad, help your child understand that every moment in life, offers opportunities to learn, create and grow. Ask your kids what they will remember from this experience. What will they treasure and what would they want to change for generations in the future.  

Make sure the information is age appropriate. Emphasize safety for younger children. Explain they are safe and being taken care of. For older children, in middle and high school, stick to the facts and make sure you are not sharing too much of your own anxieties with them. Process your feelings mostly with older adults.  

Below are resources to help our families during this time of extended school closures. We will continue to update this page regularly with additional resources.