Alley Dezenhouse Kelner
Tips for Physical Distancing [with a kid who thrives on routine]
We miss our "regular" day to day routines. We miss our community; we miss the teachers, the students, the parents, and the collaboration. We miss you! And while we realize that it's our social responsibility to remain physically distant for now, we also realize that it's difficult for those of us who thrive on routine to be "our best selves" when the world is upside down. Kids don't understand a worldwide pandemic. Kids with autism, or those who really struggle with changes in routine, don't understand Coronavirus (hey--I'm not even entirely sure I really understand Coronavirus). Despite all the things we don't understand, we know that we're doing the right thing by staying home and at the very least, we can take comfort in that. While we remain far apart, we strive to stay virtually connected. Here are some strategies for getting the best out of your kiddo during this wild time.
Non-contingent attention to start your day! Provide attention, engagement and encouragement by joining in one of their favourite activities (even if it seems non-functional) for 5-10 minutes uninterrupted. Fill your child's metaphorical bucket with positive attention to set them up for a
good day--especially beneficial if you work from home and are feeling guilty about not being a full-time teacher (which isn't realistic--so go easy on yourself!)
Structure your day around activities that are likely to occur each day, providing a predictable timeline for your child. Set meal times and snack times consistently; this will also help with kids who ask for snacks all day long (like mine). "Snack time is in 20 minutes, at 2:30--what can we do until then?"
Set times that technology is "available" and "not available"; like your snack and meal times, these times should be offered on your schedule. However, unlike meal times technology times can be fluid; some days you may need to get more done, and more technology is OK! You decide when its offered, they decide if they want it. Be clear about expectations and communicate them consistently using the same language. In my house we call it "tech time".
Using your meal times and snack times as your anchor, build in daily tasks in an order that you can be consistent about. Getting outside daily can be helpful for a change of scenery, improved mental health and mood and an opportunity to get active. For kids who need more structure than "go outside and play" grab some chalk and create hopscotch grids, mazes/winding pathways, or life size game boards to play snakes and ladders, checkers, or a game you make up together. If in doubt, grab some bubbles or a ball.
Start your day by getting dressed and doing the self-care tasks you'd normally do, even if there's nowhere to go. Do this Monday-Friday to provide temporal cues to your kiddo. Weekends are the perfect time to be a bit more relaxed; just like you normally would.
Maintain bed times and wake times as much as possible.
Prioritize social connections; get on video calls, send jokes by text message or e-mail, or send emojis or silly pictures. Draw pictures or write letters to send to friends.