17 Mar

Dear Heart to Heart Community:

Tips for Navigating Social Isolation for Families during COVID-19

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, our normal life routine has drastically changed in
the last few days and will likely continue to change as we get daily updates sharing the latest
news locally and around the world. In Minnesota, schools will be closed. This brings extra
stress to many families as they now face themselves with children being at home all day. In
times of uncertainty and stress, kids pick up on the overall feelings of anxiety portrayed by
adults and the media. Times of extreme stress and isolation, can be especially challenging for
people with a history of trauma. Stress and fear of the unknown can trigger past feelings of
helplessness and hopelessness. These next few days and weeks will be challenging in many
ways. Here are a few tips for helping your family and children navigate these unusual times.

1. Safety First! – This directly relates to the need to limit and eliminate social contact and
outings due to the fast spreading COVID-19. It also relates to creating safety within your
family home. If children will be home alone, it is necessary to examine your home to
ensure it is safe and appropriately locked. If adults and children will be co-existing in the
home together 24/7, it is bound to get stressful. In times of extreme stress and fear, it is
natural for our brains to function from a survival mode. Unfortunately, this “survival
mode” can cause caregivers to be quick to use physical force and increase yelling with
children. As a result, it is imperative that adults in the home create boundaries to keep
themselves and their children safe. If you find yourself wanting to use physical force to
get kids to obey, give yourself permission to leave the room to have a few minutes to
cool down. Do what you need to do to ensure that you and your child are not harmed.

2. Self-Care – Since stressed and fearful brains are more likely to function from a primitive
survival mode that leads to having less patience and reduced ability to think before
acting, it is crucial for caregivers to practice self-care. Practice calming techniques to
help reduce anxiety and get your brain and body to a regulated state. Recognize that
given the current world circumstances, your normal self-care practices may need to
change. As a result, brainstorm and implement ideas for maintaining the level of self-
care that you need to function and care for your family.

3. Create a Routine – According to The Gottman Institute (that specializes in building
healthy relationships), rituals help people process emotions during times of transition,
create connections amidst conflict, and symbolize family and cultural identity. In
addition, children thrive when they have consistency. School often provides structure
and routines for children. Since schools will be closed, developing a daily schedule for
the home can be crucial. At the end of this article there is a sample schedule that you
can use with your family. Please modify it to fit your children and family. The schedule
gives a timeline and proposed activity categories with a few examples that you can use
and also expand. Your child’s schedule may need to accommodate additional academic
time as schools move to long distance learning options.

4. Maintain Relationships – We are social creatures by design. Therefore, isolation can be
difficult. At the same time, it can be hard to be with the same people 24/7. It will be
important to find a balance in your home that allows for YOUR family to function. If you
are an introvert, create moments of time to yourself even if it is just for a few minutes
at a time so you can recharge to interact with your family members. If you are an

extrovert, make it a priority to stay connected to family and friends via phone calls and
FaceTime/Skype. Additionally, it can be hard for children when they have to suddenly
end relationships with family and friends. Even though it is a temporary change that
prevents kids from seeing the people they care about, it can feel permanent to them.
Young children especially may have difficulty understanding why they do not get to see
someone they normally depend on and are attached to. Therefore, it can be important
to utilize phone calls, FaceTime/Skype, etc. Also, looking at pictures of people and
telling stories can be helpful to maintain those feelings of attachment.

5. Utilize Resources – Make it a priority to stay connected to your counselor. Heart to
Heart is equipped with telemental health services. We encourage you to have regular
check-ins with your counselor. Counselors are trained to help families navigate stressful
times so use them as a resource to keep your family stable. It can also be important for
your children to stay in contact with their counselors. As noted previously, children
need consistency, routines, and continued relationships. Counselors and children have
a unique attachment relationship that allows children to feel a sense of safety as they
navigate their scary memories and big emotions. Additionally, many organizations are
offering free resources. Lots of educational resources are being offered for free online.
Some restaurants are offering free food to kids that normally get lunch at school. Below
are a few links to resources. (Note that since these are outside links we cannot
guarantee how long they will be active or accessible.)

6. Find the Moments of Joy – So many emotions are filling our minds these days. We are
continuing to get news updates that bring new emotions. Children will look to you for
guidance as to how to respond. Try to embrace the changes as much as possible. Recite
the mantras: “This is Temporary” or “This Too Shall Pass.” Fill your house with quotes or
bible verses that encourage positive thoughts and inspiration. Ask the questions: What
brings us joy today? How can we connect to something familiar in the midst of the
newness? How can we show each other that we care? While we may not be able to be
connected hand to hand these days, we can still be connected Heart to Heart. 
~Tasha Lehner MA

                                                                         Sample Family Schedule
8am Eat Breakfast and get ready for the day
9am Play Time
 Free Play
 Music Time – Listen to Music, Dance, Create new made-up verses to favorite
songs and Nursery Rhymes, Drum (can use spoons on bowls or hands on the
 Build a Fort
 Fantasy Play – pretend to fly a spaceship, go fishing, dinosaur hunt, tea party

10am Physical Activity
 Walk
 Kid Yoga

 Play Outside
 Indoor Games – safe yet active games that can be played indoors. Ex: Walk
like different animals, hopping on one foot, running in place

11am Creative Time

 Art, Coloring, Writing
 Crafts – be creative and use existing supplies around the house. Ex: Make a
puzzle out of an old cereal box, make paper airplanes, design a family game
to play
 Play-dough
 Cooking, Baking
 Build with Legos/blocks

12pm Lunch
12:30pm Clean up lunch, do house chores
1pm Quiet Time

 Read – Children can read alone and caregivers can read aloud to kids of all
 Puzzles
 Nap
2pm Educational Time
 Educational Games
 Educational Movies
 Academics – flashcards, writing

3pm Play Time
 Free Play
 Movie Time
 Music Time
 Fantasy Play
4pm Physical Activity
 Walk
 Kid Yoga
 Play Outside
 Indoor Games

5pm Dinner
6pm Family Time

 Card and Board Games
 Talk about your day
 Call or FaceTime extended family and friends
 Puppet Show – can use stuffed animals, action figures, cooking utensils, old
 Virtual Museum Tour
7pm Get Ready for Bed
 Baths
 Bedtime Stories and Prayers

8pm Bedtime

                                                                               Additional Resources:
Free Lunch for Students List:


12 Famous Museums that offer Virtual Tours:

Scholastics Learn at Home:

Google Earth App – Explore the world

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