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How to prepare your kids for quarantine summer

Everything is canceled. Here’s how to survive.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything about day-to-day life — and, even as some stay-at-home orders are lifted or revised, the basic precautions we are currently taking to protect ourselves and others aren’t likely to change any time soon. At this point, many families have been in some form of lockdown for more than two months. Although some states are beginning the re-opening process, it’s not going to be a typical summer. Daycares and summer camps may stay closed, and many moms and dads will still be responsible for balancing full-time parenting with full-time jobs. Family vacations, especially trips to amusement parks and other crowded spaces, are probably off the table this summer.

How can you continue to help your children as the coronavirus lockdown continues throughout the warmer months? We reached out to two child and family psychologists to discuss coping strategies, fun summer activities for kids and ways to ensure everyone in your household has time for each other and time for themselves. We don’t know yet what the summer might bring, but this advice can help you and your family prepare for a few more months of staying close to home.

In this article:

Establish a sense of structure

One of the best ways to help your children manage psychologically during an extended period of uncertainty is by creating a sense of structure and routine. “Keeping a structure is a necessity,” Dr. Jessica Myszak, child psychologist and director of The Help and Healing Center, explains. Not only does a structure help children know what to expect — which is important, especially during a period of time when everything feels unpredictable — but a good routine also breaks up the day into specific activities and ensures there is time for everything that is important: school, play, family time, quiet time and so on.

A good routine can also help busy parents manage their own work-life balance. “By sticking to specific times for particular activities, it can help parents and children identify times when kids can do things themselves (watching a movie, playing with toys in their room, or any other fun activity) while parents work,” Myszak advises. This kind of routine will become even more important as the school year ends and parents begin to create a schedule for summer break that keeps everyone safe, engaged and occupied — though right now most families will still be focused on completing the school year with as much consistency and structure as possible.

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Treat school as a job

Until summer break starts and as your children finish out the academic year from home, remind them that school is currently their #1 job. “Children need to be approached with the attitude that school is their job and responsibility,” Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, told us. “We work before we play. You wouldn’t eat dessert before your dinner!”

Treating school like a job will not only help children stay focused and motivated during months of lockdown, but also provide a family structure that will help everyone understand when it is time to work and when it is time to play. Since parents and children will often be working remotely side by side, use this time to model the idea that everyone has a job to do — and when the job is done, you’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy each other’s company or partake in a fun activity.

Stay active

One of the best ways to de-stress after a long day is to get up and move around — and, if possible, go outside. “Find ways to get some movement and burn off some energy together, and everyone will be happier and sleep better,” Myzsak advises. “Impromptu dance parties in the backyard and doing exercise together are some creative ways to get physical activity.”

Of course, you don’t have to wait until the end of the day to start moving. There are plenty of quick, indoor activities that can get you and your little ones moving as well. You and your children could start your morning with a round of stretches, or establish a 10 a.m. dance break during which you and your kids take turns introducing each other to new music. Or get the whole family doing yoga, or one of the other workouts on Aaptiv (the mobile fitness app included at no cost with the Haven Life Plus rider). These exercises can serve as fun indoor activities no matter the age of your kid. Remember: the more you and your family can stay active, even during lockdown, the better you’ll feel.

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Find new ways to connect and celebrate

Family celebrations are likely to be very different this summer, from canceled vacations and summer camp plans to birthday parties held over Zoom. It’s important to continue to look for ways to connect and celebrate with loved ones, whether you’re coming up with new household traditions or reaching out to friends and relatives you won’t get to see in person. Walfish suggests children make art to send to friends and family members, for example — and you can probably think of other creative ways to connect with people while still practicing safe social distancing.

What you shouldn’t do is put off your celebrations indefinitely. Yes, Fourth of July might look different this year, but there are still plenty of ways to create some summer fun. Younger kids can put together their own parade or create confetti fireworks for a fun summer craft; older children and teens might enjoy taking charge of the family meal, especially if grilling and baking are involved. Speaking of cooking, teaching your kids how to make homemade popsicles or ice cream can be a great idea for those hot summer days.

It’s okay to feel frustrated when special days can’t be celebrated in the usual way — and you can talk to your children about that, too — but there are plenty of ways to make a birthday, a holiday or even a staycation feel special. Talk to your kids about how they’d like to celebrate, and see what kinds of new memories you can make together. Try recreating fun summer camp activities right in your home or go to the backyard for a camp out under the stars that the whole family can enjoy. As Myszak puts it: “This is a unique time, and something that you will all remember for years to come. Make the most of it.”

Spend time as a family — but take time for yourself, too

Here’s one more tip from Myszak: “Finding some time for yourself is important. For parents to take good care of their children, they need to first take care of themselves.” The same goes for your kids, especially older kids and teens who are beginning the process of developing a sense of self outside of the family. “Every teenager must come out of adolescence having resolved the separation process from their parents,” Walfish explains — and yes, this separation process becomes harder when teenagers are not allowed to spend time away from their families and in the company of their peers.

So let your kids spend time in their rooms, playing video games or texting their friends. Let your children see you taking time for yourself, reading a book or setting up a video call with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Quarantining together is about finding a balance between family time and individual time — and while parents that have a toddler or preschooler may experience all time as “family time,” parents with older children should look for ways for everyone to take a little more time for themselves.

That way, you’ll be refreshed and ready to spend the rest of your summer together, as a family.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate,, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

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