In week who-knows-what, my heart goes out to parents. Older kids are struggling more with the loss of routine and independence. As the pandemic drags on, some parents are giving up on e-learning.
I don’t blame them. But there are other ways to instill a sense of purpose for kids who desperately need it right now. Helping others will give kids a sense of control at a time of heightened anxiety, easing stress as they exert influence over the circumstances. You can help them make a difference without leaving the house or by practicing physical distancing. (Or, you could watch Frozen 2 for the hundredth time if that’s the best you’ve got today.) Should you need them, here are some tips to help frustrated students feel helpful.
Senior citizens can feel isolated regardless of physical distancing. If you’re able to go out, encourage your kids to mow lawns or help shop and deliver groceries (left at front doors from a safe distance) for elderly neighbours. When older kids call grandma and grandpa, they could ask more targeted questions about favourite memories or recipes and compile them in a writing project, like a family legacy book. Younger kids could film a short skit or song (bonus drama class, anyone?), or perform it live via video chat. Call your local seniors’ residence to see if they’d be interested in an exclusive performance.
Families with older children and little ones might encourage the eldest to share a favourite hobby with their young siblings in a peer-to-peer learning model. Sometimes, it’s easier to get children to listen to their mysterious older siblings than to Mom or Dad. Older children put in charge will take on more responsibility, and practice patience. You might save this for a day when everyone is getting along.
Many restaurants and food apps are offering contact-free delivery. Why not send some comfort food to a friend in self-quarantine, with dishes from a locally-owned restaurant? Pick the dish as a family. Or, send some coffee and pastries for health workers at a hospital or seniors’ home. Small businesses are also struggling right now, and this gesture will help them, too. Tip the delivery driver well—it’s not an easy job at the best of times. Food Banks Canada is also seeking donations, if you are able.
Spring cleaning is one of the few seasonal things we can still do. Consider organizing playrooms and closets, making a donation pile for toys and clothing to drop off as soon as items are accepted again.
Let’s not forget our global community. Sadly, developing countries with weak public health systems will be hit hard by COVID-19. As a family, consider researching a microloan organization and lending to a small business owner, tracking your investment. Give someone the chance to improve their livelihood at this difficult time.
Finally, for more ideas, an online “caremongering” group will match your family with a volunteer task for someone in need in your area. Even one of these small tasks could help your child stay grounded and build connections to the community. And, they might even learn something about compassion and leadership.
Craig Kielburger is co-founder of the WE Movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.