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Keeping a routine while life is chaotic

Child psychologist and parenting expert, Reena B. Patel, says as much as possible, parents should keep things "business as usual" at home.

PORTLAND, Maine — Many parents are working from home for the next few weeks and kids are home from school. While it's a major shift in a lot of lives, child psychologist Reena B. Patel says children need a routine. To a degree, kids also need an explanation on why this is happening.

"You need to just stick with the facts. Keep in mind what's developmentally appropriate. Let them know that there is a bug out there, a type of virus, and scientists and doctors are working really hard to find out more about it and help protect all of us, including them. Children want to feel safe," says Patel. She also suggests finding out what they know first so as not to share more details than necessary. She suggests using the phrases, "Tell me what it is that you're hearing," or "What do you know about this?" 

Patel works with families all around the country, and says children feed off of our anxiety. Be self-aware through this time, and limit the amount of news you're digesting while they are in the room. 

It's important to keep a schedule while kids are home from school; get out of bed, brush your teeth, change out of your pajamas. While parents are working from home, they should take a 15 minute break for every hour they work; Patel suggests taking a snack break with their children, and including them in preparing lunch or dinner. "Start a calendar. Implement educational activities, arts and crafts, meal times, etc. Keeping a schedule in place is so crucial for everyone," she says.

Watch our interview for tips on screen time; helping through the transition of moving into middle school or high school; and getting kids out and active when playgrounds are off limits. 

You can also find activities to do with your children here. To learn more about Reena B. Patel, click here