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Why parents should establish a routine for kids -- and how to do it during the coronavirus

Most Maine students will return to remote learning on Monday following April vacation. Experts have tips about how to make this new normal easier for families.

April vacation for most Maine school-aged kids is almost over, which means that come Monday, they will return to online classrooms and remote learning. That adjustment these past few weeks has been tough for many families, as they learn to navigate a "new normal" during COVID-19

Experts are offering advice to parents, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect our state and the country. These are some tips to help make learning from home a bit easier.

Create a schedule

Consistency and routine -- those are two factors that experts say will make a world of difference for kids.

"What we know about kids is that they crave consistency," Chris McLaughlin, the Associate Vice President of Community and Pediatric Services at Northern Light Acadia Hospital, explained to NEWS CENTER Maine. "They crave structure, and they crave predictability -- and really, it's kids of all ages."

The constant adaptations that COVID-19 is presenting to communities makes that difficult for everyone. It's why McLaughlin suggests that families establish a schedule to follow. He recommends getting creative by making a picture schedule, taking pictures with your cell phone of kids doing their different chores and routines and putting that together.

Chelsie Smith, a mother from the central Maine area with two school-aged kids, made a schedule for her family early on in the process and says it has helped a lot.

"Within the first week of being home, we decided we needed something like that," Smith told NEWS CENTER Maine. "It helped provide a lot more structure and stability for them."

A schedule establishes normal wake-up times, meal times, and bedtimes, which McLaughlin says are important to follow.

RELATED: Keeping a routine while life is chaotic

Use screen time wisely

Many of us are connecting with each other not in person these days, but rather, via screens. Whether it's FaceTime, Zoom, or some other platform -- these video call applications make life a little bit less lonely.

McLaughlin says that for professionals like himself, encouraging screen time is a bit contradictory since they normally tend to encourage some limitations of that use. So, while it's important to socialize, there are still things to keep in mind. 

"That doesn't mean that we still don't need to be mindful and moderate of that use and making sure that it's happening with some good rules and structure some parameters," McLaughlin expressed.

RELATED: How to improve your social life while COVID-19 social distancing

Get outside

Making sure your kids are staying active for part of the day is a good way to improve physical and mental health -- and avoid the screen time issue.

McLaughlin says families should try to have recess or gym sessions at times kids normally would at school. Just remember, if you're getting outside, make sure to practice proper social distancing protocols to keep everyone healthy and safe.

"We know that exercise and physical activity is really tightly connected to mental health and wellness, and so we absolutely want kids and families outside," McLaughlin said. "The weather's turning. Spring is coming."

RELATED: Online videos help families run their own recess from home during coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.newscentermaine.com/coronavirus.

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