Navigating The Coronavirus Family Style

Navigating The Coronavirus Family Style


Written by – Marianne Riess 

We are in unknown waters. “Unprecedented” is a word we hear on the news every two minutes. We don’t know when children will go back to school or when life will return to some kind of normalcy. We are stuck at home and all the places we like to go are closed. What good can we take from this time of social distancing and home time?

Oddly enough, as I FaceTime with my children and grandchildren and hear about what they are doing, I am reminded of summers when I was a child. Two and a half months was a long time to be out of school. Sleep-away camp was not an idea my parents ever entertained. My brothers and I were not enrolled in any organized activities so we had to come up with our own. We had chores, like weeding, vacuuming, and dusting, but those took a short time in the morning and after that, the day stretched on. And on. There was no TV programming during the day, and only a few channels to watch in the evening.

Luckily, we were readers. Once a week we were taken to the library, where we were able to check out as many books as we liked. We spent lots of time outside in our yard, running around, playing with a ball or on a swing. We could walk or bike to a neighborhood swimming pool, or to a local store to spend our allowance on treats or comic books. But there were regular stretches of boredom, of “What can I do?” moments.

A significant period without scheduled activities and events could be just what our modern day over-programmed children need. Boredom often leads to inspiration. A bored child eventually figures out what he or she is interested in, whether it is reading, (or for non-readers, listening to stories on a CD), drawing and other art activities, cooking and baking (with guidance of course), writing and acting out stories, doing little science experiments, building with blocks and Legos, doing puzzles, listening to music and singing, putting on ‘shows,’ etc. There are now so many opportunities, once the interest is identified, to research, study, and create, thanks to technology. They can even make short movies on iMovie, as I learned from my grandkids this week.

There are also opportunities to be outdoors on one’s own or in a small family group, rather than playing an organized sport. This is a perfect time for children to observe changes in the natural world and learn the names of birds, flowers, plants and trees, and maybe to draw or photograph them.

It is great to see on Facebook what parents are doing with their children. All kinds of games, cooking projects, science experiments, arts and crafts are going on. Bike rides, hikes, walks at the beach or park – it is of course great to get out. Just don’t think you have to occupy them 24/7. A little boredom can be the start of something big.

Marianne Riess is the former head of the Putnam Indian Field School in Greenwich, CT. She has 40 years of experience in working with young children.

Marianne’s other columns here