We are entering our 6th week of self-isolation.
Our children have a good basic understanding of the Coronavirus and why we are self-isolating but recently their behaviour has suggested they have some unresolved grief that needs to be processed. Some of the behaviours, like fighting with each other more might just be cabin fever, but if there are sore tummies or disrupted sleep, that’s normally a sign of something deeper.
I have put together some resources for helping them to process and grieve the changes in their lives. Most of them are things I’ve gathered off the internet, not my own ideas, and I’ve linked where possible. We’ve done the first three and will do the rest over the next month or so. There are 15 of them, plus a bonus. I share them here in case they are helpful to other parents managing this challenging time.
1. Inside/outside diagram. Draw the boundaries of your home from a bird’s eye view. Draw what is ‘inside’ (including us) and what is ‘outside’ (including Coronavirus.) You can see our example here. We put God the Father, Son, and Spirit in both inside and outside (they’re the cloud, the bearded man and the dove.) We also wrote the names of some of the friends our children are missing at school.
2. Butterfly and Oyster story. This is recommended by the WHO as a tool to help children’s mental health during this time. You can stop the video when there are exercises to do and do them, or you can just watch it and do them later. (Several of them are incorporated into later activities here.)
3. Start a ‘count up‘ of days since being in isolation, or since school has been shut. Change it each day. The idea of this is to give kids some sense of time as the days blur into one another, and to validate that, yes, it has been a long time! We are using a calendar to do this and crossing off the days.
4. Brainstorm a list of activities kids can do when they are bored that do not require screens or asking permission. The idea of this is to give kids a degree of autonomy and control.
5. Make this simple ‘hibernation’ craft using card and a paper plate. If you don’t have google eyes, you can make eyes from the offcuts of the paper plate. Ask kids, “how are we like a hibernating bear right now? How are we different?”
6. Write an ‘I remember’ list about things you used to do before Coronavirus.
7. What’s in your heart? activity. Draw a heart. Talk about the different emotions you have in your heart and assign a colour to each one. Colour in the heart with the different colours, with big portions for emotions that are really strong, and small portions for emotions that are less strong.
8. ‘What I can/not control’ diagram. Trace around the child’s hand. Inside the hand write ‘what I can control’. Outside the hand write ‘what I can’t control’. List things in each category. e.g. things I can control are staying home, my words and actions, my attitude; things I can’t control are coronavirus, how long this will last, other people’s word and actions, etc.
9. Make cards for each member inside the home, saying what you appreciate about them.
11. Stages of grief exercise. Divide an A4 piece of paper into 6 squares. In the first, draw something you’re angry about. In the second, something that makes you sad. In the third, something you wish wasn’t happening. In the 4th, what you would pay or do to make it stop. In the 5th, something you feel OK about. In the 6th, someone who loves you.
12. Draw a self-portrait. Underneath write, “Today, my mood is…”
13. Write a letter together, “Dear future kids, this is what it was like during Coronavirus…”
14. Emote through music. Listen to your favourite song – choose some colours and draw how it feels (e.g. is the music long and wavy? Is it staccato? Is it heavy or light? Do you feel like dancing or crying or sitting still?)
15. Clam/oyster craft – another easy one with paper plates and a bit of glue and paint (but could also use markers or coloured paper)
BONUS: help kids to bring their feelings to God.
Every evening when we pray with our kids we get them to complete each of these sentences:
✨Wow God…. [something they felt awe about e.g. the sneaky mongoose we saw today in the backyard]
🤕Ouch God…. [something they want to lament or makes them feel sad e.g. I can’t see my friends]
🙏🏾Thank you God…. [something they feel thankful for e.g. for a safe place to sleep and good food]
😔Sorry God…. [something they need to confess e.g. for annoying my brother today]
🎁Please God…. [something they want to ask for e.g. help us to have a good day tomorrow]
This works best if the grown ups also say the same prayers, especially to model to the children that it’s OK to be sad and to admit to doing the wrong thing. It’s also good for them to hear you express your dependence on God.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.