Coping with social distancing

How to help yourself and your children cope with social distancing

We don’t have to tell anyone that social distancing has had a significant impact on life as we know it. Nothing is the same anymore.  What used to be everyday routines and activities are no longer allowed or it is not permitted.

That concert you bought tickets to a year ago - not happening, the triathlon you’ve been training for, also not happening. Your birthday party you’ve been looking forward to – guess what, it’s going to consist of your friends driving by and hooting at you.
We can’t help but feel that Covid-19 has stolen from us.

Young and old are facing both physical and mental issues thanks to social distancing.  As adults struggle to navigate the new normal of online meetings, home-schooling and working with children at home, so too are children working through their own emotional struggles of not seeing their friends, having lockdown birthday parties and not being able to practice their favourite recreational activities. We’re not even talking about the drastic rise in child abuse and neglect due to lockdown.

More and more parents are noticing that their children are not as excited about the extended “school holidays” as they were in the beginning, and to many, it feels like this nightmare will never end.

So how do you help yourself and your family to cope with social distancing and the new normal?  

South Africa is currently going on 90 days of lockdown. This is uncharted territory for all of us. However, while anxiety is a normal response, managing it in this time of crisis is key, says Natasha Kisten of the award-winning blog FitlikeMummy
We’ve gathered the top ten tips for you and your family to cope with anxiety and stress during social distancing and the new normal.


The saying goes that you cannot serve from an empty vessel. So it is vital that you take care of yourself first.

Similar to when an aeroplane goes down, you would put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others or minors.  Likewise, you would first see to your own mental and physical well-being in order to help your children deal with their physical and mental well-being.

Remember stress is contagious. Be wary of what and how you talk around them. Children are like little sponges… they absorb everything they hear you say as well as pick up on body language.

Switch off

Take a digital detox as a family. Turn off your television, computer and cell phone for your own sanity and that of your children.  Not only does it force you to take a break but also helps to avoid fake news.  

Make sure you guard what news you and your children consume and that you only read news from reliable sources.  

Switching off electronics also allows you to enjoy some time outdoors or in each other’s company.

Open up conversations

That brings us to the next tip. Open up conversations. If there’s one silver lining to social distancing, lockdown and Covid-19 it’s the fact that it is teaching us to have open conversations. T

he saying goes, what’s shareable is bearable.  Have open conversations with your children about their feelings - what makes them happy, sad and mad? Acknowledge your feelings and encourage your children to share how they feel. There is no right or wrong when it comes to our feelings and it is ok to be angry.

Help your children to identify and focus on what they can control opposed to what they have no control over.

Create a flexible family routine

Children feel safe in a routine.  Routine is predictable and they feel safe knowing what is going to happen and when. Build a routine of getting up at the same time every morning, going to bed at the same time at night, getting dressed and making your bed.

Have regular hours for work and play. Routines shouldn’t be too rigged, that’s why we prefer a flexible routine. 

Sit with your children and develop a routine that works for everyone, taking into account everyone’s character, preferences and needs (depending on their ages of course).  If they are part of the routine they are more prone to stick to it. 

If you are working from home, remember to include both body and relationship breaks. Relationship breaks are where you allow for time to attend to your children’s emotional needs.  This includes listening to them, encouraging and praising them.

What you put in is what you get out

If there’s one time to develop an emotional eating habit, it is during the lockdown. Children get “hungry” when they are bored. Teach them to identify the difference between hunger, boredom or sadness. 

Of course, you also need to set an example. If you set an example, you encourage or inspire children by your behaviour to behave or act in a similar way. Don’t use food as a coping mechanism. See point number ten for alternative ideas.

Remember that growing bodies need good nutritious food. Make sure you have healthy snacks available for serial snackers. However, steer clear from refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. Sweet foods and beverages contain carbohydrates in the form of simple sugar. Simple sugars are composed of only one or two sugar molecules and are converted to blood glucose faster than more complex carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables.

This means that simple sugars actually give children a quick high and afterwards leave them feeling drained, tired and even more emotional and depressed. Opt for low GI and nutrient-dense snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, rice cakes, fresh-cut vegetables and/or yoghurt.  Also, remember to include water.

You gotta move it, move it

Once again exercise is good for both you and your children. Encourage them to play outside, if and where possible to move around. Anxiety triggers fight or flight hormones in our bodies and if we don’t use it, it could do a lot of damage to our bodies and emotions.  Children need to exercise until they sweat in order to get the fight or flight hormones out and to trigger the happy hormones.

Throw a dance party, a play hop skip and jump or do a high-intensity training challenge. Whatever you do, sweat for at least 30-minutes every day. It’s great on so many levels and if you do it together as a family you get the added benefit of family bonding time.

Head to the great outdoors

As human beings, we crave nature. Studies have shown that nature has a positive effect on reducing stress levels, calming anxiety and improving mental health. With social distancing and homeschooling, children are spending more than half their day indoors.

We don’t have to convince you of the benefits of nature. Do yourself and your children a favour find the nearest park or greenbelt and take a walk outside, watch the sunset together, camp in your back garden or do some gardening as a family.

Help your kids to connect with others

Thanks to technology there are numerous ways to connect with others. Encourage and actively help your children to set up online calls with their friends, family and other adults who they trust and can relate to.

There are school counsellors available at most schools for online counselling sessions.  Encourage your children to make use of it as this also allows them to have open conversations with others and not lose touch with their friends, family and the world.

Encourage children to do what makes them happy

Entertainment and recreation are two different things. Entertainment is good, but too much of a good thing…turns out to be bad.  Children need to get involved in activities that require them to DO something or CREATE something.  Recreation builds self-esteem and creates a sense of accomplishment.  This, in turn, sparks the happy hormones in the brain and is excellent for stress relief. 
We understand that spending copious amount of time on social media is what makes teens happy, however, this is not what we are talking about as we know full day screen time will actually steal your joy.
What we are talking about is recreational activities such as learning to play a new instrument, or playing a current instrument better, learning to bake/cook, colouring-in, painting or any other form of art, reading a good book, arts, crafts and many more. The internet is full of ideas, but challenge your children to do something that they truly love doing or always wanted to do, within the constraints of social distancing.

Teach them to use their coping mechanisms

Last but not least. Teach yourself and your children coping mechanisms and use them. This will be different for every person. Stay focussed on the positives, keep a daily gratitude journal, and practice breathing exercises or yoga. Whatever it is, help your children to find something that helps them calm down and encourage them to practice it.

This time of social distancing will pass. It is important to talk to your children about it and to remind yourself that it will not be like this forever. Yes, things will be different but different is not always bad. What we want to do now is to be bigger, wiser, stronger and kind. Together we are stronger and by practising social distancing we are joining together to be there to protect others around us and those we care about.

Until next time. Keep safe and wash your hands!
KQED News:
Neuro Transmissions: How To Stay Sane While Social Distancing:
__How To Spend Your Time__
99 Coping Skills -
Strategies To Beat Anxiety -
Virtual Activities -
Things To Do With Kids - 
Teen Mental Health Amidst Covid-19
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