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Parents, How Are You Doing?

2020-03-23 by Dr. Jenny
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Well, we made it through a week of social distancing. How are you all doing? What were your most important sources of resilience this week? I made it through the week with amazing collaboration with my pediatric colleagues, wonderful and flexible teachers, some time outside with my kids, audiobooks, paper airplanes, and gratitude.

I’ve been especially grateful for the millions of parents who have suddenly accepted the task of being at-home workers, teachers, and public health champions — because social distancing really, really does reduce the spread of coronavirus! Our nurses, doctors, and other health care workers will appreciate your efforts in the difficult weeks to come.

How Play Can Help at a Time Like This

I’ve been telling parents that their number one job right now is checking in with their own emotions so that they can clear their heads and effectively manage their family’s needs.

Play can be powerful in many ways, including its effect on a parent’s emotional well-being. It can help you accept the slowed-down, stuck-inside version of your life that you’re adjusting to. It can help you understand the emotional reactions your children may be having. It can help you let tension out of your body when you’ve been checking the news too much!

I’ve been telling parents that their number one job right now is checking in with their own emotions so that they can clear their heads and effectively manage their family’s needs. Here are some ideas of ways to structure your days to keep you feeling emotionally connected and clear-headed.

  1. Put up photos of your loved ones.
    It’s really hard not to be able to see the people you care about everyday. If you still have your holiday cards lying around, put them back up on the fridge or on display. Look through your photo albums and tell your kids stories about how you met your friends, favorite childhood trips you went on, or your most embarrassing moments.
  2. Post a daily schedule.
    When we don’t know what’s coming next, it’s anxiety-provoking. We have all felt that way in the past few days! But as parents, we can show children that the world is still predictable and safe. Either on paper, chalkboard, or whiteboard, put up a daily schedule including:

    • Time for video chat. Grandparents who are hunkered down would benefit from seeing your kids’ smiling faces! And maybe we can enlist them to be virtual teachers, based on their talents! I’m having my mom teach my kids how to play the guitar, my father teach poetry, my mother-in-law teach art, and my father-in-law teach cooking.
    • Time for nature. Look out the windows with binoculars, inspect all the little bugs and plants popping up in your yard or a nearby park, or watch the animals. Wonder what the birds and squirrels are thinking and doing!


    • Time for art or creative ideas. You may have received a million different great ideas for activities with kids in the past week. Make a list of the activities you want to try and rotate them through your schedule. Remember the ones that really clicked for your family.


  3. When your kids are occupied, use the time well.
    If your kids are napping, using media (here are some tips for positive tech use) or have their head in a book, use the time to do something that will fill your emotional tank. Talk to a friend, stretch and breathe, get some work done, or do something creative that channels your energy.

Learn more about the Power of Play >

Parents, we will get through this together. Please tell us what you’re doing to stay emotionally centered and how you are being resourceful despite the stress. Let’s support each other with our ideas that are working and even those that aren’t — we’ve all been there!

The American Academy of Pediatrics is partnering with Melissa & Doug on the Power of Play to raise awareness about the health benefits of open-ended play and how important play is for both parents and kids.

This web site is not an attempt to practice medicine or provide specific medical advice, nor does use of the site establish a physician-patient relationship. The use of this web site does not replace medical consultation with a qualified health or medical professional to meet the health and medical needs of you or others.


Dr. Jenny

Jenny Radesky, M.D., is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician whose research focuses on family digital media use, child social-emotional development, and parent-child interaction. She graduated from Harvard Medical School cum laude in 2007 and is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. Her clinical work focuses on autism, traumatic stress, ADHD, and self-regulation. Dr. Jenny’s ultimate goal is to help parents understand the individual ways their child thinks, learns, and feels; to help parents provide the best therapy and play experiences for their children; but to also allow parents to sit back and let their child’s mind take the lead sometimes. She authored the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children.

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