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Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

As you know, we are in very uncertain and scary times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we’re living. For those with kids, it’s an even more stressful time. It can be difficult to deal with your anxiety and to take care of yourself, even without having to worry about your kids’ physical and mental health. Last week, when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine extended stay-at-home orders until May, it made many of us feel even more overwhelmed.

However, there are ways to make things a little easier for you and your family.

One of the most significant changes this pandemic caused was the closure of schools and most day cares. Many children are finding it difficult to adapt to homeschooling. Luckily, most schools are providing a good amount of paperwork and online schoolwork.

However, it’s not enough to fill the entire day, and kids can become stir crazy. The best way to handle this is to keep a busy, healthy schedule for weekdays: Kids should keep as much of a normal routine as possible, starting when they wake up. Many kids may need frequent breaks for meals and snacks, or just to move around because they’re not used to sitting still all day. That’s perfectly acceptable.

If the routine of schoolwork and breaks isn’t filling the day at your house, try other activities. As the weather gets nicer, go on walks, but avoid crowded places of course. Have the kids play outside in the yard or help you with some gardening. There are also many great resources available for online learning and enrichment. Children in the Greater Cleveland area can enjoy virtual story time through the Cleveland Public Library’s website, and the Great Lakes Science Center has started posting “Curiosity Corner Live” episodes on YouTube, where you can watch videos of fun science experiments. Screen time will inevitably be higher during this quarantine, but there are still ways to enrich the time spent online.

Many kids are struggling with anxiety and fears over this pandemic. Kids old enough to follow the news may be afraid that they or their family members could die. It’s important to address these fears as calmly as possible. If they’re worried about their own health, you can reassure them that the younger/healthier population is the least affected. You can also focus on things they can do to help, like hand washing and staying at home, to make them feel more in control of the situation. You should try to limit exposure to social media and the news, both for your kids and yourself – the more we read online, the more anxious we become.

The last thing to remember is the importance of social distancing. This is difficult for all of us, especially during holidays. My family had to make the tough decision to convert to an online Passover seder via a web chat. While nobody is happy to do that, we knew it was best to protect my older relatives, especially with my sister and myself still working and possibly being more exposed. It’s just as important for all families to do the same.

Instead of going over to the grandparents’ house, try chatting with them on the telephone or through Zoom or FaceTime. If they need an in-person visit, then go to their house, but stay outside, where you can maintain the 6-foot barrier, but still talk.

By social distancing, staying calm and following advice from experts, we will make it through this pandemic.

Stay safe, stay healthy and chag sameach.

Dr. Laura Shefner writes about pediatric care for the CJN. She is a pediatrician at The MetroHealth System and practices in Beachwood and Parma.

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