Pay Attention!

I was in the grocery store the other day, standing in line waiting to check out. This store has spaces carefully marked off, so that we all can stay six feet away from each other. Behind me in line was a mother, without a mask I may add, with two children in two who were running around and bumping into those of us who were waiting in line. When it first happened, I startled and looked at the mother. She shrugged her shoulders and said, they just need to run around, they’ve been inside so long. She wasn’t paying attention.

illustration of ared sign held up by two arms saying "attention please!"

That made me think of two things. Yes, the children needed some exercise. But they also needed to pay attention to those around them. As we are allowed more freedom, here are some ideas to help you help your children be safer. The point was that the mother had no idea whether or not I had the virus. She should have been warning her children to keep their distance from me, and from any other non-family member. There are ways to do this that won’t make mom or dad seem like a jailer. This is especially true when the children are boys, since they seem to need more physical movement, and seem less aware of others. They’re not paying attention.

Ideas for exercise:

  1. I’ve been saying this forever, but children need a lot of exercise. Those who are penned up in an apartment are particularly deprived of space to move. If you have access to a back yard, a park, or other open area, make sure your child(ren) have access every day, at least twice a day. Children need Vitamin D to help them build bone, and sunshine is a good source.
  2. Open areas – if you don’t have a yard or a park, you might see if other parents will get together to safely mark off part of a parking lot for play. Yes, pavement is hard if children fall on it, but they will learn to be careful. One park in New York City figured out how to allow people to congregate there safely.
  3. At the very least, running stairs is a great way to work up a sweat. I’d recommend that you join your children in some of these activities.
  4. You Tube has lots of exercise programs which will keep children occupied. Just look up “exercise for kids” and you’ll find an endless list of choices.
  5. Chores – if your child has regular chores such as emptying the trash cans in the house, feeding pets (and cleaning up after them), doing their own laundry, helping prepare meals, and other helps around the house, you will be surprised at how much movement they get.
  6. Make it competitive – get inexpensive pedometers and have your children keep track of how many steps they get in a day.

Paying attention

Children, for the most part, don’t pay attention to the world around them. They tend to see themselves as the center of their universe. If something is uncomfortable, or a problem, they’re likely to believe that it is someone else’s responsibility. In the middle of this pandemic, many children see this as designed to create problems just for them. They don’t understand how this affects us all. Which means that we need to help children see the world around them, so that they can see their role in helping themselves and others stay safe. The best way is to make games out of developing the skills needed to pay attention to the world around them.

  1. This starts with you. If you talk about what you are seeing in the world, your child(ren) will begin to pay attention to what is around them. Point out the various types of masks you see on people. There are a wide variety of them, and some are very inventive. Your child may want to make his own (see previous post). Point out the marks on the floor that help us keep our distance from each other. Make a game out of measuring 6 feet – have your children guess how far they are from something and then measure it. See who is the most accurate.
  2. Teach your child(ren) to safely hold doors for others. If they are going through a door that opens out, they can learn to shoulder it open without touching the door, then use their body to hold the door to let people through who are going the other way. That helps because the other people would have to grab the door handle, and we know how dirty handles are. Point out that they are helping people stay safe.
  3. You don’t want to teach your children to be tattletales, but they do need to learn to help each other keep proper distances. In the grocery store, one of the children was keeping his distance, but he was not willing to tell on his brother. I don’t think the children were purposefully encroaching on others’ space, they were just not paying attention. The one who was too close just needed to be reminded of his 6-foot distance.
  4. Engage your children by asking them what they could do to help themselves and others stay safe. The more your child(ren) are aware of things they can do, the more likely they will be willing to follow the new rules.

This virus is going to be with us for a long time, at least a year or so. Which means that children are going to need to learn new behaviors. This is not a short-term situation. The more children learn that this “look out for yourself and others” behavior is expected, the more it will simply become normal.

And remember, they need regular exercise!