Surviving Mandatory Isolation with Children

At this point, many of us have had to endure the torture of a mandatory 10-to-14-day isolation period after testing positive for COVID-19 or being identified as a close contact of someone with a confirmed case.  For those of us with young children, this can be especially difficult—even more so for those who do not have a private back yard to get fresh air and blow off steam.

Recently, I was notified that someone in my seven-year-old daughter’s class had a confirmed case of COVID-19.  Although no one in our family had any symptoms, we decided to be safe and get her tested.  Despite being incredibly nervous, she was very brave and received the oral swab test.  The next morning, we received the test results: positive.  We didn’t really need the test results to tell us that though—the whole house had woken up that morning feeling sick.

We did all the necessary damage control; getting the rest of the household tested, informing the kids’ schools, fielding calls from AHS, etc.  Then, this was it—we were in isolation for 10 days.  Thankfully, the kids were holding up well.  They had a mild fever, cough, and were very tired, but their symptoms only lasted for about three days.  I, on the other hand, suffered with extreme fatigue, a barking cough, off-and-on fevers, an upset stomach, and loss of taste and smell for almost the full isolation period.  While my sickness certainly made the isolation period more difficult, we got through it relatively unscathed.  Here’s how we did it:

Stick to a Schedule

This one was difficult, but also had the most pay-off.  My five-year-old son has severe autism, so a predictable schedule is an absolute must for him to feel regulated and content, but it also had huge benefits for myself and my daughter.  It made the days go by faster and everyone less restless.  It was also nice for me to feel that I had accomplished things during the day, even if all I could muster were small victories—laying around staring at a phone screen rarely helps anyone feel better.

It was helpful that both kids had a Zoom Meeting with their class at 9am, 10am, and 1pm, so we were able to create our schedule around those times.  We had a set time to work on reading, writing, and math with my daughter, a small amount of TV time, and outside time.  I live in an apartment, so I did not have access to a private backyard where I could let my children play during the day.  While this was unfortunate, we made do with what we had.  I do have a balcony that is far enough away from other tenants we were able to use for fresh air.

Part of our schedule also included getting ready for the day.  While we stuck to comfier clothing options, changing out of our pyjamas, having a shower, brushing hair, and washing faces signalled to our brains that it was time for our day to begin.

Movement Breaks

My kids are super high-energy, and it is obvious when they do not get enough physical activity.  My balcony isn’t big enough for them to run around, so we implemented movement breaks.  For at least a half-an-hour every day, we would play a physical game like Simon-Says or The Floor is Lava.  We did animal walks, dance parties, children’s yoga, and incorporated movement into learning spelling words.  My kids and I absolutely loved the Cosmic Kids Yoga videos.

Brain-Boosting Activities

While it was tempting to just throw on the TV all day, I knew in the end this would make it harder for my kids to listen to me, focus on school, and go to sleep at night.  We made time every day to do activities such as reading, taking relaxing baths, doing puzzles, Face-Timing family, drawing, doing crafts, and playing board-games.  When we did utilize the TV, we tried to create a fun, family experience by renting a new movie and letting the kids have a picnic on the living-room floor with snacks.

Make Time for Grown-Up Time

Trust me—you also need time to do things that you enjoy to save your own sanity.  You set the tone for your children’s day, so if you’re a grumpy mess because you haven’t had any “you time,” your kids are certainly not going to have a good experience.  For me, this looked like a hot bath every night after the kids went to bed, asking for quiet so I could read a chapter of a book cozied up on the couch, taking a nap, or playing more complicated board games with the adults in the house.

Take Care of Yourself

Most importantly—take care of yourself and your family!  You and your family might be feeling physically sick, or mentally sick of being stuck inside.  If you have a day where absolutely nothing gets done other than watching movies, that’s OK!  Give yourself some grace and recognize that you are human.  Drink lots of fluids, get rest when your body needs it, don’t push yourself too hard, and call your doctor for help if you’re feeling nervous about your symptoms.  Stay safe, stay healthy—we’re all in this together.