This era of physical distancing is tough on everyone – emotionally and mentally. Here are some ways to create joy with your kids.

When the world gets dark, turn on the light.

The secret to lasting happiness – and persevering through one of the most challenging periods of our lives – might be focusing on joy. Joy is different from happiness – it is deeper and tangible. You know when you feel joyful because you feel it in your body. When you hear your children laugh; when you commune with nature; when you experience a beautiful sunset; when you take a moment and breathe in goodness, you find joy.

Joy is something we should strive for our entire lives. And, it’s something our kids can teach us a lot about. 

Before the pandemic, we prided ourselves on our busy lives; beyond a doubt, from the moment my daughter was born in 2009 until March 2020 I have been on a speedster highway of parenting/work/life demands. How many times have I said, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”? Sound familiar? 

That came to a crashing halt with the instability and fear of a deadly virus which, believe me, is very real and has to be mitigated with children. My son is the volunteer Park Ranger of Social Distancing: “Mum, they aren’t social distancing enough” says the 8-year-old.

Anxiety is at an all-time high, depression is real, people are drinking more and eating comfort food. We are grieving and that’s ok. But since I lost my cool within a split-second of homeschooling over a month ago, I have tried parenting with an understanding that our kids will remember this experience for the rest of their lives; it is our responsibility to have them experience joy, too.

Here are a few ways my family has found joy: 

Exercise

Whether it is checking in with the UK’s Jo Wicks, doing the #plankchallenge, completing the Boston Marathon’s Big Daddy Challenge, (to run 26 miles, read 26 books, perform 26 acts of kindness), bike rides or dancing, it’s important to get moving. Research shows exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain and body, acting as an antidepressant for both adults and kids. And the book Spark proved exercise helps kids focus. It’s a great idea to do Exercise Snacks – mini movement breaks throughout the day.

Play

Your kids want you to play with them – soccer, Frisbee, basketball, board games, dancing. Teach them new card games, and do puzzles. Kids are wired for play; adults are wired for play, too. 

Embrace nature

Nature has healing properties, and it can calm nerves and help with anxiety and depression. Find deserted paths, or just walk on your street and look up at the trees and the sky! 

Be a couch potato

If your kids are little, get the Disney channel and watch every movie you saw when you were a kid. If your kids are older, find shows you can binge watch together like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Flash. There is nothing wrong with preparing a plate of fruit, veggies and crackers or popcorn and hunkering down for a few hours. 

Cook and bake together

We have baked cookies and muffins and invented new recipes like this Sweet Potato Brownie – and the kids are learning to make their favorites like grilled cheese and pasta sauce. We have theme nights like Meatball Monday and Taco Tuesday; on Wacky Wednesday, we scramble eggs for dinner. It’s nice to share the joy of cooking, teach them a life skill and create in the kitchen.

Practice, preach and teach self-care

When you need to rest, listen to your body. When you are overwhelmed, allow those feelings to stick around. Run baths, have facials, talk things through and practice gratitude. Every night, ask your kids to talk about what they are grateful for – a healthy body, a home, their family and friends – things that matter the most. 

We have to focus on what will make us joyful and brings our kids joy (even if that means too much screen time). Most importantly, we have to let them be kids – and remember they are going through a global pandemic, too. 💗


Erin Phelan is a writer and health coach. Her exercise videos can be found on her You Tube channel and links to healthy recipes and articles are at www.erinphelan.com.  Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.