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Coping with school closures | Advice from a licensed psychologist

Here's how both parents and kids can adjust to schools shutting down for three weeks, and how to talk to your child about COVID-19.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This week was the start of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's order to close schools until April 5, in response to COVID-19. 

With a couple weeks to go, many families might be wondering how to manage their students during the day.

First, licensed psychologist Dr. Nicole Beurkens said to focus less on needing to home-school your child, and more on engaging kids in productive activities.

"I really want parents to be thinking more broadly about learning during this time," Dr. Beurkens said. "You do not need to be sitting down and doing academic worksheets and all of these things all day long, its just not necessary."

She said parents can help kids with any work their school is sending home, but emphasizes students can also learn from helping to prepare meals, doing laundry, as well as cleaning and organizing.

RELATED: Whitmer orders all Michigan K-12 schools to close for 3 weeks

Also, she said families don't need to stay in the same school schedules, but does suggest settling into regular routines. Have some structure, when it comes to sleep and meal times.

Dr. Beurkens also suggests striking a balance, between screen time and non-screen time activities. 

"If your child is going to spend some time on a device, whether that's for learning or leisure activities, they should have a certain amount of time for that, and then spend at least an equal amount time off of the device to take a break," Dr. Beurkens said. "Go move around, use their distance vision, that's very important for eye development, that they're not constantly doing things close up with screens."

RELATED: COVID-19 and Kids: What parents should know

Here is our full 13 ON YOUR SIDE coronavirus website.  

Dr. Beurkens said it helps to come up with a list of activities that don't involve a device for kids to pick from, but she also added, being bored is not going to hurt kids and can actually be good for brain development. 

To help manage stress and anxiety Dr. Beurkens advises parents not to express fears or have adult conversations, in front of kids. Focus on what you can control, such as healthy habits, hygiene and self care, as well as stepping away from the constant flow of information. 

RELATED: Michigan education leaders urge Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive state testing

Finally, Dr. Beurkens said, kids gauge how stressed or upset they need to be, based on how adults respond. That's why it's important to approach kids in a calm, and matter of fact way, when discussing topics like COVID-19. 

"Talking about it in very simple terms: 'There's a sickness out there, some people are getting this cold or this flu, most people get better from it. Some people are getting really sick and need to go to the hospital. We need to to try to protect those people by staying home now, not spreading germs around,'" Dr. Beurkens said. "That's a very basic way of talking to a young child about it, and you can gauge adding more detail to it as kids get older."

Here's a list of all the confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan

Do you have more questions about COVID-19 in Michigan? Check out the state's website.



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