Checking In - DuPage Children's Museum
April 15, 2020

Checking In

By Alix Tonsgard, MS, Early Learning Specialist, DuPage Children’s Museum

Well, my friends, many of us are wrapping up week 4 of sheltering in place, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but in our household the phrase “this is hard” has been said a lot. 

There are four other people sheltering with me in our small house. Two of them are teenagers, one is a toddler, and the other my partner. We are all collectively and individually experiencing the difficulty of this, and while I think it is important to acknowledge the challenges and the feelings that this brings, it is also important that we start to settle into a set of new, even if temporary, routines and ways of being. 

Child crying while adult holds him to comfort him.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear in that I know that my experience with helping to support my own family may be very different than yours is for you and your families. Ultimately what we all need to do is be sensitive to our own needs as well as the needs of our family members. What I can share with you today for your consideration are two things that I know are helpful in supporting young children when there are big changes in their lives.  

  • Try to be understanding and supportive – Unexpected changes in a child’s life often result in changes in their behavior and emotional expression. I say try here because in this moment, many of us are also experiencing big emotions and in the moment it can be hard to push past our own feelings of frustration. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about your own emotions as well as theirs. Seeing us recognize and label our feelings helps them develop tools for understanding their own emotions and how to handle big feelings.  
Adult and child running in grassy field.
  • Try to establish a routine – I realize that for families with multiple children doing e-learning while adults are also taking phone calls or video calls, day-to-day life has changed. With that being said, if there are even a few things that you can keep consistent every day, it will help. Young children in particular thrive with predictable routines. These routines help them feel in control when everything else feels out of control. Try to pick a few big things to keep consistent such as meals, walk time, work/learning time, and then provide yourself with flexibility within that structure.  Verbally walking your child through the day in the evening and again in the morning will help them in mastering the routine.  

I know this is hard and I truly hope this helps. Just remember, we are all humans dealing with really difficult things right now. We are all doing the best that we can. If you would like more ideas or specific resources on this topic, please do not hesitate to reach out. 

I have been compiling resources of all sorts, from stories for kids experiencing anxiety to how to talk to older children about the virus, and I am more than happy to share. You can send a direct message via our social media, email me directly at atonsgard@dupagechildrensmuseum.org, or submit a question for virtual Ask Alix. Hang in there and be kind to yourself.

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About Alix

Alix Tonsgard is the Early Learning Specialist at DuPage Children’s Museum. She holds an MS in Child Development from the Erikson Institute. Acting as the Museum’s advocate for early childhood development and learning, she ensures that the latest research in Early Childhood Education is represented in all Museum exhibits, professional development initiatives, and public programs.