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Laguna Beach

Guest Column

Tips for parents and kids facing COVID-19 stress and stay-at-home

By Michele Hall, AMFT, APCC

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on our local families to a depth no one could have imagined. Stay-at-home and homeschooling have conjured up a new and different kind of stress that continues to grow. I grew up in Laguna Beach and graduated from Aliso Elementary, Thurston Middle School, and Laguna Beach High School (Class of 1985). Because of this, I believe I understand our community in a very unique way. Laguna Beach is a village that supports its own and to this effect, my partner David Lindquist, LMFT, and I would like to offer the following tips for parents and kids who are facing these challenging times.

Avoiding vs. connecting

One of the primary ways kids avoid connection is through the play of video games/screen-time/watching YouTube/TikTok videos, etc. It’s ok for kids to have allotted amounts of time for these activities, however, excessive amounts leads to non-connection with family. We recommend equal amounts of video time with equal amounts of time either working on a hobby or playing a board game/puzzle with a parent. It’s important for parents to teach their kids to be able to tolerate boredom. Moreover, learning to live with discomfort and uncertainty leads to developmentally healthy adults.

Creating vs. chores

There’s a huge difference between telling your child to go pull weeds as opposed to planting a garden. Yes, it’s very important that kids do their chores (make their beds, keep their rooms clean, unload the dishwasher, etc.), but it is equally important for them to do creative activities. Kids these days are so used to being over-scheduled that their identity connects almost solely to their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. The message is that they are way more than this, and during these extraordinary times of actually having more time to explore creative ideas, kids can try out “closet hobbies.” Closet hobbies are activities that we think about trying but never have the time to actually follow through with. Learning an instrument, painting, and DIY projects are all great examples of things kids can try out. Bottom line: kids can learn outside of school/extracurriculars how to recognize time and space and who they are outside of their “normal” busy schedule.

Being alone vs. feeling lonely

Validating kids’ feelings of loneliness is important. However, social distancing and the absence of attending school does not necessarily mean that being “alone” equals “loneliness.” Many children will say they connect with their friends while playing video games. While there is a certain amount of truth in this, it is more important that they actually pick up a phone and either FaceTime or Zoom or just talk on the phone with their friends and family. Being curious with kids and asking them questions about where the loneliness feels like it’s coming from starts a conversation that can be not only enlightening but healing as well. 

Tolerating the unknown

These uncertain times of COVID-19 are creating a fertile void and anything can come out of it. Asking what your child thinks is going to happen in the future and allowing room for their discomfort is important. This is an opportunity to reinforce children’s problem-solving skills…instead of answering questions, ask them questions about what they’re thinking. 

Parents role model behavior

Kids tend to not do what parents say they should do, but what they see their parents doing. Kids can be taught to be interested in a subject by how much the parent is interested. If there’s a family movie night, parents can discuss “how real the dinosaur animation looked” with each other in front of the kids and then include the kids in the conversation. Or, another example is to have the child demonstrate or “teach” the parent how to do an activity. If the child is interested in a video game, have them teach their parent how to play it. 


There are several techniques that help with discipline and adhering to school homework schedules including our Time-Out Technique/Point System, Structured Study, and Obstacle Course. (These will be explained in depth in the next column.)

The most important thing is to communicate with the kids that they play an important role in the family and that the family is a team. The message is that they are partly responsible for helping the family through the pandemic, and what they do makes a difference. This teaches them personal responsibility, helps them to feel more in control, and gives them hope. 

Editor’s note: The information in this column expresses the experience and opinions of Michele Hall, AMFT, APCC.


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