Physical Distancing for Parents, Teens and Children

Last revised on March 31, 2020.

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people with whom you and your family come into close contact. This is critical to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. Though being apart from friends and family can be challenging even for adults, it can feel more like the end of the world for children and teens. Children can be more easily socially distanced than teens, who – quite frankly – push back more out of a need for greater independence.

The concept of physical distancing applies outside your home. Household contacts (people you live with) do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled within the past 14 days. Physical distance and emotional distance are not the same. Social distancing is referring to PHYSICAL space. These recommendations are meant to keep physical space from other households, while staying emotionally connected! 

So, what does physical distancing look like or not look like in these age groups? 

What does physical distancing look like for children?

Finding ways to keep children connected with family, learning new skills, and staying active is important. We also want to help kids stay connected with grandparents and other family members who may not live in the household.

Physical distancing for children
Physical distancing means:Physical distancing does NOT include:
  • staying connected with family or friends through technology like SkypeWhatsapp, or Facetime
  • spending time with household members (as long as they are not ill or have not travelled in the last 14 days)
  • trying out new hobbies 
  • playing a new/old board game at home 
  • learning new skills (cooking, carpentry, baking, sewing, computer programming, etc.)
  • going outside for a walk or for a bike ride
  • visiting with grandparents and extended family through pictures, the telephone, and social media  
  • having play dates 
  • going to or hosting parties (birthday, religious, special occasions) 
  • taking unnecessary trips in the community (visiting the corner store, the rock-climbing place or any other place where children gather).   
  • participating in community activities like sport teams or dance classes 
  • Going to an outdoor playground

This may not be the worst time to let your children have some video chat time with friends, to play an extra video game, or to watch an extra movie. Perhaps even mix it up with online yoga or a bit of e-learning.  

Each interaction outside your home is a potential time when your family may be put at risk for the virus, so the less interaction your children have with other children the better. If you need help with childcare support, try to limit your contact with a single other family or single childcare provider

What does physical distancing look like for teens?  

Being a teenager often includes a drive for social time and acceptance. It can also include them wanting to assert their independence, which can turn physical distancing into a daunting task for parents to enforce. Teenagers can, however, still assert their independence while practicing physical distancing.

Physical distancing for teens
Physical distancing means:Physical distancing does NOT include:
  • video chatting with friends
  • spending time with household members (as long as they are not ill or have not travelled in the last 14 days) 
  • going outside for a jog, a bike ride, or rollerblading (provided you maintain a social distance of 2 metres with others) 
  • watching movies or playing video games 
  • being given some liberties to binge watch a show on television

  • helping in the kitchen or with other household chores 

  • reorganizing or redecorating their room like they always wanted to 

  • read a book or magazine 

  • trying out a new activity like painting or programming on their computer 

  • hanging out at their friend’s house in a group 
  • sleepovers 
  • going to the mall  
  • congregating at a coffee shop  
  • driving with friends in the car 

  • sharing food, drinks, make-up, cigarettes, and vape devices  

Let’s all teach our children about social responsibility, caring for others, and being a healthy member of the community. If we all reinforce these messages, teaching our teens about physical distancing may seem like less of a daunting task! Family time is not out of the question with this age group either.  No one says you can’t play board games, watch a movie as a family, go on a hike, or learn to bake bread from scratch! 

What does physical distancing look like for parents? 

Parents are the role models. You also set boundaries, enforce household rules, and guide your children to make the right decisions.

Physical distancing can be an opportunity for your family. You can become closer, get to know each other again, create new memories and experiences, and learn new skills together! 

Granted, it could also be a time when you want to pull your hair out, find a closet and hide, or let them live on mac and cheese and fend for themselves.  If you need to take a breather, please know it is okay to not be okay. Help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311. For more information, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

Either way – physical (social) distancing will keep this virus from spreadingwhich is our end goal.    

We must not only think about how to avoid getting coronavirus, but also how to ensure we don’t spread it to those in our community.  Together, let’s teach our children about social responsibility!

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