My family is in self-quarantine. Now what?

by Sagar Jethani, Director of Marketing, Digital Futures Initiative

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. We’ve gone from checking our Facebook and worrying about mundane things to weighing the risks involved in going to the grocery store before all the hand sanitizer sells out. My kids’ school announced yesterday that it would be closed for at least the remainder of the month, and my wife and I decided to cancel get-togethers with friends to limit our exposure to coronavirus. Every other email in my inbox is from a company I do business with telling me how they are responding to the pandemic. (Did I really need to know what my auto insurance company is doing to keep me safe? Discuss.)

At DFi, we spend a lot of time talking about the virtues of getting our kids out from behind their screens and in front of other people. But what do you do when staying apart makes you safer?

Don’t Panic

You know how your kids learn a lot by just watching how you act when you think no one’s watching? Well, they are watching you now to see how you react in a crisis. We are all probably telling our kids similar things right now, like the need to wash their hands frequently and stop touching their faces, but these are just basic safety tips. As important as they are, they don’t go far enough in addressing the scope of this crisis.

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? It says that all people have a similar structure of needs, starting with the basics like securing food & shelter, then physical safety, love, self-esteem, and self-actualization:

Maslow taught that unless we can secure a lower layer, like physical safety, we don’t spend much time worrying about an upper layer, like esteem or self-actualization.

The way we communicate with our kids during this crisis should mirror this hierarchy. At the most basic level, we need to tell our kids the basic scientific facts they need to know to stay safe during the pandemic.

So, yes, wash your hands often (with soap! How many times do I have to say it?) and stop touching your face.

But also, talk to your friends with FaceTime. Call your grandmother and ask her if she’s freaked out by what’s happening. Text your friends and setup some online gaming with your headset so you all feel like you’re all together. And did you know we’re in a Golden Age of board games? If Monopoly isn’t your thing, try Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, Wingspan, or (ahem) Pandemic. They’re all amazing games that are available on Amazon that your family will have fun playing. (Here’s a great place to get started.) Play your kids the music you grew up with & tell them why it meant something to you. These are all examples of how our kids can still access the “Love and belonging” layer of the pyramid which deals with friendship, family, and feeling connected to others.

Making dinner for the family, taking the dog for a jog, and helping out around the house can all help instill the feeling that they are contributing something useful during this stressful time. That’s the “Esteem” layer.

And self-actualization? You might think that’s a more difficult target, but with so much time suddenly available to our kids, maybe now is the perfect time to nail that guitar piece they’ve been working on, or practice their driving with mom or dad. Maybe they can read that book they just haven’t had time for until school shut down. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra when London’s theaters shut down due to plague. Just sayin’.

Yes, coronavirus is a crisis. But as Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Rather than let fear determine the way we act, we can choose to model better behaviors to our kids. And, who knows? In the process, we might feel a little more calm about what’s happening, ourselves.

This unlooked-for time at home might be the thing your kids one day look back on and recognize as an inflection point in their lives where they got serious about something they had always been interested in, or where their bonds to friends and family actually increased because of the creative methods they used to maintain them.

If you’re reading this, you’re already part of the extended DFi family. We hope you not only stay safe during this stressful time, but that you and your kids are able to use it to grow even closer together.


Digital Futures Initiative (DFi)

Our mission is to empower educators, parents and communities to help kids and adolescents make better decisions and take control of the technology in their lives.

DFi provides tools and training programs for educators, law enforcement (SRO’s) and parents to teach children how to become good digital citizens. Our curriculum covers topics including cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, substance use, loss of emotional intelligence, distracted driving and more.

Digital Futures Initiative (DFi) was created to deliver digital life skills to students and parents in an innovative, engaging way. Lessons are designed by curating the best and most current content available in the world and the curriculum is made available for FREE to any school, county or group who needs it. The program includes all of the self-paced online training, Powerpoint presentations, images, videos, presenter’s notes, and fun, in-class activities built for the classroom.

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