• Collaborative

Planning the day in lockdown for children aged 3 to 11 years old

by : M.A. Bernardy, C. Bricout, Dr C. Stordeur, Dr A. Hubert. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department - Centre of Excellence for Neurodevelopmental Disorders - Robert Debré Hospital - Paris


The situation we are currently experiencing as a result of the CoVID-19 pandemic is upsetting us all and upsetting our children's usual landmarks.

Here we suggest that you plan your children's day, encouraging the establishment of new structuring and reassuring landmarks. We also suggest that you take care of yourself and optimize communication between members of the household.

1/ Here is how to start a daily planning, to be personalized and adapted to your child:

· In the morning I get up at … o’clock.

· I have breakfast … o’clock (note the time needed).

- I say how I'm feeling this morning and I also ask my family members how they feel.

- I can make a quick little poem in the form of Haïku (three-sentence Japanese poem)

Example: "This morning a great sun, birds are singing, it’s a spring day."

These short sentences reflect my inner state, as if I were saying "I am doing well and I am looking forward to starting this day"; the idea is to describe the feeling of the moment in this short form. Everyone in the family can write one and we read them together.

· I am getting ready for the day, and first of all:

o I get dressed

o I make my bed

And then,

o I set me

o I set myself up at my work table: I do school exercises according to the program sent to me by my teacher. Depending on the size and my ability to concentrate, I take short breaks of 10 or 15 minutes regularly.

· I do a fun activity to recharge my batteries with the games I have at my disposal.

o I create new activities that I can also exchange through the phone with my classmates:

o I make a game from scratch using cardboard and all kinds of packaging or material that is no longer used, (ex: create a mini football field and use marbles to play on it, a car, a plane, build a city out of cardboard, etc.)

o I write a song.

o I write a little story.

o I build a cabin.

o I make one drawing a day, trying to describe what I feel, or drawing spontaneously what comes to mind.

o I make a drawing and hang it on my window or balcony, visible from outside, with the help of Mom or Dad, and maybe it will give the neighbors the idea to do the same.

o I create a dashboard with one theme per day and I look for information on this theme in newspapers, books, internet (with the permission or supervision of my parents and a search engine adapted to children like Qwant Junior, for example).

· I help mum or dad to prepare a meal, set the table, think of a good dessert, make a special decoration for the table, a festive snack.

· I plan a time during the day where I relax by watching an interesting program: a documentary on television, a cartoon.

· I play videogames, respecting the time set by mom or dad.

· I do physical exercises in line with life in an apartment (for example, a short motor skills course, soft gymnastics, dancing...). See the psychomotricity sheets.

· I go with mom or dad for a little walk, because I know that you are not allowed to go very far, nor to go out for very long.

· After each meal, I brush my teeth well.

· In the evening I take a shower and I put on my pajamas at … o’clock.

· I play a little game of 10 or 15 minutes with mom or dad.

· I go to bed, mom or dad reads me a story or we read together. Depending on my age, I am allowed to read for another 15-30 minutes alone and then I have to turn off the lights and go to sleep.

To guide me through time, I have an alarm clock, or a watch.

To guide me through the day, I have my schedule, in the form of a weekly timetable. I can also make a visual timetable with small drawings or pictograms that I hang up, very useful for children who cannot read by themselves yet.

This chart can also be used as a reward system. At the end of each day, if everything has been done correctly, I can be rewarded with a point or a sticker (See the Motivation for Change Tool sheet).

Mom or Dad can also be rewarded with a sticker or a point. These points can be counted for the duration of the lockdown and can be redeemed for a reward once the lockdown is over. For example: organizing a party or going on a big outing together.

· During the day, as I am very sensitive to congratulations, I like to be appreciated for the efforts I make and to be told the following sentences:

"You're doing a great job... »

"I like it when you..."

"It's a good idea to... »

"You did well to... »

"Wow, how well you did... »

"That's good, that's the right way... »

"I'm so glad that you..."

"Thank you for... »

"What a great job... »

"It's really good to have you. »

"It's really nice to spend time with you... »

"You did exactly what mommy, daddy wanted you to do... »

"You're really very careful... »

"I'm very proud of you because... »

"Wonderful! Awesome! Great! »

"It's nice of you to..."

"You work very well... »

"You're trying very hard... »

"I admire the way you do... »

I also like to say these sentences myself, to my parents and siblings.

I also like "a little pat on the shoulder, a little hug, a hand through my hair, a kiss, a thumbs-up of approval, or a "check”.

This organization is adaptable to kindergarten children. Pictograms and/or small drawings can then be used (Visual chart to make yourself with the children by cutting out pictures from magazines or by drawing, for example).

2/ For parents whose days have been completely turned upside down, remember to take care of yourself too:

· Take time for yourself.

· Do 5 minutes of breathing according to the principles of Mindfulness meditation:

o Concentrate on your breathing,

o Inspiration: the way the air comes in through the nostrils or mouth, note the sensations, cooler or warmer air, note what you feel in your body.

o As you exhale, note what happens when the air comes out.

o When thoughts come and distract you, write down these thoughts and let them go. Focus again on your breathing. (See the Caring for Yourself When Caring for Others worksheet.)

· Do cardiac coherence exercises : you'll find plenty of exercises by searching for cardiac coherence on your computer's search engine. For example: https://66.media.tumblr.com/b1406ea40336dc68e5404b380c391d96/tumblr_nsj9tcMOgY1qkv5xlo1_500.gif

· Listen to music.

· Do yoga exercises or meditation.

· Do some physical exercise. You can use any application that can be downloaded free of charge on your mobile phone.

· Spot the moments when you are stressed, angry, or feel tension in your body and then say out loud (or to yourself if you prefer) that you are doing your best and that you are doing very well given the circumstances which are very difficult for everyone and congratulate yourself often! Give yourself a break!

3/ Make use of your sense of humor:

Humor helps to take a step back and get over tensions. Your attitude when you manage your stress also teaches your children something. They will be able to imitate you and improve their emotional management.

All this can be discussed at a family meeting on Sunday morning around a good breakfast, so that everyone knows what they can/should do to make life as easy as possible during these difficult weeks for everyone; and so that everyone also knows what is expected of them.

During this type of meeting we can also discuss the fact that everyone may feel at some point the need to have a quiet time by themselves. Simply say: "I am tense now, or I am in the red zone, I need a quiet moment to recharge my batteries". Then breathe, meditate, listen to music...

Always remember to take care of yourself and your family.

Translated by Dr Elie Khoury (psychiatrist)

48 Boulevard Serurier, 75019  Paris France

©2020 by Dr. Benjamin Landman. Child Psychiatry, Robert Debre Hospital - Paris