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Cures for cabin fever – Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Will this Maryland winter ever end? Between school delays, cancellations and the ordeal of boots, gloves, etc., my children (and I) have had enough of being stuck in the house. Do you have suggestions for activities for them or sanity savers for me?

Mom of Three

Don’t miss last week’s column Dealing with different house rules at different houses — Good Parenting

Dear Mom of Three,

The needs of children are unchanging no matter what the weather. You can remember the categories of needs with this acronym: P.I.E.S. When the “whole child” is satisfied, your sanity needs should also be met!

Children need to move every day. Even if you can’t go outside, you must find ways for them to move their bodies. Movement is important for digestion, growth, the immune system and mental calm. Make an obstacle course and take turns following the leader. Push the furniture back, put on some good music and dance. Use your stairs for maximum advantage – with safety in mind – as a mountain to climb or a track for Slinkies (or other inventive objects to release from the top and retrieve, such as a balled up sock). I have a winter memory of when my parents installed a linoleum floor in our dining room and my sister and I “ice-skated” in our socks to some Tchaikovsky music.

There are infinite games that can be played indoors – some with movement and some stationary. My favorite hunt and find game is “Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.”
Twenty questions is another classic which can easily be tailored so that children of every age are sufficiently challenged.
The kitchen is a great place to cook up an intellectual challenge – and you’re stuck at home long enough for yeast dough to rise and chili to start from dried beans. There are infinite resources for recipes online or you can use this valuable time to teach your children the steps in making family favorites you learned as a child. This is an investment as the kids will gain competence and independence that will serve them and their future families well (pun intended).
And of course, snuggling up to read a good book together can fill hours and hours of indoor time.

Feelings can bounce off the walls and be more intense when cooped up in the house with each other. An important task for good parenting is to discover what works well for each child at each age to bring him or her out of an emotional firestorm and back to rational thinking. Do you have anti-stress activities for each of you? One might prefer quiet music or a well-loved video to escape his unpleasant reality. Another might drift away through creating art. And yet another will find inner peace through a movement activity such as dancing solo in the bedroom. A warm bath may be the portal to peace for another.

Ask any child what she misses about a day away from school, and among the top three answers will likely be “my friends.” If a physical play date is impossible, use your electronics to put buddies together. Telephone, face time, texting and emailing can while away the time apart. Or teach your children about snail mail. It’s a great way to connect with someone who is not present, and one of those arts that we don’t seem to have time for anymore. Today you have the time.

I’m not a meteorologist, but in my life experience I have found spring to predictably follow winter. So to answer your question, yes this winter will end.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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