Living creatively and joyfully with children (even indoors)

Mennonite Central Committee invites you to explore a collection of ideas taken from or adapted from the book, Parent Trek, commissioned by MCC . They were compiled in March 2020. Some have been adapted and some additions were added for this time when many families are remaining at home because of the threat of COVID-19.

Covid-19 Time Capsule

Checking In on Your Teenager’s Mood During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Son and Mother Sitting on Sofa Having a Conversation

While the current circumstances surrounding 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are challenging for most people, many teenagers are particularly impacted. For more click here and here.

How parents can be honest with children about financial stresses while avoiding making them feel too burdened.

By Wendy Mogel, New York Times

Published May 8, 2020

Updated May 14, 2020, 12:14 p.m. ET

Even as some states are reopening, many parents face telling their children that things they were looking forward to are effectively still canceled for them — because they can no longer afford them.

Economic distress from the pandemic is widespread, and many experts expect it will be long-lasting. The Labor Department reported on Friday that more than 20.5 million people in the United States lost their jobs in April, and the unemployment rate went to 14.7 percent.

As a psychologist and author of parenting books living in Los Angeles, many of the clients I counsel are terrified. (Many work in the entertainment industry, and are uncertain of their future; nearly all production except animation is shut down indefinitely.) Parents can try to hide fears about having enough money for rent and food, but children’s eyes and ears are sharp.

This is going to require some very difficult family conversations, to help children set new expectations in this new world. Even if camps and restaurants reopen, it could be that your children don’t go to camp and your family can’t go out to eat.

How you have these conversations will vary, of course, depending on the age and temperament of the children and on your new economic situation.

But I don’t have to tell you that our responsibility, now as always, is to be truthful with our children without scaring them. We have to be cautious about promising children that things are going to get better, instead offering hope that things might get better.

I know that one challenge for parents is to find the right language and tone to honestly tell children about the family’s troubles, without burdening them with the responsibility for shoring up the adults. Here’s my advice on how to handle this.

Do not underestimate the unprecedented situation you and the rest of the world are in, and the psychological impact of economic uncertainty.

In our consumer economy and cultural moment of competitive self-branding, meeting the basic challenge of stretching the budget and separating what we want (or have been accustomed to) from what we need is hard. When it’s complicated by the psychological loss of a job title and status as a provider, it’s harder. Treat yourself with dignity and respect by noting that you remain a devoted and attentive parent even in this wildly uncharted environment.

You may be feeling some combination of bitterness and shame, catastrophizing, terror about prolonged unemployment or worry about falling ill, and a loss of identity if you have lost your job or your partner has.

If you’ve retained your health benefits, take advantage of therapy via telemedicine. Or join an online parent support group. Or have a heart-to-heart with your inner critic. Self-blame is seductive because it gives an illusion of control.

If it’s true, reassure your children that you have enough money to pay bills and to buy food and that if you run low, family and friends will help out. If you’re receiving unemployment benefits, job hunting, pivoting your business in a new direction, or taking classes to learn new skills, share some of the details. It will be reassuring for them to know about your resources and plans.

Remain calm and curious about their questions. Even if it’s new for you to talk with your children about your financial situation (many parents find this essential topic even trickier than talking about sex) you are laying the foundations of being an “askable” parent.

When talking to your children, you will need to decide how much to share, depending on your children’s age and ability to absorb bad news and curated for what they need to know.

Take a slow breath. Aim for calm, candid and brief. Consider your tone — the melody is more important than the lyrics.

You’ve already taught the children about how people adjust to a pandemic — hand-washing and wearing masks help keep us from getting sick. Introducing them to the concept of adjusting to a changed economic reality is another opportunity to teach them about real life.

If preschoolers sense that job loss is a secret, their imagination will take over. “Something bad happened to the grown-ups! Something bad will happen to me!” Next, they’re waking up with bad dreams, fearful about being alone in a room, tearful over small frustrations. Allow simple facts to banish the monster under the bed. Tell them you’re not working with the same people or at the same place as you were before and what you’re doing with your time now.

Older children will be eager to know how your job loss will affect their lives. “Can we still order dinner? Will I go back to my same school? Will we be homeless soon?” Shrink dramatic predictions with reassurance about what will stay the same, what might change and that you will always share news with them and answer their questions.

Don’t overshare or underprepare. Be frank with your teenagers about the family finances in a collegial, we’re-figuring-out-our-next-steps-here manner. Let them surprise you with suggestions for what to do. Don’t demean ideas like “We can start a YouTube channel!” Instead approach their up-to-date take on survival skills with an open mind.

Allow your children to grieve. It probably won’t be pretty. Expect tears, confusion or anger among younger kids, and feigned indifference or cold shoulders from older ones. Or the reverse! Remember that heartbreak can sound like entitlement. No summer camp or vacation? You’re likely to hear some version of:

“THIS ISN’T HAPPENING! … No way! Not fair! You promised! … Where am I supposed to go all summer? … WHAT do I tell my friends?”

As challenging as it may be, try to respect your children’s disappointment without defensiveness. Of course the pandemic wasn’t your fault, but your children may lash out at you. Take it as a good sign. It means that they heard you and trust that you are sturdy enough to be able to absorb their feelings.

It’s tempting to patch over the pain with fast talk, spin, bribery, a hard sell of alluring alternatives or wishful crystal ball predictions:

Gap year! And then everything back to normal.

But next summer you can go to camp for eight weeks!

Maybe. The new reality is that we just don’t know. Don’t strip your smart children of dignity with “but, but, but.”

Instead, be honest. Promise only what you really can deliver. For example, you might say: Even if camp is open this year, we’re not going to be able to pay for it. But we can definitely pop up the tent in the backyard and sleep out there.

It’s tempting to find someone to blame. Cynicism about your future prospects, mockery of adult leaders or scapegoating leaves children feeling vulnerable. Instead, this unexpected period could be viewed as an opportunity to teach and be of service.

Having a sense of purpose is a powerful antidote to helplessness. It changes our mental channel from troubles, anxiety or self-pity to pride and satisfaction and a connection to the community.

Look for ways your children can help others without spending money and while also maintaining social distance: Depending on their age and interests, perhaps they can join a program to be matched with older people as pen pals, volunteer to work on a political campaign or become online tutors to younger kids.

The prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for foresight, hindsight and impulse control, doesn’t finish developing in girls until their mid-20s and a few years later in boys.

So while we analyze, fret and stew, young people hop from anguish to ecstasy: how perfectly the cupcakes turned out, a totally one-of-a kind homemade face mask, a TikTok dance move mastered.

Enjoy this small-scale serendipity with them; don’t let the pandemic hijack wonder and delight. It will be good for you too.

As adults, moving from macro thinking to micro moments requires intention and self-control. But go outside. Wander around your block and look for beauty.

With your child, read the book he or she was assigned for school and gossip about the characters. Speculate about their motives. “I was so surprised when (protagonist made a particular choice); were you?” Take advantage of the privacy you share with your children: Call them affectionate nicknames without the risk of embarrassing them in front of friends, build your store of private jokes. We are making memories for our future selves.

Explain that as the economy reopens, your situation may change. You may find a new job that will involve a different schedule, and that may affect your children’s routines. There may be a new child care arrangement.

As with all difficult topics, this is not a one-time conversation. Your circumstances may change and your children may have new questions. Check in from time to time, and update them if there are developments. In this new reality, you’ll need the whole family to operate as a resilient little team.

Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist whose latest book is “Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say It and When to Listen.”

Housing Resources During Covid-19A clear sky and a row of two-story, brick rowhomes each structured the same but with their own unique touches showing the diversity of Philly rowhomes.

COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions will leave many families with reduced or no income. As a result, paying for housing will become a challenge for some.

There are resources available to help Philadelphia renters and homeowners facing housing issues. There are also steps we can take to help housing markets recover from the impact of COVID-19. Click here for more.

Caretakers of Children Can Get Daily Advice About COVID-19

Sign up to receive daily tips in your inbox about how to support kids during the COVID-19 crisis. Child Mind Institute clinicians will share advice about structuring the day when kids are stuck at home, managing behavior, balancing work and child care, practicing mindfulness, and much more.

The Pandemic Toolkit Parents Need:

8 expert tips to help families stay regulated

A Survival Guide for Parenting Through the Global Pandemic

Psychologist provides a guide on helping families through the crisis.


On April 3, Governor Wolf recommended that all Pennsylvanians wear a mask if they must leave their homes.

Members of the general public don’t need a surgical mask – we need those for our health care workers and first responders. Instead, they are encouraged to wear homemade fabric or cloth masks.

Homemade masks limit the spread of infectious droplets in the air by containing coughs and sneezes. When a homemade mask can’t be acquired a scarf or bandana can be utilized. By implementing community use of these homemade fabric or cloth masks, everyone will have a higher degree of protection from this virus.

When to Wear a Mask

Those who are staying home and have no close contacts who are infected with COIVID-19 don’t need a mask most of the time. However, wearing a nonmedical or homemade mask may be helpful in certain situations or for certain populations.

  • Shopping at essential businesses, like grocery stores or pharmacies.
  • While visiting your health care provider.
  • Traveling on public transportation.
  • Interacting with customers/clients at essential businesses.
  • When feeling sick, coughing, or sneezing.

Because homemade masks protect everyone else from the droplets created by the wearer, it is important that as many people as possible wear these masks when leaving their homes.

This helps prevent those who may be infectious but are only mildly symptomatic or not symptomatic from spreading the virus to others in the community.

Everyone should remember the phrase: “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.” By increasing the overall number of people who are containing their coughs, sneezes, and other droplets, it will help us control the overall spread of the virus.

Best Practices for Homemade Masks

The best practices for making and wearing fabric or cloth masks include:

  • Consider buying materials online to avoid exposure in public places.
  • Purchase masks made by small businesses, saving medical masks for health care workers.
  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • The mask should fit snugly around the mouth and nose.
  • If the mask has a metal wire it should be fitted snuggly to the bridge of the nose.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it, if you do wash your hands with soap and water or
    alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Made out of two layers of tightly woven 100% cotton fabric.
  • Be discarded or washed after every use.
  • Should not be worn damp or when wet from spit or mucus.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from behind, do not touch the front of mask.
  • The wearer should immediately wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after
    removing the mask.

How to Make a Homemade Mask

Here’s how to make a mask at home.

Materials needed:

  • Fabric (100% cotton is most effective)
  • Fabric Ties
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine or a needle and thread


  • Measure and cut two pieces of fabric in a rectangle pattern to fit snugly around the face (size 12 inches by 6 inches is standard for adults).
  • Tightly sew both layers together on all edges.
  • Cut fabric ties to fit around the ears.
  • Sew the ties to the insides of the mask on the smaller edge, repeat on both sides.
  • Resew the sides to ensure a tight seal between both pieces of fabric and the earpiece.

Check out this New York Times article for more tips on how to make your own homemade mask.

On Medical Masks

Do not purchase masks designed for health care professionals. N95 and surgical masks are designed to protect those who are working in high risk situations with a likelihood of exposure. Instead, make your own mask or purchase one from an online small business.

Businesses should consider purchasing homemade or cloth masks for their employees as part of their uniform or in recognition of good public health practices. Businesses should also consider non-punitive policies that encourage employees to wear masks while at work.

Find out more about the difference between homemade masks and masks for health care professionals.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for people with substance use disorders and in recovery. The following resources may help.

Guidance for Providers

Justice System Resources

Interim Guidance for COVID-19 and Persons with HIV

HIV and COVID-19 - Greater Than AIDS

ACEs Connection

Join the movement to prevent ACEs, heal trauma and build resilience.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

We are in this together, and help is always available. If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Neurosequential Network Stress & Resilience video with Bruce Perry MD, PhD.

This brief (15 min) video discusses how the pattern of stress can determine risk or resilience.  The importance of structure, predictability and moderation of daily stress is highlighted. The malleability of the capacity to demonstrate resilience is discussed.

Bruce Perry, MD, PhD. Staying Emotionally Close In The Time of COVID19

How do we manage in the midst of COVID-19? I reached out to one of our field’s most inspiring figures: @BDPerry. Thanks, Dr. Perry for joining me on The Trauma Therapist Podcast at such short notice and for sharing your guidance for these crazy times.

Jim Mcingvale and Dr. Liz McIngvale talk with Dr. Bruce Perry about the impact the #Coronavirus has on children, families, and the community.

Episode 12, Partnered with a Survivor Podcast (Special COVID-19 edition)

Ruth Stearns Mandel & David Mandel

In the first of a series of COVID-19 specific podcasts, David and Ruth talk about how the dynamics of domestic abuse are changing in the context of the COVID-19. Talking to both professionals and family members, Ruth offers insights from her own history related to being isolated with her abusers. The discussion about how we can best continue to partner with survivors and intervene with perpetrators follows with examples and practical steps.

What Resets Our Nervous System After Trauma

With Peter Levine, PhD

A free report from NICABM

Intimate partner violence

Staying safe during COVID-19 from The National Domestic Violence Hotline
24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224)

Food Resources during Covid-19

Epic Church Food Distribution for those over 60 years old

Where to Find Free & Nutritious Food during COVID-19 in Philadelphia

Philly Food Finder Map 

Food Pantry Locator in the Philadelphia Region from the Coalition Against Hunger