Doctor warns of long-term effects of Covid 19 on young people

We know that the restrictions of recent months have been very difficult for young people whose social life is so important to them. Many young people have been absolute heroes, staying home, maintaining social distance when out, doing everything they can to protect those around them.

Now that things are opening up again we cannot afford to think that life is back to what it was before this all happened. We still need to be careful, to limit the number of people we are mixing with, to maintain social distancing, hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette and to wear face coverings in busy places.

Although the number of new cases of Coronavirus is now much lower we can see that many of those new cases are happening among young people. It can be difficult for us as parents to get our children to understand and accept the ongoing need for restrictions. Often young people see themselves as invincible, thinking either that they won’t get Covid or that if they do it won’t do them any harm. Here is an interview which was aired on Newstalk on 24th June which might help young adults to realise that Covid-19 is still a challenge and a threat to people – young and old – in Ireland.

A Dublin doctor is warning young people that they could be left with long-term effects if they contract COVID-19.

It comes after health officials warned that 76 of the 202 people diagnosed with the virus in the past two weeks were under the age of 35.

Sixteen of those cases involved children under 14-years-of-age.

On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Dublin GP Maitiú Ó Tuathail said all five of the patients he referred for testing yesterday were under 40-years-old.

He said increases in young people catching the virus are now “happening the world over.”

“They are the most social of all the groups so it stands to reason that we would see an increase in these numbers as lockdown has been, kind of, reversed,” he said.

He said the narrative that the virus only effects older people has led to younger people being too relaxed about guidelines on social distancing and face coverings.

“There has been a clear message throughout the pandemic that this is an illness that predominantly affects and kills people who are over the age of 65,” he said.

“Because that was the message that has gone out, those that are under 40 really feel like this is not a disease that affects them and what I am seeing in my practice is that that is not true.”

Post-viral fatigue syndrome

He said people under 40 are unlikely to end up in intensive care with the virus; however, they could face other long-term issues.

“I am seeing an increasing number of people that were 20 or 30 that got COVID-19 and were left with the effects of it,” he said.

“The most common one we are seeing at the moment is chronic fatigue. I have patients in their 20s and 30s that are now out of work for weeks with severe chronic fatigue because of COVID-19.

“So, it is not true that people under the age of 40 are completely immune. I am seeing people coming in with long-term effects from the virus.”

Loved ones

He said young people need to consider their older relatives when they are out and about.

“The real issue is that these people in their 20s and 30s have loved ones,” he said. “They have mothers, they have fathers and they are putting them at risk by the actions they are taking.

“There is a likelihood that you will spread the virus to a loved one who may end up in intensive care and may die and that is the message that needs to get out.”

Healthcare workers

Dr Ó Tuathail also said the INMO was not ‘far off the mark’ when it said Ireland had the world’s highest COVID-19 infection rate among healthcare workers.

“Anecdotally, I have had COVID-19, a lot of my colleagues who worked in hospitals have had COVID-19 and a disproportionally large number of nurses particularly in the nursing home sector had COVID-19

“We know in the nursing home sector, that was a mess. It was poorly managed there was an inadequate amount of PPE within the nursing home sector.”


My Hero is You

Here is a wonderful e-book about how children can be heroes helping us all to stay safe and protect each other from getting Coronavirus.

Please note that these are international stories and some public health measures referenced may differ from measures currently in place in Ireland.

My Hero is You, a story developed for and by children around the world, offers a way for children and parents to think together about the questions the pandemic raises. The story is designed to be read by a parent, caregiver or teacher alongside a child or a small group of children. The story is also available in a range of languages here.

Here is the link to the story


Are you seeing an increase in sleep issues during this pandemic?

Many parents are finding that their children’s sleep patterns have become disturbed during the Coronavirus pandemic. Here is an interesting article from the New York Times written by Dr Craig Canapari who is director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Yale New Haven Hospital You can download the original article at

If you are struggling with your child’s sleep issues please contact your Public Health Nurse who is trained to offer you support and guidance.

Bedtime Was Hard Enough. Then Came Quarantine.

Kids across the world are having trouble sleeping. There are ways to help.

Picture Credit…María Medem


Pediatricians in Italy have seen widespread sleep disturbances, among other problems, in children during the pandemic. I wondered what sort of sleep problems our lockdowns were generating and wanted to try to help tired parents if I could. There aren’t many U.S. pediatric sleep doctors, and parents wait up to six months to see physicians in my clinic, so I took to social media and email to contact my network of parents and ask if their children’s sleep had suffered. I received more than 300 responses in one day and noticed several recurring themes.

One common issue is that children are shifting their sleep schedule later, resulting in stressed parents and children. On the other hand, Laura Jean Miller, a psychiatrist in Atlanta, wrote that her teenage patients are sleeping later but feeling well rested.

Getting up late isn’t necessarily bad, especially for teenagers. However, when young children stay up late, they can push into the only downtime left to stressed parents. Some research also suggests that later bedtimes are tied to lower long-term cognitive performance in young kids. A British team looked at 10,000 7-year-olds and found bedtimes consistently later than 9 p.m. in early childhood were associated with difficulty in reading and math in elementary school. If your child’s schedule is drifting later, keep the shift to one hour, or two for teenagers.

Longer sleep-related shifts will be harder to unwind when this is all over. Stop screen time 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, since intense, close-up light exposure in the evening will push sleep later by suppressing the secretion of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Likewise, don’t close your child’s shades, since natural morning light may help wake her up. Take a walk or play outside first thing to start the day with sunlight that will help her circadian rhythm.

Of course, if the schedule change is working for you, it’s OK to lean into it, temporarily. One mother told me her toddler’s sleep schedule moved two hours later, shifting from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., so now she’s waking up at 9 a.m. instead of two hours earlier. Now she and her partner let their daughter sleep in each morning so they can work.

Many parents said they are seeing more conflicts around bedtime or naps. Although many working parents now spend all day with their children, that doesn’t mean they are getting as much quality time with them. As we bounce between conference calls, keep up with virtual schooling, prepare food and keep the house going, children can feel neglected and needier than ever at bedtime, so they push back.

“They almost seem more starved for my attention,” wrote Lauren Assalley, a school psychologist from Taylorville, Ill., with two young children. Her husband works as a funeral director and has been out of the home for long days during the epidemic.

A kid who refuses to nap poses a tough obstacle for parents trying to work remotely. If your child is demanding more attention at nap time and bedtime, try to carve out more quality time with him during the day, difficult as it may be. Take breaks where you focus entirely on your child, even for 10 or 15 minutes, which may reduce your child’s neediness.

[Now is a great time to help your child learn to play independently and you can check out tips in our next article.  ]

Also, make sure that your evenings are relaxed. Some families have discovered leisurely evenings to be an unexpected benefit of social distancing. “We’re actually finding bedtime to be so much more pleasant, and earlier, than when we’re both working all day,” wrote Lauren Hansen, of Westchester, N.Y. If your child is older than 2 and refuses to nap, it’s OK to enforce 30 minutes of quiet downtime, even if you have to resort to giving them a screen.

Many parents complained that their kids are waking up in the middle of the night and visiting a parent’s bed more than before. This can be a sign that your child is feeling anxious or is struggling to process stress. Katherine Benvenuti, a pastry chef in Portland, Ore., opened a bakery and restaurant, named Bar King, the week that Oregon restaurants were closed down. Her 3-year-old started waking up at night for two to three hours at a stretch. She and her husband stopped talking about coronavirus around him, which has made a big difference.

“He’s not waking up anymore and he’s falling asleep more easily,” Benvenuti wrote in an email. “It’s hard to remember that, even when my children are quietly playing by themselves in the living room, they are absorbing all of what my husband and I are saying.”

Watching the news can be stressful for some children. Children also may be grieving missed birthday parties, school plays or athletic events. Acknowledge these losses and try to find alternatives. If your child is sad about not being able to have a birthday party, arrange a surprise Zoom call with family and friends.

Physical activity, especially outdoors, seems to help with all of these issues. Krystal Watson, a mother in Montana, said: “We have a daily routine that includes going outside as much as possible, and this makes a huge difference.” When they don’t exercise, she wrote, there are “restless nights.” I’ve seen this in my practice as well. Tire your kids out. Play tag. Go for a long walk. Have a dance party with your family. This will help everyone sleep better.

But there’s only so much you can do, and not every sleep issue has a simple solution. Or you may not have the bandwidth for any of this, and that’s OK. Sometimes you just need to survive. One mother in Buffalo, N.Y., whose husband is self-quarantining in the basement after a coronavirus exposure, told me she was breaking all the rules and letting her kids watch television before bed, sleep in her room and stay up late, which fixed their sleep problems.

She knows she is developing habits she will need to address when this is all over. But give yourself a break if it helps your child, and you, sleep better at night.

Craig Canapari is director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and author of “It’s Never Too Late to Sleep Train.”

#Hold Firm – a message for all of us from the HSE

For the last number of weeks and months, everyone in Ireland has taken steps to flatten the curve, to protect our health service and save lives. These actions have reduced the impact of COVID-19 on the country and our health service. Now we need to motivate and inspire people to keep going with those actions that help us to stay safe and protect each other.

Staying away from the people we love and the things we enjoy is not easy. It’s not us. But, this is us – taking care of each other, supporting our colleagues on the frontline and essential services, and the people most at risk in communities all across the country.


Take Care, a poem by President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins

In the journey to the light,
the dark moments
should not threaten.
that you hold steady.
Bend, if you will,
with the wind.
The tree is your teacher,
roots at once
more firm
from experience
in the soil
made fragile.

Your gentle dew will come
and a stirring
of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.

In the misery of the I,
in rage,
it is easy to cry out
against all others
but to weaken
is to die
in the misery of knowing
the journey abandoned
towards the sharing
of all human hope
and cries
is the loss
of all we know
of the divine
for our shared
Hold firm.
Take care.
Come home


‘Season of Fire’ 1993

Coronavirus – what public health measures are in place right now?

Where are we at with the Coronavirus? Is social distancing still so important? Can we meet up? We all have a lot of questions about the Coronavirus restrictions so here is some information from the website explaining why it is so important that we keep up social distancing and hygiene habits and why we only travel when we need to. It is tough – but together we are making a difference. #holdfirm

Public health measures in place right now

From Department of Health;  Department of the Taoiseach

Published at: 27 March 2020

Last updated 23 May 2020


  • 1. Stay at home
  • 2. The only reasons you can leave your home
  • 3. Small groups outdoors
  • 4. Cultural and social measures
  • 5. Workers
  • 6. Retail, personal and commercial activities
  • 7. Health services
  • 8. Transport and travel

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease. Everyone is urged to stay at home whenever possible. Staying at home is the best way to minimise the spread of COVID-19 to ourselves, our families and our vulnerable people.

We are currently in Phase 1 of the government’s roadmap for reopening society and business. During Phase 1, you can leave your home for a wider range of reasons. You can also meet in small groups outdoors.

Social distancing should be maintained at all times.

You are advised to:

  • wash your hands well and often
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing, and discard used tissue safely
  • limit your contact with others when out and about
  • distance yourself at least 2 metres away from other people, especially those who might be unwell
  • avoid crowded areas. If an area looks busy, go somewhere else or return at a quieter time
  • wear a face covering in some situations where social distancing is not possible, for example in shops or on busy public transport. Wearing cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others. Guidance on safe use of face coverings is available here

Know the symptoms of COVID-19.

They are:

  • a fever (high temperature – 38 degrees Celsius or above)
  • a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties

If you have symptoms, self-isolate and contact your GP.

Stay at home

You should still stay at home whenever possible and only travel for essential reasons. This is the best way to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to your friends, families and communities.

People who are extremely medically vulnerable and people over 70 need to be especially vigilant to protect themselves as they are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

If you are cocooning, you should continue to follow the public health advice to stay at home as much as possible and avoid physical contact with other people, except to leave home for exercise or a drive up to 5 kilometres.

When you go out for exercise, you may meet people in groups of up to 4. It is essential that you practice social distancing by staying 2 metres (6 feet) apart and avoid all physical contact. These measures are to protect you and your friends and family.

If you are cocooning, you should continue to avoid all shops and retail outlets and to stay at 2 metres (6 feet) distance from other people when outdoors at all times. Guidance for those who are cocooning is available here.

The only reasons you can leave your home

Stay at home in all circumstances, except in the following situations:

  • to travel to and from work, if your work cannot be carried out from home
  • to shop for essential food and household goods
  • to attend medical appointments and collect medicines
  • for vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people – but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes – that is food production or care of animals
  • to engage in physical exercise within 5 kilometres of home, adhering to 2 metre social distancing
  • to meet with friends or family within 5 kilometres in groups of no more than 4, adhering to 2 metre social distancing
  • to escape domestic violence

You can also leave your home to avail of the expanded list of retail services as set out below.

Small groups outdoors

Groups of up to 4 people who are not from the same household can meet outdoors. This can include a family meeting an individual friend or neighbour, a group of individuals meeting outdoors, and two couples meeting outdoors.

Social distancing should be maintained with all people keeping 2 metres apart.

Meetings should be within 5 kilometres of the households of those involved.

You are advised to limit the number of people you meet with outdoors. The more contact you have – the greater you risk getting and spreading the virus.

Cultural and social measures

Outdoor public amenities and tourism sites such as parks, beaches, mountain walks, heritage and cultural sites have reopened.

Outdoor sports facilities such as pitches, tennis courts and golf courses have also reopened.

Social distancing measures must be implemented at all of these sites.

You can practice sport or fitness activities in groups of up to 4 but you must maintain social distancing, minimise contact, and not share equipment.

You should not travel beyond 5 kilometres from where you live to visit any of the above facilities.


Anyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

A phased return to work for outdoor workers has begun. This includes construction workers, gardeners and so on. A full list of occupations covered by this advice can be accessed here.

Employers are advised to apply the Return to Work Safely Protocol. This has been designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers should also have a COVID-19 Response Plan in place.

Employers should put measures in place to reduce the number of workers interacting with each other onsite at work at any one time. These could include having a smaller number of workers return initially, shift work, and staggered hours.

Workplaces should be adequately prepared for the return of workers. Public health advice to limit the spread of COVID-19 (hand hygiene, good respiratory etiquette, social distancing, wearing of face coverings) should be communicated to all staff. Cleaning schedules, waste disposal arrangements, arrangements to encourage social distancing between workers and alternative arrangements where social distancing is not always possible should be implemented.

If you are feeling sick – you should stay at home and not go to work.

If you have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 – you should stay at home and not go to work.

Employers are advised to proactively engage with official authorities as they reopen and to consult with public health authorities on ways to minimise the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace.

Retail, personal and commercial activities

Additional retailers have reopened. All must implement social distancing arrangements in their premises to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. All must also apply the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

Retail outlets that have reopened include:

  1. Retail outlets that are primarily outdoor (for example, garden centres, farmer’s markets, and hardware stores)
  2. Retail outlets, in addition to those that were already open.

These include:

  • opticians and optometrists, outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances
  • retailers involved in the sale, supply and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle repair and related facilities
  • hardware stores, builders’ merchants and stores that provide hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, supplies and tools essential for gardening / farming /agriculture
  • retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for businesses
  • retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home and businesses

Retailers must put measures in place in their stores to minimise the spread of infection among customers and staff.

These could include:

  • protective screens and barriers
  • operating new queueing approaches
  • limiting the number of customers and staff per store at any one time
  • providing cleaning stations
  • increasing store cleaning and hygiene
  • considering store layout to facilitate social distancing
  • extending opening hours to reduce crowding
  • implementing car park restrictions

Stores should be adequately prepared for the return of employees and customers. Public health advice to limit the spread of COVID-19 (hand hygiene, good respiratory etiquette, social distancing, wearing of face coverings) should be communicated to all staff. Cleaning schedules, waste disposal arrangements, arrangements to encourage social distancing between workers and alternative arrangements where social distancing is not always possible should be implemented.

If you are feeling sick – you should stay at home and not go to work.

If you have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 – you should stay at home and not go to work.

Retailers are advised to proactively engage with official authorities as they reopen and to consult with public health authorities on ways to minimise the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in their stores.

Health services

  • all non-essential surgery, health procedures and other non-essential health services are postponed
  • all visits to hospitals, residential healthcare centres, other residential settings or prisons are stopped with specific exemptions on compassionate grounds
  • pharmacists are allowed by law to dispense medicines outside the dates spelled out in prescriptions according to their own professional judgement

Transport and travel

Travel restrictions are implemented as follows:

  • there is a nationwide restriction on travel outside of 5 kilometres from your home, except for the reasons listed above
  • travel to Ireland’s offshore islands is limited to residents of those islands
  • local authorities have relaxed on-street parking laws to meet the travel needs of workers
  • the arrival of personal non-national maritime leisure vessels is banned (except to exceptions as ‘port in a storm’)

The measures above are reflected in the regulations under the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 and will be enforced by the Garda Síochána.


Teenagers, socialising and social distancing

Do you have teenagers who are keen to meet up with friends but worry that their friends may ignore social distancing advice? Linda, a Clinician with Jigsaw has some advice for Kayla, a young teenager who finds herself in that position.

Ask Jigsaw: Friends not social distancing

I met up with my friends today and it was a bit underwhelming. It was great to see them but it also made me very nervous. First of all there was 7 of us, but the thing that stressed me out the most was the lack of social distancing. A few of us tried to at the start, but it got so difficult especially when some friends kept trying to get close to me. This really annoyed me and when i confronted them they brushed it off and said ‘a sure we will all get it at some stage’.

I understand that some of them are not in tune with irish news and it could be down to innocent ignorance, but its impossible to convince them to even try. Some people in my family are at risk, so social distancing really matters for me.

At the same time, I get serious Fear Of Missing Out when it comes to passing on hanging out, so I dont know what to do now. Any ideas on what i should do?

Also Id like to say a massive thank you for doing all the work you guys do, it means so much as a young person to have a place like this to fall back on when i need support:)


Look at the plan for raising restrictions and have a think about what you can and can’t do with your friends.

LInda, the Jigsaw Clinician replies to Kayla:-

Hi Kayla,

Firstly, thank you for your kind words about our service. It’s our aim to provide support for young people like you, so it means a lot to hear that you can rely on us.

It sounds like you’re in a tricky social situation and I’m sure that many of us will face similar situations, if not now then in the future.

Know your boundaries

As you’re aware, the current restrictions in place are for the safety and wellbeing of everyone. They are the guidelines we have to live by to protect ourselves and others. I can understand your frustration as your friends break these rules. Check with yourself about what you’re comfortable with.  Look at the plan for raising restrictions and have a think about what you can and can’t do with your friends in advance so you can be clear about where your boundaries are. Remember, you can still keep in touch with out seeing people face to face if you decide to wait.

Agree in advance to challenge those who flout the guidelines, and to walk away if it continues.

Get others on board

Often in groups, we follow the lead of one or two people. When you are in the group it can be hard to be the one person who stands up and says something is wrong. Try speaking individually to a few of the people involved to highlight your concerns and the reasons why social distancing is important to you.

Using assertive communication, you can explain how you feel when people don’t stick to the guidelines. If possible a few of you can agree in advance to challenge those who flout the guidelines, and to walk away if it continues. It is easier to tackle if a few of you are united, rather than feeling you are the one being ‘awkward’.

It’s about respect

It’s not okay for our friends to put us, or our loved ones, in danger. When people break social distancing rules by coming too close – this is exactly what they are doing. Mutual respect is the foundation of friendships and something that we all deserve.

We need our friends now more than ever, and of course you will feel FOMO if you stop contact. Thankfully, if our friends follow social distancing rules, we can still hang out without harming anyone. Your friends should respect your choice and if they don’t, it could be worth considering meeting individual friends that do.

Take care,

 Linda, Jigsaw Clinician

If there is a young person in your family who has a question for Jigsaw they can contact them here

Great support for the well being and mental health of young people and for their parents/guardians is available from Jigsaw

Do you need to talk to someone? Donegal Parent Support Line launching on Thursday 14 May

A new free Parent Support Line will be available to parents in Donegal from Thursday 14 May. The Donegal Parent Support line is being co-ordinated by the Donegal Family Resource Centre Network in association with a wide range of community and voluntary organisations involved in family support. The service will be available from Monday to Friday 9am – 3pm.

Many parents are feeling stressed and need a listening ear at this time. There are extra pressures with home schooling, working from home, anxiety about Coronavirus and a sense of uncertainty about what the coming months will bring. Parents are encouraged to avail of the opportunity to talk through those issues which are causing them stress. The Donegal Parent Support line will offer this, with a range of experienced and specialised family support and youth workers available to call parents back. The service will offer sign-posting, advice and the opportunity to talk through whatever is causing a parent stress – no matter how small the issue may seem.

Here is an interview with Leona from the Mevagh Family Resource Centre and Martin from the Moville and District Family Resource Centre on the Greg Hughes show on Highland radio today about the new service

This initiative has been developed in partnership with the Tusla Prevention Partnership and Family Support team in Donegal as part of the ongoing strategy to develop and fund early intervention community supports and initiatives for families in the county.

The number for the new Donegal Parent Support Line is 1800 112277 and the service will operate Monday to Friday 9am – 3pm – phonecalls to the number are free.


When the school year disappears – children dealing with loss

The world has changed utterly – or at least that is how it feels. Our children are experiencing the same sense of upheaval. For children who were due to move on from nursery, primary or secondary school this year the sense of loss may be even greater. Normally there would have been some process to help our children move on and make the transition. This may have been ‘graduation’ from nursery, special trips, the Leavers’ Mass, prom. Our children may be experiencing a sense of ‘ambiguous loss’. This is where we feel we have no control over the loss and we can’t resolve it easily. Certainly at the moment there is an ongoing sense of “I don’t know” in response to questions about when life will feel any way normal again, when schools will re-open, how that will be done. So in the midst of all this ambiguity or unknowing, how can we help our children to deal with their feelings of loss? Here are some ideas from Geoffrey Greif. You can read the whole article on the Psychology Today website at

1. Discuss the ambiguity. In Pauline Boss’s writing, she emphasizes that coping with ambiguous loss often requires us to recognize that it is not possible to be in control of the situation or to resolve the sense of uncertainty. Instead, we can learn new ways to live with both the virtual presence of people (e.g., teachers, friends, extended family) and their physical absence. We can agree that we are missing milestones while, at the same time, accepting new opportunities.

For children, sitting with this ambiguity and uncertainty is often a challenge (as it is for many adults). But families can talk about it with their children and acknowledge a range of emotions that may ensue, including a sense of loss, even as we build relationships and traditions in new ways. More celebrations will come our way.

2. Explore opportunities for gratitude. Researchers have repeatedly found that expressing gratitude is associated with improved mental health, well-being, and stronger relationships. Parents can model for children opportunities to identify things they are grateful for, even in the context of unpredictable change and loss. A small moment, like connecting with a school friend on FaceTime, can be something for which to be thankful. Showing gratitude towards others can build on this.

4. Approach yourself and your children with love. There is no blueprint for how to manage this time. A nonjudgmental lens of love and support may be the best way to enhance your connections and build feelings of value and worth.

As painful and as ambiguous as these losses are, we are going through them together. And with this shared experience, we can look to ourselves and to others for ways to build communities inside and outside of our homes.

3. Engage your child in decision making. While there are many issues that children and teens don’t have control over right now, there are also things that they can control — such as the order in which they do their schoolwork, which friends they talk to in the evening, and how they want to spend free time. Work with your child to identify decisions that they can make, so in moments when they feel vulnerable, they can focus on what they can do.


How to Achieve Screen Time Sanity During Quarantine

Here is an interesting and very relevant piece from the Psychology Today website which you can access here

Five steps for limits and allowances on pandemic screen time: A “Play Diet”.

Posted May 11, 2020

Two words come to mind when managing your family during the coronavirus quarantine: safety and sanity. Obviously, the safety of our kids and families is the number one priority. Social distancing, sheltering in place, and washing your hands have become the mantras of moms and dads all over the world. While keeping household sanity may be a distant second in our priorities, nonetheless, this supports safety by keeping families more content, communicative, and collaborative.

Pixabay / No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay / No Attribution Required

Quarantining 24/7 is very difficult. Kids are stuck in their homes, don’t have an opportunity to engage in face-to-face relationships, and are restricted in their physical activities such as participation in team or individual sports. Many families live in urban areas, where COVID-19 is prevalent and home confinement is the norm. More fortunate are those who live in areas where they can venture outdoors more safely and have more breathing space, perhaps seeing friends from a distance and having more opportunities to exercise. Even in these cases, however, family sanity is difficult to achieve when you are living together morning, noon, and night; going to work and school in the same space, and contending with children who complain nonstop about being bored. This can be even more difficult if you have a child with ADHD or learning differences who needs ongoing attention. Family sanity can be helped by engaging in an activity that is quiet, focused, and entertaining—screen time. That’s why I suggest loosening your normal rules around screen time during the quarantine.

But don’t change your parenting style so much that it neglects your family’s health. If you choose to allow more screen time during the quarantine, do it within the context of expecting and modeling a healthy and balanced “Play Diet.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the LearningWorks for Kids construct of a Play Diet, it is a recipe of essential activities for children’s learning and psychological adjustment that recognizes the importance of a variety of play for child development. A healthy Play Diet consists of a balance of physical, social, creative, unstructured, and digital play and is important for every child and adult. Healthy Play Diets vary based on individual needs, interests, age, and on situations such as whether it is a weekday or during the weekend, while on summer vacation, or over the week after Christmas when parents are encouraged to modify expectations. The COVID-19 quarantine is one of those times for changing the rules for a healthy Play Diet.

The current pandemic has also changed the rules for parenting when it comes to screen time. Allowing more digital play/screen time is recommended for safety and sanity. Kids who are occupied in their homes and allowed to play more with their friends online will be less likely to run off to a friend’s house or pester their parents for things to do. In simple mathematical terms, there is more sustained leisure and housebound time for your kids than ever before. Proactive parenting that accounts for the excess free time can use Play Diets as a model for keeping the health and sanity of your home.

Pixabay / No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay / No Attribution Required

But how to achieve a healthy Play Diet during the quarantine? First, model healthy living for your kids. Make time to exercise; talk to friends and family; engage in a hobby; take care of yourself psychologically and spiritually; and use screens to work, relax, and communicate with others.

Next, create the expectation that everyone in the family will engage in daily physical, social, creative, unstructured, and digital play activities. Be explicit with your kids. Yes, you will allow them to have more screen time, but it’s not a free for all, you expect them to engage in healthy activities daily. It won’t be easy, you’ll have to devote time, thought, and money, but it will help everyone get through the quarantine healthier and happier.

A healthy play diet is typically defined by spending a lot of face-to-face time with friends and family and engaging in social activities at home, at school, and in the community. It also involves regular physical fitness, for children and teens most often in the form of team sports, going to a gym, or participating in dance or yoga classes. During normal times, creative play often involves taking art or music classes, being involved in theater, playing in a band, or singing in a chorus or choir. Unstructured play is defined by hanging out with others with no particular goals, taking a walk outdoors, or running around the neighborhood. All of these play activities are more difficult during the quarantine, but not impossible with some planning and effort.

I will expand on detailed strategies for achieving a healthy Play Diet during the quarantine in future posts on but here are a few basic steps that will keep screen time in check and get you started:

Pixabay No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay No Attribution Required

Physical Play: Take a family walk every day, no excuses. This is best done at a regularly scheduled time.

Social Play: Zoom family members or family friends each night before dinner.

Creative Play: Do something new every day. Your kids have more time on their hands, so have them try something new. Try a new recipe, read a book by a new author, take apart a Lego construction and make something different, do a craft project with items found around the house, or learn about something of interest through an Internet search.

Unstructured Play: Take a few minutes each day to relax, stretch, daydream, make a plan for the future, and appreciate nature and the spring season.

Digital Play: This is where your kids will tell you what they want to do. Allow age-appropriate gameplay and think about playing with them.

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How to talk to teens and young adults about social distancing

If you have teenagers and young adults who are struggling with social distancing this article by Psychology Professor Michelle Drouin may be useful. The original can be downloaded from the Psychology Today website here

How to Talk to Teens & Young Adults About Social Distancing

The key is understanding their unique perspective.

Posted Mar 22, 2020

Today, I heard of a concerning trend: College kids posting Instagram photos of themselves on Spring Break—defying rules related to social isolation and mocking older generations for being too careful. Bikini-clad with drinks in hand, these Gen Y and Gen Zers seemed to be saying, “Stay inside, grandpa, but we’re healthy and ready to party.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full effect and sanctions mounting in both the U.S. and globally, two camps seem to be emerging: (1) those who are growing worried and cautious about the chance of contacting or spreading the virus and thus adhering to social distancing, and (2) those who feel the concerns and sanctions are overblown and are still choosing to gather in groups, travel, and live life as if COVID-19 were not an impending threat.

Teens and young adults seem especially likely to be in the latter camp. And from my perspective as a developmental psychologist, this makes sense for a number of reasons.

First, from a basic biological perspective, teens and young adults still do not have command of the full set of executive functions, especially those related to planning and considering future consequences, that older adults have. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid- to late-20s, which leaves many teens and young adults prone to impulsivity and unlikely to consider consequences that an older adult would easily contemplate.

Second, from a socioemotional standpoint, many teens and young adults are in the developmental stage of identity formation (Erik Erikson). It is critical for them to have the opportunity discover who they are, set their own boundaries, and establish their own values and beliefs, apart from those of their parents. They are often separating from their families, both geographically and socially, because they are developing their own identities. During this time, they may test rules and boundaries imposed on them by parents and other authority figures not because they want to be contrary, but because they are trying to answer the fundamental questions of “Who am I?” and “What can I be?”

Third, many teens and young adults may feel like they are unique and invincible—this is known as the personal fable. They may believe that no one has ever gone through anything like they are going through, and an illusion of invulnerability may make them believe that the COVID-19 virus could never affect them. Again, this is a common psychological phenomenon, but it may make them appear self-centered and increase the likelihood of impulsive behavior.

So what can you do when your teen or young adult wants to defy government- or parent-mandated sanctions regarding COVID and social isolation?

Anna Shvets/Pexels

(Girl with mask in mountainsSource: Anna Shvets/Pexels)

Most importantly, it’s necessary to have sympathy. In fact, nothing like this has ever happened before in most of our lifetimes. These teens and young adults are missing once-in-a-lifetime events, and there is no way to stop or rewind the clock so that they can have these moments back. Let them talk to you about what they are missing, and instead of dismissing their concerns or comparing them to the death and despair caused by the virus, hear them, understand that these are big moments in their lives, and let them grieve the loss of these opportunities.

Next, talk with them about ways to bridge the gaps between what they want in an ideal world and what they can have in the current climate. Couple your wisdom and knowledge of the ways of the world with their interests and use of technology to try to come up with creative ways to enrich their lives without having to see their friends and attend events in person. Be committed to this partnership in problem-solving, and be flexible about ways to help them feel connected to the events and people they feel that they are missing.

Encourage teens and young adults to think outside of themselves. The more concrete your encouragement, the better. For example, you could model empathy and benevolence by writing letters to residents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and have your teen or young adult join you. Or have them call their grandparents or loved ones in vulnerable populations so that they can hear the voices of people whose lives might be at risk if they get the virus from someone who is seemingly health and symptom free. If you give them opportunities to help and sympathize with others, it may help them see beyond their own social woes and get a better sense of the bigger picture.

Finally, if you find that your child is exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety, reassure them that they are not alone. If you think they may be in crisis or needing professional help, point them to trusted resources: Mental health providers nationwide are gearing up to provide online mental health treatment (call your general practitioner or local mental health facility if you need a referral). Or if you find they just need someone to talk to (and they are not in crisis), they can also connect for free with volunteers on websites like 7 Cups of Tea and Crisis Text Line. Fortunately, those most in need of these online resources (i.e., teens and young adults with high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress) appear to be most open to using them (Toscos et al., 2018; Toscos et al., 2019).

Most importantly– take care of yourself, too! The resources listed above are not just for your children. Take time to acknowledge your own stress and anxiety, and model good health hygiene by taking care of your own needs, both physical and psychological. “Do as I do, not just as I say,” might be the best way to get everyone on the same page regarding social distancing.

In Ireland if you are concerned about the mental well-being of a teenager or young adult you can contact Jigsaw