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Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus: Advice, Tips, and Tricks

With

Season 14, Episode 14  | April 22, 2020

COVID-19 has flipped our kids’ lives upside down. Our guest and mom of three, Krystel Reierson, curriculum and events manager for Life Time Kids, offers advice for talking about the virus with your children, as well as tips and tricks for keeping them entertained while you’re all at home together.

Father And Son Playing With A Basketball At Home.

02:25

Our guest this episode is Krystel Reierson. Reierson is the curriculum and events manager for Life Time Kids, which provides health-focused  and educational events, classes, camps, and other programming to children. She’s a mother to three kids, ages 12, 9, and 3.

04:00

COVID-19 is a huge topic in any household, and a challenging one to address with children. Reierson offers advice for how to speak about it in a way that kids understand, but that also helps them to feel safe and understood.

08:13

Families are spending perhaps more time than ever together right now. Many parents are having to work full-time, as well as maintain a household and assist with distance learning. How can we find balance and time for all of it?

14:09

As challenging and unfortunate as this pandemic is, one of the silver linings is that it presents us with an opportunity to connect with our kids and make it a positive experience for them.

15:44

It’s important for our physical and mental health to get outside at least once a day, or more if we’re able. Reierson shares some ways to safely spend time outdoors as a family.

18:38

In spite of our current circumstances, Reierson has been inspired by how she’s seen her community come together.

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Transcript: Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus: Advice, Tips, and Tricks

Season 14, Episode 14  | April 22, 2020

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor in chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, the signature program lead for Life Time’s Alpha program. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode we’ll cover the foundational elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, health issues like sleep and stress management, and mindfulness and community.

David Freeman

And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[Music]

Jamie Martin

Hey everyone, David and I are so glad to be back with you, even though it’s a little sooner than we were planning. In early March, we were just starting to finalize details of Season 2 for Life Time Talks, and then all of our lives were turned upside down by coronavirus.

David Freeman

So, we decided to extend Season 1 and bring you some additional episodes on coping with this new normal. With all the worries, the changes, the challenges, and the opportunities.

Jamie Martin

Like many of you, we’re in our respective homes. I’m in Minnesota . . .

David Freeman

And I’m in Texas . . .

Jamie Martin

And we’re recording in the quietest rooms we could find. I’m in my home office and there’s a good chance my daughters will come knocking sooner than later.

David Freeman

And I’m in my man cave. My kids are probably thinking I’m playing hide and seek, and they’re “it.”

Jamie Martin

We know that a lot of people are concerned and worried about coronavirus and its effects on our family and friends, our communities, our world. We are too. It’s impacting every aspect of our lives.

David Freeman

And while we’ll be leaving it to the local and state officials, along with public health experts and the CDC, to revive the latest information about the illness, we’re here with the intent of offering some ideas, information, and inspiration that we hope helps you navigate the days ahead.

[Music]

David Freeman

So, we are back with LT Talks, and we’ve got a special guest, miss Krystel, that’s going to be hitting it hard with us today about a very, very fun subject: kids. So, many children and parents are at home right now. And it’s a challenge for a lot of our kids to stay entertained and busy. So, we’re going to go deep into what we can do with everything that’s going on in the world and how we can stay active with our kids.

Jamie Martin

Welcome, Krystel, we’re so glad to have you.

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, thanks, guys. Thanks so much for having me. I’m super excited to be able to talk to you guys today.

Jamie Martin

You are the curriculum and events manager for Life Time Kids, which provides activities, camps, events, classes, and other programming that teaches life skills and healthy skills and behaviors to kids at Life Time, through the Life Time Kids Academy and other programs. So, do you want to just tell us a little bit about Life Time Kids and then we’ll dive in?

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, absolutely. So, I’ve been at Life Time now for almost six years. And I really consider it the, like my two passions coming together. I love fitness and I love kids, so I really consider my life to be so blessed in that regard. And like you just said, yeah, we cover all of the programs from camps to parent’s night out to the events that we’re running in our clubs. It’s overall really, really great emphasis on fitness, on healthy decision making, being a good person, a well-rounded kiddo in general, we work a lot on character building. And then we also incorporate those educational pieces as well as like STEM activities, arts and crafts — lots of fun things for kids to do. So, it’s not just fitness as well as it is all-around encompassing the child.

David Freeman

Awesome. Well, these past few months have been very normal, wouldn’t you say?

Krystel Reierson

Oh yeah, I know. Super normal.

David Freeman

That’s me being sarcastic. But I do want to kind of ask you the question as far as what advice would you give parents right now as far as talking about COVID-19? I know my kids wake up every morning and say, “Mom, dad, is the virus gone yet?” And it’s like, what exactly do we say when the kids are asking about that? And how can we educate them on what it is?

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, absolutely, this is a huge topic in every household, right. And it’s no doubt a difficult time for everyone, not just for us, but for our kiddos, too. I mean, their lives have essentially been completely flipped upside just as much as ours have. And so, I think having a lot of grace and understanding for them as well is just as important as it is for ourselves.

The biggest thing I would say is just, as a parent of three kids of all different age groups — I’ve got a 12-year-old, I’ve got a 9-year-old, and I’ve got a 3-year-old — all of them are kind of taking this in different ways. They’re hearing from their friends, different things from their friends. My oldest is on social media and so she’s seeing everything that’s posted. The news is playing in the background, right, so they’re always listening in and hearing what’s going on. And, unfortunately, it’s a lot of scary stuff that’s out there. So, I think the biggest thing is always checking in with your kids. Find out if they have any questions. Be prepared, though, to answer some pretty extreme questions. My daughter the other day was like, “Am I going to die from this?” And I was like, “No, honey, you’re not going to die from this. And that’s why we’re here in this house right now and you can’t play with your friends.” And as much as that is just so challenging because they’ll look out the window and see their friends outside playing, they want to go out there so badly, and I’m like, you guys, you’ve really got to stay inside. You know, of course, there are those questions like, “Why? Why do we have to stay inside?” It’s the same thing, it’s to keep you and your friends safe and healthy. And right now is just, it’s a really, really important time that we’re following the rules of what our government is asking us to do and so that’s why we’re taking these steps.

I think the biggest thing, too, is to make sure they feel safe. There’s just a lot of that scariness that’s out there. I think the biggest thing is like we’ve been talking about how important it is to be handwashing, and how important it is that we are staying at home, and how important it is that we’re practicing that social distancing when we are outside of our home for whatever reason if we’re going for a walk in the park, or why we can’t play on the equipment in the playground because the virus might be there. Again, really focus on just making sure it’s not a scary time for them. It’s already a scary enough world as it is, right.

The other thing, too, is that kids really pick up on your stress and anxiety. So, I think it’s really important as parents that we — yes, we can absolutely be stressed and have anxiety over this, everybody is going to process this differently, but don’t let your kids see that. You know, kids really pick up on that. So, it’s really important for them to know that we’re strong and we’re there for them. And that at the same time it is really important we do talk to them about it. Because over time they’ve actually shown — and research, especially during 9/11, parents who didn’t talk to their kids about what was going on, they have an imagination, and they’re going to fill in the blanks themselves. And so that’s actually going to cause more stress and anxiety for them versus if you’re that person in their life that’s telling them everything is going to be OK, and this is what we’re going to do about it, and this is what’s happening, and I know you’re hearing this but, you know, essentially in the end as long as we’re doing everything that we can to keep ourselves safe, it’ll be OK. And that also kids are not protected from the virus, but at the same time they’re not as susceptible to it.

And there are some really, really great resources online and I just want to run through those really quick with you guys because I was actually reading this in a Forbes magazine. It’s BrainPOP, which is really cool. It’s an animated storytelling of the coronavirus. And it’s very well put together and it’s like totally great for those younger kids who might not have an understanding of what a virus is in the first place. And it just kind of goes through and explains how it’s like, you know, the sickness and this is what you can do about it, and it’s all in picture form. And so it’s really, really great for the kiddos to be able to see that. So, there’s BrainPOP, NPR has a really cool comic form as well that they put together, StoryBots has a thing that’s fun that’s about washing your hands, PBS KIDS is huge, and Sesame Street. They’re all kind of doing that healthy, explaining the importance of hygiene and germs. So, you know, a lot of really, really great resources out there if you’re finding that you’re having a difficult time finding the words to kind of explain what’s going on to your kiddos, just really emphasizing the positive of what they can do overall in this whole virus.

Jamie Martin

Gosh, there’s so much that . . . it’s amazing to me, you mentioned some of these resources and all these things we can do and I’m amazed at how quickly some organizations have put these resources out there for parents who are struggling with these topics and they really are helpful. I had a conversation with my 9-year-old last night at bedtime about it and, you know, you just have to be — I take the approach of being pretty honest, we’ve been through some big things in our lives prior to this where it’s just required a lot of honesty and candor and I’ve found that that works. But just knowing there are resources to support us as parents through this is really important, so those are great. We’ll link to all of those in our show notes when we put this page up for sure.

So, you know, obviously there are things we can do as we’re talking to our kids about it, but now, there’s also been this shift in just our family lifestyle at home with us all together. So, there’s a lot of pressure on the parents who are trying to work from home, many kids are doing distance learning from home. Any tips or tricks you can offer for finding balance and time for each other and all the things that we’re trying to do in a given day right now?

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, I know, I can’t even tell you. It’s definitely been quite the challenge, right, just trying to find the time to be a working parent, homeschooling our kids, maintaining a household, I mean I just like . . . the other day I was kind of like, “OK, how are we going to do this all?” So, the biggest thing I did was, right away, I put a schedule in place for my kids. And for some people this works, for some people it doesn’t. You know, whatever works for your family. But I think it’s really, really important that the kids know that in the day these certain things need to get done. And that way it also keeps them busy, but also at the same time they can have an understanding of what your day looks like, and, OK, mommy’s got a really important call at 11 o’clock today, I’m going to have to go and put myself in a room and if the door is closed, I really need you guys to respect that and not come in here at that time. When the door is open, then we can have our —I’ll make you lunch or we can do for our walk or whatever the case may be.

A lot of us are in this situation and so it’s not a surprise that most of our coworkers or employers know that we’re at home with our kids, right. But at the same time, I think really having those clear expectations with your coworkers or anybody that you’re on the phone with — hey, I’ve got three kids at home, you might hear them yelling in the background. It’s inevitable, right. I could be on the most important phone call and they don’t care, right, they’re still arguing over the remote control at this point. So, I think it’s really important that we kind of just level-set those right away from the beginning so that nobody is really surprised if they do hear your kids in the background.

The other thing I thought was really cool that when I was looking up some ideas here and just some stuff that I’ve been practicing myself is just consider your resources for child care. Obviously, I know that this means we’re practicing our social distancing and we’re not getting in contact with other people, but a way you could do this is through virtual, like kind of playdates or like video chat stuff that’s going on. So, we’ve had our nanny that typically watches our kids all the time, and we’ll just kind of prop up the FaceTime there, let the kids hang out while I have another important phone call and I’m like, “Hey, can you read them some stories?” Or, can you guys play some type of game? Or, they can show you one of their dances. Or, you guys do an art project over the phone. And it’s actually worked out really well. I’ve done this with my parents, too, their grandparents, because they’ve got nothing else going on, they’re kind of like, “What can we do?” So, they’ve been enjoying being able to keep them entertained from afar, but it’s also been helping me out tremendously.

And then I would also plan activities that don’t require a lot of supervision. There’s been times where I’ve just dumped out the box of LEGO®’s and been like here you guys, just go at it, build me something, I don’t care what it is, just build me something. Puzzles are always really easy. I’m really adamant about my kids staying up on their reading now that they’re out of school, so we always designate at least 30 minutes every day to reading if not more, especially my older one, I will tack in another 30 minutes for her sometimes here and there. And then just like any type of craft project. Play-Doh, I know it’s messy, but kids love it. And then there’s also like really great educational games or apps that they can always play as well. I’m trying to keep my kids off of devices as much as possible, just because I think it’s such an easy thing for them to naturally gravitate to, especially when our school has our kids, they give them iPads, and that’s what they’re doing their work off of. So, just to try to get their vision off screens and doing something else.

And then really prioritizing your schedule, too, I think is important, just so that they know the expectations in the day and this absolutely has to get done before we get to go have fun. So, that’s also been something that’s, you know, like, I always throw in, like, if this all gets done, and you guys do everything you’re supposed to do, then we get to have this treat kind of thing at the end.

David Freeman

Aka, ice cream, right?

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, ice cream and homemade cookies.

David Freeman

I like what you said there. I’ve been doing so much with our kids when it comes to gamification. So, with the educational piece, such as every time you wash your hands you start to gain more superpowers. So, making it fun for them, and then they start to be like “I want more superpowers,” and they’re washing their hands just to be washing them at this point.

I think from a technology standpoint as well, Ms. Walker is my son’s teacher and she ended up creating this Google Hangout because they are all using these Chromebooks and things of that nature. And for him to see his class the other day and everybody was saying “hi” and connecting, there are so many different ways that we can still connect and have fun during these times. I went on my first scavenger hunt since I was a kid with my kids the other day. So, the creativity, creating obstacle courses, and doing different things is awesome. So, I’m enjoying these times because I’m so much more aware of what I was not aware of before these times.

Jamie Martin

Yeah, I was just going to say, too, when are we going to get an opportunity like this? Not that we want this to be happening and it’s unfortunate, but how do we use this as an opportunity to really connect with our kids and create this amazing experience for them, even if it’s really hard what’s happening outside of our homes and in our world as a whole.

Krystel Reierson

I agree. Yeah. It’s funny you say that, too, because I just, I sat back the other day and as stressful as this has been, because I’m not going to lie, I think everybody has experienced some type of stress, whether it’s from their job or having their kids at home or just the overall quick changes that have happened — all of this happened so fast, right, and adjusting to all of that. It has forced me to look at things a little differently and I just really have appreciated my time at home because I don’t feel so rushed. I’m like, oh, we really can do this art project now because I don’t have to be here or do this. So, it’s just, my whole mindset has changed completely. It’s been very interesting, that’s for sure.

Jamie Martin

It’s one of those silver linings that keeps coming up as kind of a theme in different conversations we’re having in this. Well, OK, so let’s talk about this a little bit. So, obviously we’re social distancing, we’re encouraged in many states, we’re being asked to stay at home, and we can feel a little bit stuck in our houses. So, when it comes to heading outside, what are some of the safe outdoor activities that you would recommend? You know, it’s hard, like I live in a neighborhood where there are kids everywhere, so we are social distancing and like, you know, you can be out riding bikes near each other but not touching anything that’s the same. What other safe activities do you recommend? Or is that even safe?

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. I think getting outside is huge. It is so important. I actually recommend getting outside at least once a day, preferably more if you can. Whether it is a nature hike — we’ve got lots of trails around here, I know that might different for everybody around the world, but there really is just walking paths or just going on a scavenger hunt like David was saying with his kiddos, there are lots of resources online for scavenger hunt ideas.

What we’ve been doing is taking chalk and writing messages to our neighbors. My kids have wrote super sweet messages like, “We miss you. Stay strong and healthy. Can’t wait to hang out again. This will pass.” You know, just really encouraging little messages here and there. Or, like my son who’s 3, he can’t write, he just likes to draw Superman, so it’s usually just a big red circle with a bunch of blue lines coming out of it, but you know, it’s still something. And even people who are out walking see these messages, too. So, I think it’s really great.

I would avoid playgrounds. I know that’s hard just because they’re tempting and they’re there, and we have one right by our house, but that virus can live on that equipment for a while and so it’s just better to avoid them. What we’ve been doing is taking all of our outdoor activity, sports things like soccer balls, or we have a little pretend golf set, and let the kids play with those. They can play with any of their own toys, right, it’s more just sharing or being with any . . . or playing with anybody else’s toys, or anything where it’s involving sharing in that regard.

The other really cool thing that we’ve been doing in our neighborhood is putting together a bear hunt as we like to call it.

Jamie Martin

I’ve been hearing about these.

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, it’s so cute. So, everybody is putting up a bear, whether it’s a teddy bear, or if it’s a picture of a bear in their window, or outside, right outside their door. And you go for a walk and you get to just go around and count how many bears you can find, so you’re going on a bear hunt. And it’s just cute. My kids think it’s adorable. I mean, even my 12-year-old was totally getting into it, and I was like, wow, this is pretty funny. Every time we see a bear, we’re like, “Oh! There’s a bear! What number is that? 13?” It’s so great. And it’s just silly. It’s this super simple thing but you see the community coming together which is super awesome, because like everybody is doing it. And so, you know, if you can rally your community together and just get them to do some type of fun activity where the kids are going for a walk.

We recently released an article in Experience Life about 20 things that you can do with your kids at home and I would highly, highly recommend when parents — or anybody — gets a chance to read through that article we’ve got some really great ideas in there. Another great resource for parents is our @lifetime.kids Instagram page. And we are loading content on there to just provide parents another resource for activities for our kids — craft ideas, LEGO® challenges.

Jamie Martin

Oh, that’s so great. So many great tips, Krystel. Well, one last thing we want to ask you, David’s been calling this our “power minute,” is like, what are, in all of this, in all of the kind of craziness, the concerns, the worries, what are some things that you have found to be empowering and uplifting in the midst of, you know, all of this. What’s inspired you in spite of the circumstances?

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, you know, honestly seeing my community come together. And seeing the good in people. Initially there was this panic of this pandemic happening and people we rushing to the stores and just grabbing everything off the shelves and . . . but now, I’ve almost seen the community switch gears and really coming together like I said with that teddy bear hunt, or I’m a part of this Facebook group and people are like, “Hey, I’m running to the store, does anybody need anything?” Or, “Hey, I’ve got an extra thing of Clorox wipes, does anybody need them?” I’ve really seen people, you know, pitching in and wanting to help and I absolutely love that. I think there’s nothing stronger than seeing your community come together, not just for us as adults, but for the kids. It’s a trialing time. This is something that none of us have been through. And so, not many of us know how to navigate through it, not many of us know the right answer, we don’t know when this is going to be done. Maintaining that positive energy and just overall good vibes that you can send out to other people because we’re all in it together and just the more that we can support each other the better it’s going to be in the end.

Jamie Martin

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Krystel, for being on with us, for sharing your ideas and just helping us stay, you know, positive — not only for ourselves, but for our families and our kids out there. So, thank you again.

David Freeman

Thanks, Krystel.

Krystel Reierson

Yeah, of course, you guys are welcome. Thanks so much for having me.

[Music]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life, what works for you, where do you run into challenges, where do you need help.

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life or reach out to us on Instagram @lifetime.life, @jamiemartinel, or @freezy30 and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at experiencelife.com/podcast.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. Feel free to write a review and also let others know about it, too. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it on social or share it with your friends, family, work buddies, life coach, you get the gist.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks.

[Music]

Jamie Martin

Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life. It is produced by Molly Schelper with audio engineering by Peter Perkins and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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