By Jessica Larson,

The pandemic closed businesses and schools five months ago. Choir and band concerts, sports seasons, summer camps, and pretty much every other “normal” youth activity have been shut down. We’ve spent the past few months helping kids cope with virtual learning and trying to keep them from climbing the walls.

Learning how to cope with “the new normal” hasn’t been easy and, unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. Families have spent several months in quarantine with one another and may be doing so indefinitely. Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe and entertained in your quarantined household.

Make a summer pandemic plan

Maybe you made summer vacation plans, since this season is normally a great time to take a break from it all. But even that’s not as simple as we thought, even for those of us who’d planned socially distanced trips. Seasonal plans have grown more complex, with more states imposing travel restrictions and quarantines on one another. Now’s the time to make a new summer plan if virus-related restrictions have turned yours upside-down.

  • Consider staycation ideas in your area. Options include socially distanced outdoor day outings and activities such as kayaking, tubing, canoeing, mini-golf, or rock climbing.
  • If your community’s pool is open and has a reservation system and social distancing measures in place, sign up now before all the slots are taken up. Swimming is a saf-er pandemic activity.
  • Examine your state’s rules to see whether any states within driving distance are allowing visitors from your state or vice versa.
  • Look for some fun summer crafting ideas and pick up some fun kid-friendly puzzles to work on while you’re quarantined.
  • Go tent camping in your backyard. Make it feel like the real deal with a firepit and marshmallows.

If you’ve run out of ideas, you can turn to trusty standbys, such as running through the sprinkler in your backyard or building challenging obstacle courses.

Prepare for revised school schedules

As July comes to a close and coronavirus is nowhere near under control, school will be starting before we know it. Many school districts are asking parents to enroll their kids now with varying options, while others have no clue how they are going to handle their fall schedules. Either way, it’s going to be stressful.

Be sure to keep up with your state’s school mandates, follow your district’s social media, and sign up for newsletters to stay informed. Many districts are moving to virtual learning, while others are hosting half-days or half-weeks. Some will be in-person full-time. 

If your district’s school schedule has changed drastically, you might have to figure out how to handle your kids remaining at home, especially if you can’t work remotely. Which leads to…

Figure out your work schedule ASAP

Your company may be planning to bring everyone back in-house, but if your kids are schooling from home all or part of the week, this might not be feasible. If you think you need to continue working remotely, it’s a good idea to run the plan by your employer now so they also can plan appropriately.

If your employer agrees, you’ll need to clear some functional space to remain productive for the long term. A few months at the kitchen table might be OK, but this isn’t a good permanent solution. So look around your house and imagine the possibilities; it’s a great time to declutter.

Get your finances in order

If you’re unable to work remotely, or if someone in your family is laid off or furloughed, it’s good to have a sound financial plan in place. The coronavirus pandemic has had major economic impacts across the board.

Check the status of your emergency (or other) bank accounts. If you don’t have enough savings to last at least three to six months, look for other ways you could access funds just in case. And monitor your credit score: You can even consult a guide on how to boost credit, if needed. If you want to leverage your borrowing capacity, you’ll need a strong credit standing to gain access to better interest rates and credit approvals.

Become more engaged

It’s completely natural to feel helpless during such a strange time full of surreal surprises. To combat feelings of isolation and inefficacy, look for ways to become more engaged and proactive.

  • Connect with family and friends by phone and video chat. It’s not quite the same as in-person social interactions, but it’s the best we’ve got right now — and it beats staying isolated.
  • Chat with neighbors you don’t know well — you might find a good walking buddy or just someone to shoot the breeze with. And it never hurts to have people close by to keep an eye on your home.
  • Look for ways to volunteer and use your impulses to help the world. If your kids are old enough, seek out ways they can contribute (safely) to your community, as well.

Another big part of feeling more empowered is making sure you take a little time for yourself every day. Exercise on your own or as part of a virtual class, and go for walks to clear your head. It’s also perfectly acceptable to take a drive to get away from it all. 

Through all this, stay the course by following social-distancing rules, wearing masks, and keeping sanitizer and disinfectants in your household stock. Keep your guard up and take CDC-recommended precautions to keep yourself and your family safe. Doing so can reduce stress and keep you sane until the pandemic passes.