On Tuesday, August 4, heavy wind and rain from Tropical Storm Isaias hit much of the east coast. More than 2 million customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lost power as a result of the storm’s impact. One week later, some are still in the dark.
While power outages are always frustrating, the situation was made much more difficult with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A large number of people are working from home and are dependent on their power, WiFi and phone services to be able to do so. With the cancellation of many summer programs and activities, lots of kids are bored at home already, and without power, they lose much of the entertainment they rely on so heavily.
As Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, I’ve seen how COVID-19 and social distancing protocols have reduced or even eliminated many opportunities for respite, such as staying at the home of a friend or relative who has power. All your usual options that can help in an outage aren’t necessarily there.
It is crucial that parents do their best to remain calm, as your children will model their own behavior from you. When you lose it, they will do the same—and, fortunately, the opposite is true, too.
Before the next outage hits, take preventative actions by creating power outage kits for the entire family. These should include necessities such as flashlights, batteries, nonperishable food and water, but also off-the-grid activities for the family to participate in together. In our digital world, it is especially important for children to find engaging activities that do not take place on a screen. Power outages provide an opportunity to introduce these experiences to your children and remind them of the need to disconnect every so often.
Though it can be hard to find anything positive that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have mastered the act of improvisation. For months, they’ve learned how to entertain anxious children and navigate uncertainty. While power outages can be difficult, they offer yet another opportunity to spend quality time with your children and to explore new activities.
Parents need to take a step back and try to think outside of the box. Power outages have provided the foundation for some of my most treasured memories. One time, my daughter wanted to bake cookies, but due to the power outage, she attempted to make them on a pancake griddle. Though the cookies may not have turned out as good as usual, the memory is one that always brings a smile.
Parents should also attempt to find the positive in this situation. Just as your children should try different, off-the-grid activities, you should do the same. It’s easy to slip back into the smartphone-focused world we usually live in. Use this opportunity to establish small habits such as daily reading or writing time or meditation exercises that can bring calm to your day.
Younger children may enjoy hands-on activities such as making crafts, going on a scavenger hunt, putting on a puppet show or playing dress up. Older children can get lost in a book, engage in healthy competition in a board game or learn card games.
No matter the season, power outages are difficult for families to deal with, but when they occur alongside a pandemic and a heat wave, they are even more challenging. However, this experience may serve as a teaching moment for parents and kids to learn the benefits of unplugging and finding enjoyment in the simple things in life.
Dr. Sue Cohen is the Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the leading children’s mental health agency on Long Island. The Guidance Center is seeing new and existing clients via telephone and video during the COVID-19 crisis. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971.