Coronavirus Chronicles — Coping Skills Can Save the Day

In an uncomfortable situation, there is a human tendency to reduce stress by goofing around. Some confront COVID-19 by wearing expressively decorated masks, while others draw Norman Rockwell-esque cartoons featuring rather dark humor.

Kids stuck at home need something to do, and a parent who is grasping at the last straws of sanity might find inspiration anywhere. How about a variation on old-fashioned paper dolls? If there is a stash of slick magazines on a shelf, the pages might include almost life-size faces that can be cut out and used as bases for creative mask designs. Or if the household has abundant technology, a life-size color portrait of each family member’s face could be printed and pasted to cardboard, as a basis for many mask designs. Or maybe children who have never drawn cartoons or comic strips before could be induced to try that art form.

Journalist Ryan Prior asked around, and got some ideas from a YMCA camp director named Nikki Murray, who suggests a very simple home scavenger hunt; and who also suggests that getting kids into flexibility and core strength can be facilitated by something called Cosmic Kids Yoga.

See the opportunity, not the problem

Prior also interviewed Myles Faith, Ph.D., who suggests using this weird era of history to learn more about domestic life and understand that an isolated nuclear family does not have to explode. The enforced concentration on home life can, if handled properly, bring about interesting results. “Parents and families can learn a lot about their strength and their resilience,” Faith says.

Professor Faith also contributed suggestions to another publication, and those suggestions include “Keep it positive.” One of the secrets is to zero in on particular problems by “reorienting caregivers to successes, and setting specific goals for success.” But not big goals, which can be daunting. The secret is to set a small challenge and beat it, then designate another challenge and overcome that, creating a series of victories that will each help visualize and realize the next step. Journalist Marie Morelli summarizes,

Making small changes and focusing on specific, measurable and reasonable goals will lead to better results than simply nagging your child to eat better… Some goals families could set include eating a certain number of fruits and vegetable servings per day; cutting back on sugary drinks by a specific amount; or reducing screen time by a certain number of hours.

A family project could be a collection of individual diaries, or even a communal spreadsheet of what everybody eats every day. Sometimes people are not aware, until they see it on paper, of exactly how much they consume in a 24-hour period. The raising of consciousness should be a helpful tool, not an excuse to give anybody a hard time.

In the interests of peace, harmony, and reasonable leadership, parents (and those who act in place of parents) sometimes have to rearrange the furniture in their heads, too. Prof. Faith asks parents to select one change they themselves would be willing to make, so he can guide them in using that as a starting point. He says,

Maybe before some families jump into the question of obesity prevention, as a family, [they should ask] what are we going to do to help stay relaxed? Maybe our goal for this week is to play four board games together, or our goal is to spend 15 minutes just doing a family meeting or check-in… Maybe that’s where some families need to start.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sedentary lockdowns put kids at risk for obesity. Here’s how to help them stay moving,” 06/12/20
Source: “Obesity expert: Make small changes to ward off quarantine weight gain,”, 10/27/20
Images by Tony Alter and The COVID Chronicles/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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