Parenting Through the Pandemic

The main focus of coaches in the collegiate sports world over the past few weeks has been on helping their student-athletes cope with the abrupt end of their season. They’ve supported their players through the challenges of traveling home, transitioning to distance learning, and navigating the rapidly changing environment we’ve all been thrust into as the COVID-19 global health crisis has evolved. Some of our members have faced an additional hurdle – navigating life at home with children during a time of social distancing. Here’s some advice from our members for ways to manage the kids while staying sane during the pandemic.

Lindsay Reese, Lock Haven

We are trying to keep things interesting in our house so that nobody goes crazy! We have two girls – a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old. Pinterest is coming in handy these days with lots of arts and crafts ideas with supplies you probably already have. We have also been using our projector to turn our living room into a home theater. They love it!! We get out all of our pillows, blankets and cushions to make comfy seats, pop some popcorn and pretend we are at the theater! There are a ton of streaming sites that offer free trials so you can have access to some new movies.

Meredith Black, Marquette University

During this COVID-19 Crisis we are trying our best to still create good habits and stick to a regular schedule. One thing we have started (which is embarrassing that we didn’t do it before), was having my 5-year-old learn to make her bed every morning and do some other morning “chores.” This is a good time to actually take the time for her to learn how to do this and for it to become a habit. If she does her chores, we are going to do a camp out in our basement. We are going to make s’mores, decorate the walls to have trees and bugs on them, play my iPad with outside sounds on it and put up the tent and sleeping bags downstairs. Hopefully, this will create an escape for her during the monotonous times. In addition to all of that, we are trying our best to home school… little did I know how much I do NOT know. Stay Safe! Stay Healthy! Social Distance!

Ricky Fried, Georgetown University

We have tried to make sure we undertake fun activities as a family. We have had “Game Nights” and held them both day and night! Walks with the family help make sure everyone gets fresh air and a little exercise. Watching movies together also helps us stay connected.

Karen Henning, Colby College

Payton Henning; Photo courtesy of Karen Henning.

I wish I could say that it was easy, balancing it all. I think I had high hopes of being able to keep up on my work, help my children with school, have quality family time, deep clean the house and the reality is that we are just getting through the day like always.  We have paw prints throughout the house from the dogs tracking in mud. Tears at the table because the schoolwork seems overwhelming at times. Fights over the rules of a board game and unanswered emails still. I have to say though, it is sort of refreshing. It feels somewhat normal. I have also enjoyed some great pictures my daughter has taken of the dogs and our family. I’ve enjoyed pitching baseballs or shooting street hockey balls for my son. I have enjoyed hearing my kids laughing and playing together (even if for only 10 minutes). Those moments seem a little more special right now, because I am not taking them for granted. We will continue to try game nights in our super competitive household. We will continue to argue about the rules. We will try to find a movie we all like (impossible), and most importantly, remember to say “I love you” every night before we go to bed. Life may not be easy but having an amazing family to spend these weeks with I will never take for granted.

Liza Kelly, University of Denver

Like I try to do with my big girls at DU, I am working on balance with my little girls. We all get up at different times. My 9-year-old is usually up early with me. My 12-year-old could sleep until noon if I let her. And sometimes I let her. The way I look at it, we all have to live in the house together. I will force some things… outdoor time/exercise, reading, arts and crafts, meals! But I think they can set the timetables. I feel like a lot of what is happening to all of us is a loss of control. I want my little ones to feel like they have a bit of control in their daily routines. There are enough hours in the day to get it all in – trust me!

Katie Woods, University of Connecticut

              Photo courtesy of Katie Woods.

We set a daily schedule so that we can keep our kids (Ages 3 and almost 2) on a similar routine to day care. Each day, we’ve tried to go outside at least twice. We have made our backyard into a mini kid wonderland with multiple sports – hockey, basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. We also have all sorts of cars/tractors, etc. that the kids can run around with… on top of our new little house that Santa brought this year. The best thing might be the sidewalk chalk, so we made streets and all sorts of designs on the driveway. We also have gotten into one craft activity each day… so we made Forky, monster hand puppets, Easter eggs, cards for the grandparents, and Olaf. Every morning Ryan has to do one chore before we can do any activities. Our best trick might be to promise a treat if Ryan takes a nap in his bed every day after lunch. It’s been a savior to us!

Dennis Short, Rollins College

We are having “family” dinner on Sunday nights. We use Zoom to have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all sit down at the table on Sundays at 7 pm with a laptop. We are using air play to project to our tv so we can see everyone better. It’s pretty hilarious and similar to “real” family dinners in the sense everyone just talks louder when they have something to say rather than wait for a pause (Italian families, you know what I mean!).

Shannon Hertz, Bloomsburg University

During this time, I’m not sure if what I’m doing with the boys (Jackson 6 & Jayden 5) is always “fun” but I’m definitely trying to figure out our new normal. Last week was our first week off and I’m definitely doing my best to have a routine for the boys. Otherwise they would wake up, go on their tablets, and stay in their PJs all day. So, I have been trying to keep the boys as busy as possible while practicing social distancing. We have been taking advantage of the nice weather and going on long walks with our dog. During this scary time, on our walks I make sure to answer any questions they have about the coronavirus pandemic but also make sure to stay positive. I have started making our walks “gratitude walks” where the boys and I talk about what we are thankful for. It has started a lot of great conversations! We have been playing outside a ton (Scooters, basketball, Frisbee, chalk, etc.). I also have been trying to keep up with their studies. We have sticker chart for every time they  complete one of their subjects. The chart has writing, I-Ready for students (which is an online program they use at school that covers English and math) and reading. My youngest son doesn’t like learning, but he loves candy, so he is working to fill up his sticker chart to get some candy. We have even taken our math lessons outside on the back patio with chalk to get them out of  the house and enjoy the sunshine. Both my boys have a lot of energy and today we got stuck inside because of the rain which is not ideal. I found a cardio/strength workout for kids on YouTube and streamed it on our TV. It was fun and got them to burn some energy! Lastly, I make sure I’m having them watch some educational shows which I have found on Netflix and Amazon Prime. This way I can get my own work done during this time!

Kerri Whitaker, University of Pennsylvania

  1. Introduce them to a new song that is not new at all, aka Oldies or songs from your youth. An example of this would be how, after learning of the death of Kenny Rogers, I showed my sons a live performance of his duet with Dolly Parton for “Islands of the Stream” that was on YouTube. So, we watch the video, we listen to it in the house, sometimes make up a dance routine and I tell them a story about what that song reminds me of or what memories I have tied to that song. They love it. My oldest has memorized and cannot stop singing “Islands in the Stream” and is now obsessed with Dolly.
  2. I’m into gardening, so we do something in that vein every day – they help pull weeds, turn the compost, clean out the planting beds, cut back stuff, you get the idea. We do a little bit each day and I talk to them about how it always feels like less work when you approach it in smaller regular intervals. I really believe in the power of nature to ground you and am intent on passing that along to my boys.
  3. The last thing we do together each day is we try to fix something that doesn’t work – this can be a toy of theirs, a small home repair, the picture frame that fell off the wall a month ago, etc. Sometimes we succeed in fixing it, sometimes we don’t. But they really like when it is “their day” to look for and choose what we will try to fix.

Bill Olin, Cornell University

Life with two kids under 5 has made for an eventful quarantine for the past week. It has been fairly smooth sailing, outside of a near blood feud over the amount of Fruit Loops each of them had. Having a schedule has worked really well for us with a solid balance of physical and educational opportunities. I am absolutely thriving in my new roles as the physical education teacher and designated reader of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (my British accent is REALLY coming along). Our family’s favorite activity is watching the newest video from the Cincinnati Zoo and their ongoing “Home Safari” series that they publish daily. We learn about different animals in their zoo and then complete an art project based upon the animal! Findley’s and Brooks’ favorite project from the series, so far, has been the porcupine. Although it was tough to lose our Cornell season, my wife and I have really tried to take advantage of time we never thought we would have with the kids. Best of luck and stay safe out there!

Amy Bokker, Ohio State University

Photo courtesy of Amy Bokker.

First and foremost, middle schoolers make for a TOUGH crowd… but don’t I love a challenge! Bokker life revolves around a few things… so COVID-19 has only isolated the way in which we go about our FAVORITE activities:


  • Baking happens often – stress relief for me and creativity and time consuming for kids. We have baked everything from cake pops to donuts – from banana bread to cookies.  Some we share, some we just eat – but we put butter blocks in the freezer, so baking is always an option. Baking as a family & trying new recipes is so FUN – we are happy to share – Lu has her own binder baking book!
  • Kids pick. We decided for some meals – they would be in charge. Chase is leaning toward a Thanksgiving feast while Lulu is leaning toward giving the new InstaPot a whirl.  Scott and I have no say in the menu – we only get to be sous chefs for whatever they come up with.
  • Ordering out choices are hot too – support the locals – Scott always chooses heading to our Butcher who is amazing for prepared meals and other delicious choices. Follow my Instagram: @abokker to be super jealous of what my husband cooks!! I try to convince Chase that Panda Express is not necessarily local… again we’re trying.


  • We were lucky to be in the Woods for the 1st couple days of quarantine – exploring Hocking Hills, OH. We hiked 3 days on different trails in parks – we took our dog, Pickles and explored – fresh air and many trails.
  • We have done unique interval work around our house. Run the block once, up the driveway sit-ups, push-ups, mountain climbers, arm curls. REPEAT 4 times
  • Lacrosse bounce back for Chase – Lulu uses it as a water polo bounce back – whatevs!
  • Golf course chip and put – red solo cups as holes – all over back yard!
  • Have you heard of CAN JAM?? Look it up – we have the glow in the dark version!
  • Lulu’s favorite show is Naked & Afraid – actually teaches some pretty cool survival skills and episodes are NEW right now (Discovery)… Well she has gone out in her bathing suit (not naked) and tried to build shelter… I’m actually starting to believe this could be a helpful skill J
  • We’ve done some OnDemand workouts – got after the BeachBody family new release today (can’t be outside all the time in Ohio).


  • Tik-Tok – you don’t stop – yes generational Tik-tokking has been fun with my parents in town. Keep it simple – but I’ll have to say after watching her Tik-tok – I think I kinda like it now.
  • Dancing while cooking – rotations on the playlist. Kid vs Parent vs Grandparent choice.
  • Movies, games – the usual.
  • We had a talent show/skit night which was the kids roasting the parents.


Miriam Esber, Mt. Holyoke College

With a 3-year-old and a 7-month-old, we have to be creative to keep them entertained, allow us to get work done, and still have the house in one piece at the end of the day. We trade off about every hour who is watching the kids, and sometimes hire one of my alums to babysit (although she currently has the stomach bug, so that doesn’t work!). Some things that keep us all sane: walks… lots and lots of walks, baking, online yoga or exercise videos (links below), Mr. Bubble spray soap in the bath, facetime with family – including story time with grandma, and creative ways to get a kid to do “fun” chores. My favorite part of walking outside when it’s raining or wet is finding worms on the road and getting our 3-year-old to hold the squirmy things! I think it will give her some bravery and grit when she gets older 🙂  Most important for us is trying to keep them on a schedule and get outside at least twice a day, if not more.

Here are a few links to our favorite videos for the 3-year-old range: (kids yoga) (animal exercise)

Kara Reber, Florida Southern

We have started a great evening routine: Family dinner followed by a 3-mile family walk of the dog where the kids (ages 7, 10, and almost 12) ride their scooters, rip sticks or dribble a basketball or soccer ball. Then we come home, get ready for bed, and watch the Cincinnati Zoo animal for that day. Then, we started watching the Travel with Kids series on the Roku. We started the series at the beginning, and I told the girls that once we watch all the episodes, they can pick a destination they would like to go someday. They show a different location each episode from all different parts of the world… they love it so far.

Other than that, we have a virtual birthday party being set up for one of our kids, along with a surprise birthday car parade where her friends will come by and wave hello from their cars to her that morning. She also wanted to go to an escape room for her birthday, so we are working on setting that up in our house for her to do with her sisters. Other ideas we’ve had but haven’t done yet: to Have the kids dress up super fancy and attend a Broadway show in the living room on the tv. Dinner and a movie where we have cotton candy and candy in packages like you would buy at the theatre plus popcorn. Family game nights, bubbles, chalk, plenty of swimming and activities in our own yard… we are extremely fortunate to be living in the beautiful weather of Florida.


Editor’s Note
This blog entry was compiled using IWLCA member coaches’ responses to questions posed to them regarding what they are doing with their children while practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis.

One thought on “Parenting Through the Pandemic

  1. Loved this. Here’s a topic:

    Coaching Reflections – Now that coaches have had a second to pause, what are a few things they might do differently in the next year/season? (This could be in the role of mentor, coach, employee, colleague, or parent.)



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