March 18, 2020

Realistic ways for parents and families to cope with being stuck at home

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Families are settling into a new normal of staying at home, avoiding social activities and not attending school, all while many parents try to work from home. 

“Many of us are in for a new and challenging experience over the next few weeks,” said David Purpura, an associate professor of human development and family studies at Purdue University. “Everyone is stressed, everyone is having their routines changed. Keeping structure and being forgiving - to your children and yourself, as well as anyone else in your house - is important to successfully getting through the next few weeks with children at home.”

purpura-card “Birthday Beeps” book cover. Purpura also is putting his books online, including this one from The Pattern Pals. These books were developed by Purpura and students from Purdue’s Honors College. Download image

Purpura specializes in preschool mathematics and literacy and environments. Human Development and Family Studies is housed in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Here are some tips from him:

  • Lower expectations. This applies not only to what you hope to do with your children, but also to work and, if you are a supervisor, it should apply to your expectations of employees. Even employees who work from home on a regular basis will be affected dramatically by these changes. There will be additional home demands on them, and the distractions and stress as a result of the news could make being productive more difficult. Keep this in mind and provide relief to them when you can while providing clear, while modified, expectations. Do the same for yourself. You won't get everything done. Piles of unfolded clean laundry don't have to get folded and put away right away. Others will be lowering expectations for you. Do the same for your children. Their schedules will be disrupted, and they may not understand why they can't do what they want to do.
  • Try to keep to a schedule. Children thrive on schedules, and it also will help you get things done. Build in time where your children get to make active decisions about how they spend their time. Ask them to help you make the schedule.
  • But, also be more flexible than normal with certain practices. Many parents typically restrict their children's screen time. It's OK to loosen up how much screen time your kids get. Pediatrics groups provide general recommendations. Make it clear to your children that this is a special situation, and when school resumes it will go back to normal. 
david-purpura David Purpura, an associate professor of human development and family studies in Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences (Purdue University photo) Download image
  • Take advantage of online resources. There are many remote and video teaching programs that provide engaging STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teaching opportunities designed for many age groups, including Outschool. The Center for the Developing Mind at Harvard University has a great set of self-regulation games for a wide range of children, and its resource is available online. The Florida Center for Reading Research also has some online resources for explicit reading instruction. The PBS kids app is wonderful with great shows and games for young children.
  • Books online. Various authors are sharing their books online. Purpura also is putting his books online as YouTube videos. The first one from The Pattern Pals series is available, and more will be added this week. These books were developed by Purpura and students from Purdue’s Honors College.
  • Add some good apps to your phone and tablet. Some of my personal - and free - favorites are Teach Your Monster to Read and Prodigy Math.
  • Buy some fun games from Amazon to play as a family. Middle school math teacher Kent Haines has provided a review of some great math-related games for different ages on his website
  • Get some new books to read to your children. Some great books focused on math can be found online.  
  • Family read alouds. Pick an exciting book to read as a family. The Harry Potter books and the Chronicles of Narnia tend to be great options.
  • Theme weeks. Select a different theme for each week and build activities for children that fit each theme. For example, my oldest children are interested in “Star Wars,", so I might choose to have a Space Week. We will watch “Star Wars,” learn about space, maybe make some space-themed foods, such as space balls, which are really meat balls that represent planets. Another week may be focused on animals. We can watch “Wild Kratts and learn about different animals. Another resource is the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Home Safari Resources, including a Facebook Live at 3 p.m. ET daily. If you can come up with a few different general themes, it will make each week feel a bit different and less monotonous.
  • Scavenger hunts. Design scavenger hunts around your house for your children. This website has some ready-made clues, and gives suggestions on how to develop your own. Once your children learn how to do the scavenger hunt, they can create their own for each other.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,, @AmyPattersonN

Source: David Purpura, 765-494-2947,, @davidjpurpura

Note to Journalists: A book cover, headshot of the professor and a stock image are available for journalists to use at

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-24 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at