Safer at home. Sheltering in place. Whatever you choose to call it, staying at home to flatten the curve during the uncertainty of this COVID-19 pandemic can be tough on you and your family.
While your kids may have questions and extra energy and are learning to adjust to their “new” reality while enjoying seeing more of you; it’s important that the family maintain healthy routines, build resilience, and feel safe. Here are some tips to help you keep a sense of normalcy for everyone’s health and well-being.
Recognize your children’s feelings
Your kids rely on you for both their physical and emotional safety and well-being. Let them know your family will get through this together and that you are there for them no matter what.
- Answer pandemic questions. Talk with your kids simply and honestly about any news they hear about COVID-19. Acknowledge that people are sick, but also remind them of rules that will keep your family healthy, such as staying home and washing your hands.
- Ask guiding questions. This is especially important for teens and older children to help them work through issues of not being able to see their friends. Instead of getting upset with an angsty teen, say “I know you’re disappointed you can’t invite your friends over. How can you still stay in touch with them?”
- Stay connected to loved ones. Kids may wonder why they are no longer able to visit their grandparents, or worry that a family member or friend could get the coronavirus. Scheduling phone calls or video chats can help them keep in touch and ease anxiety.
- Talk about your feelings. This is a great opportunity to model how to positively manage their feelings. Let your kids know you’re also worried about their grandparents because you’re unable to visit, then outline how you are managing the issue. For example: “I know we can’t visit Nana, but I want to make sure she’s ok. We can call her every night to check in with her and make sure she’s ok.”
- Focus on the future. Reassure them that doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are taking care of those who are sick; scientists are working hard to find a medicine that will help; and that everything will eventually get better.
- Share the love. Say “I love you” more often, especially if leaving the house for work or essential errand. When you do leave, calmly say where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and that you’re taking necessary safety precautions.
- Remember to stay present. As you juggle the responsibilities of work and homeschooling, make sure to take time when your family needs a minute.
Maintain a healthy routine
Routines create a sense of calm and order in these unprecedented times. Routines are beneficial to kids of all ages and should be predictable yet flexible to meet each child’s needs. The new daily schedule should have structure, with breaks in schoolwork whenever possible. Allow older children and teenagers to help with their routines to give them a sense of ownership and a higher probability they’ll stay on schedule.
While schedules vary from family to family and even child to child, they follow this general order:
- Morning: Wake-up at the same time during the week, get dressed, eat breakfast, active play, and schoolwork
- Afternoon: Lunch, exercise, schoolwork, social time with friends (online), chores, and homework
- Evening: Dinner, family time, quiet reading, and bedtime
Bedtime is always a challenge; especially when the days and routine blend together. Try to create new bedtime rituals, by getting creative in making bedtime a funtime. For younger children work on keeping bedtime the same time every night and make small adjustments on the weekends. Teens’ bedtimes can shift a bit, but be aware of the sleep-wake cycle. Make sure all your kids get adequate sleep. Not enough sleep makes learning more challenging and dealing with emotions more difficult. Lastly, do you best to limit electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
Spending special time with each child is important, especially since the family is currently together 24/7. Let your child choose the activity and you choose the time. The undivided attention, even if it’s as little as ten minutes, will mean the world to your child. It also allows them time to talk about any issues or feelings they might feel uncomfortable sharing in front of the entire family. Although this time is unprecedented, it can be a treasure for your children. Do your best to take a deep breath when they need your immediate attention even when you’re ready to log on to your next ZOOM meeting. Remember many are adjusting to the new normal and will understand!
Take care of yourself.
- Practice self-care. You can’t be an effective caregiver for your kids if you’re struggling or neglecting yourself. Make sure your physical needs are being met by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Find ways to decompress or take a break for your emotional well-being such as reading a book or talking with a friend. If there is more than one parent, take turns caring for the kids.
- It’s okay to ask others for help if needed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed about a situation, take a step back. Ask yourself if the current issue presents an immediate danger to you or family or if it is permanent. In most cases, this will deflate the stress and allow you to approach the situation calmly and rationally.
Easier said than done do you best to have time before the family wakes up or carve out time when everyone goes to sleep, whenever you find your “me time” know you are worth the 15- 30 min to reflect, address your concerns and fears. Stay encouraged even through self-isolation and remember self-care involves staying connected to healthy relationships, so get creative with your “me time”!
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