By Bridget Morgan, LMFT and Lacey Ryan, LMFT, RPT-S
As the last few weeks have unfolded, more and more families have adjusted to new ways of living as we Shelter at Home during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic. For families who have children, many parents are pulling triple duty of parent, homeschooling teacher, and employee while working from home. This is difficult and overwhelming to manage, only worsened by the anxiety of how this Pandemic will continue to change our lives in the coming days. In fact, it’s impossible to manage! So we decided to offer you some tips to get you through the coming weeks at home.
- First, we need to remember that this is temporary. While finding our “new normal” at home for the next few weeks may seem like forever, it is not. This will eventually just be a blip of time over the course of our lives. It is a stressful time, but a temporary one. Find a groove for the next few weeks with the reminder that it will not always be like this.
- Allow compassion and understanding for others and yourself. We are all stressed out, worried, and overwhelmed. Our emotions and behaviors reflect that. If a family member is a little snappier than usual, pause, and consider giving them a pass. If it continues, wait until later when everyone is in a good emotional state to respectfully say, “I know we are all overwhelmed right now, but when you __(non-preferred behavior)__, I feel __(how you feel)__. I’m asking that you please __(make a request for a different behavior)__.” Lastly, let’s just accept that as hard as this is on us, it is also hard on our children. We can expect for them to have an adjustment period full of emotional fluctuation and disruptive behaviors; that’s how kids deal with stress. Try to be understanding and empathetic. Lastly, let’s recognize the pressure we are under right now and offer ourselves some grace and understanding too.
- Recognize when to let go. It is impossible to pull off triple duty of parent, teacher, and employee. Know your limits and communicate them. Let your child’s teacher know what you cannot get through. Request an extension from your boss on an upcoming project. Most of those around us are in the same boat as we are in and will understand. If finishing a task (homework, work requirement, cleaning dishes) is too much for the moment, just step away. A few moments of snuggling on the couch with your family or pet or getting some sunshine and fresh air can help us reset and feel more ready to refocus.
- Keep a daily routine and schedule. Routines and schedules create self discipline and increase security. It would be easy to stay in our pajamas all day and throw the structure of our day out the window. By keeping a daily routine, we are setting the expectation that both children and adults will have an established time to do homework and work-from-home each day. By keeping a schedule, this creates some predictability for children, which helps them to feel safe and know that while many things in the world are out of control, you as the parent are in control of your home. This is reassuring for children. The daily schedule at our (Lacey’s) home includes easing into the day around 9:00am, outside time, connection with friends through Zoom, structured activity (such as schoolwork or developmentally appropriate play or art), breaks of outdoor time and what we call “Big Body Movement,” followed by lunch, then quiet (or nap) time. Then our afternoons are generally unstructured free play until dinner, bath, and bed. We are intentionally keeping the same night time and bedtime routine as usual.
- Utilize a Family Meeting to address concerns as they arise and allow children to have a say in what their schedule and routine is during this time at home. This will increase their buy-in for the new arrangements at home. Getting their input allows them to have some control in their lives. Having regular Family Meetings will also help family members to brainstorm solutions for problems which will surely present themselves. Typically, Family Meetings include the following: complimenting and showing appreciation, reflections on things that aren’t working well, brainstorming solutions together, deciding upon a solution, and a fun activity.
- Make adjustments to things at home that aren’t working for your family as you go. Let’s not walk into a closed door repeatedly, OK? If you’re attempting a new routine/schedule or system of operating at home and it doesn’t work well for a few days in a row, consider altering it and investigating new solutions.
- Find ways to make transitions and activities fun. When under pressure, it’s sometimes difficult to let loose and be silly, but choosing to be silly and playful will not only allow you to enjoy this time at home more, but will make your children much more willing to do what you ask of them. Children connect and build relationships through play. By being silly or playing with them, you are increasing your connection with them. When kids are connected, they are much more willing to take our lead. Try having a dance party between lessons or on breaks, talking to one another in opera singing voices, or slithering like a snake to bath-time. Our colleague Dawn Pendleton wrote a great blog here, offering some ways to break free of cabin fever, and she has some pretty fun ideas for families to try. Check it out!
- Limit exposure to information. We are being bombarded with information right now about the state of the world and especially the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Set some limits for yourself and choose to only look at updates at certain times of the day. Consider not looking at media past each evening’s briefing; you’ll likely sleep better. Especially take note of what you’re watching on the television when your child or children are watching. This is a scary time and for children it can be terrifying. You can be honest with your child about what is happening in the world without overloading them with frightening images and information, which could be traumatizing to them. Set some healthy parameters about what information is shared and how to share it, and if you need help determining this, please contact us and we can help you.
- Connect with your loved ones in ways that you can right now. This is really isolating. You’d be surprised how a short conversation with a good friend can do wonders for your soul. Try FaceTiming, Skyping, or Zoom. Take an online exercise Zoom class with a buddy. Play charades with another family via apps that allow that. Break up the isolation and keep connections with those outside of your immediate family as much as you can.
- Don’t forget to move and get outside. As we are all isolated to our homes, the opportunity to become sedentary is high. There are psychological and physical benefits of getting outside, feeling the sun on your skin, and participating in a physical activity. Since our movement is so limited right now, you may need to be really intentional about inserting physical activity into your daily life.
Should you need additional support during this time at home, feel free to contact us for Virtual Counseling (TeleTherapy) options. Our Therapists are available to meet with both established and new clients virtually.