Like you, I worry about supporting the emotional health of my children and family. Here are a few resources I have collected:
- Limit What Is Seen and Heard. With more screen time than ever before, it is important for families to consider how much information children see, specifically about the news and the pandemic. Too much information, even listening to adult conversations, can cause anxiety or confusion. The best use of the screen, aside from classes, is to visit with friends and family across the country or world. Calls or video chats with older relatives can also be reassuring. Playing a game together can foster relationships, even online.
- Establish Flexible Routines. Older children can formulate routines and daily structure with your help, but all children thrive when they understand the expectations. Regular mealtimes, a specific location for learning with the camera on, time for physical activity, and regular sleep are essential. Predictability helps children and adults feel a sense of normalcy.
- Validate Feelings. Some children (and adults) may have big feelings about COVID-19. Take time to talk to children about their feelings — and acknowledge the feelings that you are hearing. Listen, have empathy, and model acceptance. You do not have to solve every problem and please seek professional help as needed. Our school counselor is here to help.
- Put on Your Oxygen Mask. Remember how on an airplane flight, you need to put your mask on before helping others? Emotions are contagious, so be sure to take care of yourself so that you can continue taking care of those around you. Children (and teens) are watching how caregivers respond, so modeling self-care, especially on difficult days, is important.
- Say “I Don’t Know.” Rather than avoiding difficult questions, just let your child know when you don’t know. Be age-appropriately honest. Seek to find out more.
- Work Out. Exercise, including dancing through the house in your pajamas, releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the body. Whether you take a walk in the rain, set up an obstacle course in the basement, or play spoon ball, anything that makes you move (and laugh!) will make you feel better.
- Create a New Tradition. Bake a new recipe from scratch, decorate a plain tablecloth with paint pens and puffy paints, or make holiday decorations to drop off at a friend’s home or the local fire station. Finding new ways to celebrate the holidays safely may take some thought, but may become a new tradition.