By Marté J. Matthews, MA, LMFT
This famous quote/curse has all sorts of origin stories, but one thing is for sure, we are living in interesting times! The latest health crisis is leading to canceling public events, closing museums and libraries, and now even closing schools and sending families to “shelter in place.” Whatever travel and social plans you had for Spring Break are changing. As parents we are stressed and fearful! What can we do to help ourselves, and our kids, during these really stressful times? Here at Child & Family Counseling Group we have some suggestions to consider.
1. When you notice yourself feeling disoriented and stressed by this situation, pause and acknowledge it. This is a strange situation. Bring your focus to the moment, right here and now. Here and now you are safe. Here and now the kids are safe. Being present in the here and now is so much wiser than allowing yourself to slip into stress and distraction.
2. Limit news. Check in with yourself after you get the headlines. Do you actually need more information? Will continuing to listen leave you agitated and irritable? Consider shutting it off instead of listening all day. Eliminate news on TV, radio or in the “background” while your children are home. They may hear more information than they can cope with.
3. Maintain consistent routines as much as possible. You may be working from home and the schedule may be wonky for all sorts of reasons. Consider carefully at what you DO have control over, and what you DON’T have control over. Establish routines as close to your typical routines as possible. Do get dressed in regular street clothes in the morning. Eating and sleeping at consistent times will help you all stay healthier and less moody.
4. Get to bed early, and get more sleep. Stress is not “all in your head.” Stress is physical. Stress strains our emotional and physical capacity to cope. We need more rest when we are under stress. Go to bed when your kids go to bed. Resist the urge to stay up to watch “just a little more news” or play one more online Sodoku.
5. Eat healthy meals. While the kids are home from school take time to prepare food together, and enjoy mealtimes together. Enjoy some homemade treats, but don’t go wild with the sugar. Try activities like Ungame or the “Essential” card decks from www.mindbrainparenting.org to stimulate a little conversation at mealtimes.
6. Enjoy comfort, reading and cuddles together as a family. Go for walks outside. Even when sheltering in place, we can still go outside if we stay at least 6 feet from those outside our household. Stomp around in puddles in the rain. Enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin when the clouds clear. Snuggle up with a good book when you get back home. Spending positive time doing enjoyable things feels good and it’s actually good for your brain.
In our next blog post, I’ll be sharing more suggestions about things families can do during long days at home. We hope you will visit our parenting blog.