It’s a very difficult time right now as many families are trying to figure out how to manage with everyone being home. Here are some ideas that you can try to help keep some order and routine.
Our world is currently facing a time that is met with many uncertainties. There is comfort in knowing when things will change and when we can resume our previously known lives. Unfortunately, a contagion has no rules and no limits so we must do the best we can to work with what we have and what we can do for now. We need to do our best to keep things in perspective daily and sometimes moment by moment. While most people agree that “the front lines” now refer to those in medical professions- parents are also part of the front line to keep children safe and healthy- including emotionally well.
Parents: Put your Oxygen Mask On First
Before we look at what to do to help our children, we need to look at parents first. If you have ever flown on an airplane, you likely know that, should face masks be needed, parents are encouraged to help themselves first and then assist their children. The idea here is that you, as a parent, will be more effective at managing the situation. Although we are not in an airplane, it may be a helpful concept to utilize now. Whether they show it or not, children (wee littles ones on up to teenagers) look to the adults in their life to provide structure and guidance so we need to do what we can to help ourselves first. We want to reduce the impacts of “cabin fever” as much as we can so try to keep yourself in the pilot seat.
Do your best to develop your own systems to maintain. Consider some of the following to help:
Helping Our Kids Adjust
Most communities by now have placed school restrictions- basically, kids aren’t going to school. Some families have been fortunate in getting supportive instructions from teachers, laptops and tablets to help, and even worksheet packets to keep children engaged in learning. Some have not been so fortunate and pressure is on parents to take on the role of teaching or at least try to figure out how to develop some routines- especially since going outside is often not an option or greatly reduced. For many parents, this may be an added stress as school attendance may have been very helpful in maintaining routines.
The following is a list of ideas to help- but we need to keep some things in mind first. These are general ideas and may require some adjusting and tweaking to fit the unique needs of your child. You may not get positive results the first time around- keep trying and adjusting as needed- try not to give up. If your child is acting out, having tantrums, irritated, etc., it will likely not be a good time to try implementing any routines and strategies. It is likely your child is letting you know they are not doing well- try to connect with your child before using punishment.
Your child’s mood may change for a variety of reasons- are they overstimulated or under-stimulated? Too much tv/electronics/gaming may be impacting positive stimulus- the longer they can sit with that stimulus the more difficult it may be to get them to stop.
Engage and Develop Routine
Middle school age (tweens):
High school age:
Parents, please continue working toward keeping yourself, your children, and the public safe. Overall, please continue to mind suggestions and encouragement to stay indoors, reduce in-person socializing, and practice social distancing if you must be out in public. Although children may appear to be less affected, they can still be carriers to those who are immunocompromised. If staying indoors has been challenging, work with your family members to come up with some solutions. Are there hiking trails you can visit briefly? If the weather is decent, can everyone go for a bike ride? If you have a driveway, give kids time to do chalk art. If you have a yard, make some time for blowing bubbles (this is a great deep breathing exercise too), set up an obstacle course, or a nature scavenger hunt.
Mindfulness Exercises for Kids
Thoughts on Punishment
It is possible at some point your child will act out, be more rude than usual, have meltdowns, and tantrums. Before choosing to punish children for their undesirable behavior, try to take a step back and put things in perspective. Children are still developing communication, understanding their emotions, and continuing to navigate where they stand in the world. Even though a 12 year old is more verbal, they may still resort to regressive behaviors you saw 3 years earlier. If your child has resorted to physical damage or harm, be clear about what is and is not acceptable. When possible, look for alternative ways they can deal with frustration. As mentioned previously, keep tabs of when your child may be overstimulated or under-stimulated. Work on communication- instead of saying "because I said so" or "because I'm your parent"- be clear and concise, refer back to your answer as needed and walk away as necessary to avoid a power struggle.
It is really tough to acclimate to some of the swift changes we have been going through. If you find you are butting heads with your children, take a step back. By continuing with arguments there is a greater chance for things to turn into a power struggle and lead to feelings of resentment. Whether you are a single parent or multiple adults helping out, it's important to keep tabs on how you are managing. (It may mean adopting a "choose your battles wisely" mentality.) Try to reduce academic expectations during this time. If learning is important, and depending on their age, work with your child to decide some ways to learn such as researching topics, creative projects, or learning about a hobby or project they have been interested in recently. Even family game time helps with your child's learning.
Be safe and healthy!
Rochester Art Therapy is a mental health practice in Rochester, NY.
Photo credit: Peggy_Marco/pixabay
Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.