Jennifer Cain, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist, New York and Ohio
Helping Your Family Cope with the Coronavirus
Families are under a lot of stress right now. Worries about being infected with the Coronavirus, families at home all the time, financial concerns, worries about loved ones, deaths, soothing children’s fears, and managing children’s schoolwork from home are just some of the stresses families are dealing with on a daily basis. Here are a few suggestions to help make things a little easier.
Have a schedule for everyone, and post it somewhere where everyone can see it. Include pictures for younger children. Children find comfort in routines and in knowing what is coming next. Build in time for breaks and for physical activity, and plan some things to look forward to.
Have designated areas in your home for children to do their schoolwork and parents to do their work (or bill paying, sorting mail, responding to emails, etc.).
Times for Fun
Incorporate regular times for fun. Special activities and games, cooking or baking together, and art projects are a few ideas. Look for ways to make ordinary activities into a game. Ask your children for ideas and be creative.
Try to allow some alone time for each member of the family, at times, if at all possible. If your home is small or crowded, you may want to designate a room with a sign on the door, or a section of a room blocked off with furniture, and allow each person a bit of time in that space, undisturbed when they need it.
Try to spend some time each day outside, if it is possible. Fresh air and the ability to move around a little can do wonders for the body and mind.
Answering Children’s Questions
Answer children’s questions directly and honestly in a way that is appropriate for their developmental level. Emphasize what you are doing as parents to provide for their needs and keep them safe. Reassure them that even though we do not know how long this will last, it will not last forever.
Regaining a Sense of Calm
Know what helps you regain a sense of calm. Write these things into a list and do them often. Simple things such as washing your hands with warm or cold water while focusing on the feel of the water, or drinking a glass of cold water, or closing your eyes and imaging a comforting person for a few seconds, can help ground you in the present moment. Doing these things can help interrupt a sequence of aggravation or temper, and can go a long way toward keeping your responses to family members patient and kind.
When Children Misbehave
If your child is acting up, keep in mind that outward behavior is often a reflection of inner emotions that your child does not know how to handle. Let your children know it is okay to feel scared and frustrated. Show them how to cope, use healthy coping strategies together, and be the source of comfort and guidance that they need.
Seek professional support for you and/or your children if you need it. Humans were built to function as a community, and isolation is hard on everyone. Now, more than ever, people need support. Many mental health professionals offer services via telephone or video.
Remember that things will not stay this way forever. Eventually the worst will be over. Some things will return to normal and other things will become a new normal. Give yourself credit for the things you are doing well, and focus on getting through this time in the healthiest way possible.