This is an emotional time for kids and adults. With orders to stay home and social distance, it’s not uncommon to experience increased feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety and sadness, and even difficulty focusing or sleeping.
A recent poll by the American Psychiatric Association found that more than one-third of Americans think the COVID-19 crisis is seriously affecting their psychological health.
“While most people understand that staying home and away from others is necessary for the health of everyone right now, this is a challenging way to live,” says Jeff Huston, a licensed professional counselor at Thrive Behavioral Health in Eugene.
Many families are fearful of contracting coronavirus. They’re feeling isolated. They may be dealing with job loss, concerned about their financial stability, trying to balance working from home while helping their children with schoolwork and the challenges of distance learning. Jeff encourages families to, first and foremost, know their limits.
“If you’re spending too much time in your own head, know when you need to distract. Recognize when you need to find something to give you a different focus.”
Create a routine
Most kids thrive on having consistency in their lives, which consequently helps them feel in control, something kids need now more than ever. Establish a Monday-Friday routine for the family to follow.
“That includes what time you and the kids will get up in the morning and what the sequence of day’s events will be. Consistency is important during times of stress,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.
Focus on the essentials for a healthy mind and body
- Limit the amount of news and information you digest regarding the pandemic. Too much information can trigger anxiety for you and your kids.
- Go outside every day, even if it’s just in your backyard.
- Be mindful of what your family is eating, because what you put into your body can affect how you think and feel.
- Concentrate on getting quality sleep by sticking to bedtimes and limiting screen time to at least one hour before sleep. Studies have also shown that keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and practicing mindfulness before bedtime can promote good sleep.
One way to help ensure a good night’s rest is by making sure the whole family is active during the day.
“I have some families that are doing yoga together, including some dads who said they would never ever do that,” Jeff says. “So, coming up with those family shared activities that involve physical health, or doing puzzles with family or playing games together is important.”
Self-care for parents
While it may be difficult in confined quarters, it’s important for moms and dads to make time for self-care.
“It can be just 15 minutes a day but set that time aside after the kids are in bed, or whenever it’s available, to do something that is positive and mindful for yourself because you have to fill up your own bucket somehow,” says Dr. Bradshaw.
Kids pick up on their parents’ emotional distress, so be mindful of how your feelings may be affecting your children. Try this: every morning, think of something that you’re grateful for and have your kids do the same thing—that one simple action can set the mood for the entire day.
“Little kids especially are not going to remember anything clearly about this pandemic except how they felt during this period of time,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “So, as parents, if we are able to be extra snuggly, extra cuddly, extra physical and loving, I think that’s what the kids will remember. And it will help us all feel better.”