SALT LAKE CITY — For everyone involved, dealing with abrupt changes, loss of friends and routine, and lack of control on when this coronavirus pandemic will end can create underlying stress and daily disruption.
However, a few intentional choices can make a big difference.
1. Keep a rhythm
Children thrive on predictability, so choosing a few key routines will keep things as calm as can be. Simple routines such as bookends — a regular gathering time first thing in the morning and last thing at night — can create discussion of what needs to be done, how to do it, and when there will be fun.
If you’re now a parent and schoolteacher with online schooling, allow for ebb and flow so it’s not overwhelming. Set a time chunk for schooling, such as 9 a.m. to noon. Quickly review with your child the class to-do list. Let your child choose as much as possible which, when, and how much they will do at a time. Then choose a small reward when they finish a certain amount (i.e. recess, snack, play a game).
2. Stay connected
Yes, Mother Necessity is alive and well. Birthday parties are now drive-bys from friends in cars, and Sunday dinners are sharing online what we’re cooking. But that brings unexpected gifts.
One grandmother is doing “reading time” at night, reading a book to her grandchildren through FaceTime. Another woman’s adult children “heart attacked” her door with red hearts of sweet expressions. We can create Facebook family pages for prayer lists or links to free online zoo and museum tours, then discuss favorite experiences through Zoom.
We can also help our children stay connected to their emotions. During this time it can be easy to retreat or isolate when difficult feelings come. For younger children, we can use emotion faces — drawing circles with simple faces showing different emotions. When little ones get a wave of emotion, they can point to the emotion-face they’re feeling. For teens, we can create a consistent one-on-one time — on a walk, sitting on a bed, baking a favorite treat, eating a snack at the counter.
3. Focus on a purpose or project
Focus on a purpose or project that has nothing to do with COVID-19 and promotes the idea that life is bigger than a virus. It’s a great time to declutter if you feel the urge #ordelegatetokids. For those so motivated, paint those walls, weed that yard, clean out those closets. Over spring break, our family chose one room a day, and it was all hands on deck for clearing, cleaning and celebrating. And we all survived.
Though the home walls can feel a little close, this gifted block of time can help us thrive as a family. By intentionally shifting a few routines and a purposeful focus, we can feel the unexpected joy and connection of the Covid experience.
For more ideas, watch this Studio Chatter TV segment.