It’s crazy “out there,” or should we say “in here” as everyone continues to work from home, if you are lucky enough to be able to work from home. If you recently lost your job or are worried about losing your job, it creates a whole different level of stress.
So, what do you do? You are trapped in the house with your children. Maybe you are trying to work from home AND homeschool, or maybe you have been laid off or are worried about getting laid off. Worries. Worries. Worries about finances, job getting sick, family members getting sick. There are enough concerns to keep you worried all day without getting anything accomplished. Things you can do to help manage your worries:
Keep a routine.
Adults and children function better with a schedule. Predictability for all of us is soothing. If possible, try to follow the pre-shut down schedule your family used; with wake-up time, work time and bedtime. If you need to, modify the schedule to meet your family’s needs, adjust but do not turn everything upside down by allowing yourself or children to stay up all night and sleep all day. It is good to talk with your middle school/older children to let them help in creating their work/play schedule.
Here are some ideas to help you create a daily schedule:
- Wake up, get dressed and have breakfast at the normal time.
- Decide where everyone can do their work most effectively and without distractions.
- List the times for learning, exercise and breaks.
- For younger children, 20 minutes of class assignments followed by 10 minutes of physical activity might work well.
- Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches, taking breaks between subjects.
- Include your hours as well, so your children know when the work day is done.
- Schedule time for nutritious lunches and snacks. Many schools are providing take-home school meal packages for students who need them.
- Don’t forget afternoon breaks as well!
- Have dinner together as a family and discuss the day.
- Enjoy more family time in the evenings, playing, reading, watching a movie or exercising together.
- Stick with normal bedtime routines as much as possible during the week to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.
- Try not to have the news on all day. Children hear and absorb more than you realize.
While limits are still important, it’s understandable that under these stressful circumstances, kids’ screen media use will likely increase. Here are some ways to help keep media use positive and helpful:
- Contact teachers about educational online and offline activities your children should do. Preschool teachers may not have an online curriculum to share, but good options include PBS Kids, which is sending out a daily newsletter with show and activity ideas.
- Use social media for good. Check in with your neighbors, friends and loved ones. If schools are closed, find out if there are ways to help students who need meals or internet access for at-home learning.
- Use media for social connection. Social distancing can be isolating. If your kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats or social media to stay in touch.
- Choose quality content and use trusted sources to find it. Common Sense Media, for example, suggests 25 dance games and other active apps, websites, and video games for families hunkering down right now.
- Use media together. This is a great opportunity to monitor what your older children are seeing online and follow what your children are learning. Even watching a family movie together can help everyone relax while you appreciate the storytelling and meaning that movies can bring.
- Take your child (virtually) to work. Working from home? Use this time as a chance to show your kids a part of your world. Encouraging imaginative “work” play may be a way to apply “take your child to work day” without ever leaving home!
- Limits are still important. As always, technology use should not push out time needed for needed sleep, physical activity, reading, or family connection. Make a plan about how much time kids can play video games online with friends, and where their devices will charge at night.
- Keep your kids safe online.
Get enough sleep.
One of the best ways to boost your ability to cope with stress is to get more rest. The average person needs 7 to 8 hours a night to re-charge. When we shortchange ourselves on sleep, we can experience problems with mood regulation, focus, memory, illness and (of course) stress. If you need to take an afternoon nap with your toddler instead of tackling the dirty dishes, take the nap. The more rested you feel, the better able you’ll be to deal with life’s challenges.
One of the best ways to strengthen yourself against stress is to exercise regularly. Gyms and community centers are closed, so what can you do? Walk in the neighborhood. If you do not feel comfortable with that option, think about what you loved to do when you were a child. Did you like to jump rope? Ride your bike? There are tons of free exercise and yoga programs online to help us cope. Try something new or choose something that you already enjoy. Not only will you be better able to cope with stress — you’ll be in better health, too!
Aim for imperfection.
Many of us have internalized someone else’s voice in our head — a critical parent or teacher, perhaps — and feel that we are never good enough. Aiming for constant perfection creates ongoing stress. “Be like Elsa and let it go.” Everyone is at home working, learning and living there 24/7. It is ok if the house is not as clean as you like it.
Breathe in, breathe out.
A few slow, calming breaths can instantly reset your stress-meter. Some people like to recite a word or phrase like, “Calm…calm…” or “peaceful…peaceful…” while breathing deeply. Others like to hum, or even sing. You may want to explore meditation. Even a few minutes a day can work wonders at helping re-set and get grounded; there are even free guided meditations available online. Whatever gets you breathing and physically relaxed will help you manage your difficult moments with more grace and ease.
Remember what it was like to have fun? This is a great opportunity to teach your children how to play. They get to see you play in ways you may not have made time for in the past. For many parents, life is about crossing things off a to-do list. Without time built into each day for nourishing our spirit, we become more vulnerable to frustration and stress. Laugh. Tell jokes. Draw. Have a dance contest with your children. These small acts can make a big difference in your stress level by helping you reconnect with the playful and happy parts of yourself that can get buried under the list of things to do.
For most parents, the tasks involved with raising children are endless; they keep us running from morning to night. If you’re exhausted or need a break, ask for help. Call someone. Video chat if you need to see someone’s face. We are meant to raise children in a tribe or with the support of an extended family. If you don’t have a network of caring, trustworthy people to lean on, it’s time to create one.
Do one thing at a time.
Most parents try to juggle far too many tasks at once, in the name of efficiency. This can lead to tremendous stress, not to mention mistakes. Slow down. Focus on the one thing you’re doing at a given moment — whether it’s serving a snack or changing a diaper. Even more, give your children your undivided attention for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day when you aren’t trying to get them to do something. Receiving your positive attention will have the added benefit of motivating your children to be more cooperative.
This information was adapted/compiled from the following articles; for more information and addition links see: