I am more scared about spending all day every day with my 4 kids and their different emotions and stages than I am about getting a virus. Mom on facebook.
We are floundering in uncharted territory. Never could we imagine the scenario we are all living with this coronavirus. Now more than ever is the time to BREATHE, give everyone a break, and connect with those precious children of yours.
Yet at the same time, you and the people around you may be flipping in and out of panic or at least worry, fear, and overwhelm. You’re all cooped up in one place together and will drive each other crazy!
This is the greatest unknown we have ever faced. Humans need a sense of certainty and security. This pandemic has taken every shred of that out from under us. I offer here a few suggestions and realize every home situation is different.
Managing yourself in this predicament:
- Many of you and your children have an inherent stamina to weather the storm, to acknowledge there is nothing to be done but wait it out. But others who have an enormous sensitivity to their own and other people’s tension and anxiety, just feel everything more intensely. For those, the need for order and stability is even greater. As well as the need for self-care.
- Check in on your need to control. The more you need it, the more you become victim to fear and panic. When you feel it coming up, that’s the time for breathing deeply at the very least and maybe walking outside.
- Check your catastrophizing. If you fear you will never work again, recognize that as a fear, not a fact. Then turn it into a fact. This is hard right now being out of work. I get afraid easily. Then your fear becomes self-compassion.
- Find a mantra when that feeling of anxiety or panic arises. Something like, I can do this, We have each other, One day at a time, Keep on keeping on.
- Actually schedule a time each day or at least every other to connect with a partner or trusted friend to explode your worry. Seriously. Do not try to bottle it up for the sake of your kids. You will be far calmer with your kids if you let out your anger, fear, or panic with someone who promises not to tell you to just calm down.
- This can be a time to do things you never have time to do. Take a learning program or online yoga class, clean out that closet, wash windows. Plan something that can involve all of you. Or take on a project just for yourself you can do after the kids are in bed.
- Practice connection. Watch for what each of your children needs, how they are different. Pay attention to and connect with the underlying emotions provoking behavior instead of yelling at or threatening the behavior.
- If your kids are focused on screens, learn from them. Ask what about this game fascinates, challenges your child. Ask them to teach you how to play.
- Have fun.
If you and your spouse are both working from home:
- There will be distractions galore. Plan with your partner on-call working hours when you, not your partner can be distracted. Say from 9:00-11:00, if kids need someone, you are the go-to, not your partner.
- Wear a certain color when you are not to be disturbed unless the house is on fire.
- Designate certain hours when each of you are with the kids so the other can work—and when you are together as a family. Make it clear.
Talking to your kids about coronavirus:
- The most important thing to keep in mind is egocentrism consumes your children’s brains until at least age seven, and then it only starts to wane. Your young children are concerned about one thing—what does this mean for me? Don’t expect kindness and consideration for others. But do model it.
- It’s important to be able to answer your children’s questions honestly. That doesn’t mean every last detail. It just means don’t lie. It’s a tricky balance to communicate the seriousness of this pandemic to understand why they have to stay home, forgo playdates and sleep-overs, not take the car to visit friends, and wash their hands 20 times a day without instilling unnecessary fear.
- Talk about how germs spread and scatter. Tell them that some germs give us a cold and some germs make us very sick. That’s why we have to be very careful about keeping our bodies healthy so they can fight off the bad germs.
- Here’s a great page explaining the virus for little kids clearly and without provoking fear.
- Also a great video to encourage washing hands. Do the experiment at home.
- For all kids, it is safe to emphasize that children either do not get the virus or have it so mildly it feels like a cold. Let them know, that you also would probably get it mildly. The reason it is so critical to stay home away from people is because it is so very contagious, spreadable. And that old people and those who are already very sick can actually die of it.
- And yes, let them know this is critical for their grandparents. But they will be fine as long as they don’t get the germs.
- With kids old enough to understand, talk about what you are all doing to help contain the spread of the virus even if you aren’t in danger yourselves. Discuss why it’s wrong to get together with other people on the chance you might pick up some germs and pass them on injuring people you may not even know. It’s a great time to talk about doing the right thing.
- Plan ahead for how each child wants to handle meltdowns. Discuss the reality of being together all the time. What works best for each? Some may want alone time in their rooms. Some may want to stick to you more than ever. How will you all respect each other’s needs including yours?
Talking to your kids about schoolwork: