Helping your child deal with the uncertainty.
By: Erika Davis LMFT, LSW
Synergy eTherapy Therapist
Being a parent is hard, but being a parent during times of great change and uncertainty can make your head spin.
Wear a mask or don’t?
Send your kids to school or learn online?
Visit grandparents or stay home?
Covid-19 has thrown all of us all for a loop. That’s actually quite an understatement. We went through the spring with hope that our kids could end school – IN SCHOOL. Slowly, the summer approached and outdoor time (for those of us in colder states) helped our mental health tremendously. Being inside so much is hard, especially for active kids (and active big kids and adults!).
But, no vaccine came yet and numbers keep rising in so many states. No matter your view on this pandemic, we can all agree that going back to school this year will look unlike any other.
Tips to help your child.
Build in structure and routine. Even though kids may fight it at first, they need some kind of structure and routine. Everyone is different, so you have to create routines that work for your family. With school starting back up soon, it is great to get back to a night time routine so they are not overwhelmed once school starts. Do this as soon as possible, instead of waiting until the night before school starts.
Go outside. Ride a bike, go on a walk, explore a new trail. Exercise in nature adds additional benefit for our overall mental and physical health.
Help kids express themselves. It can be hard for kids to label their emotions, so give them opportunities to share how they’re feeling. You can find free feelings charts online and have them name how they are feeling and then take turns sharing how you are feeling.
Remind them that all feelings are okay. Some feelings are easier to feel than others, but they are all okay. An important thing to remember is to validate their feelings. We all feel things differently and express our feelings in different ways.
It’s important for kids to be able to share their feelings without being dismissed.
If your child says, “I’m sad”, respond to that feeling, rather than saying “no, you’re not” or “It’s not a big deal.” This invalidates their feelings and makes them question their instinct. Give them time and space to express whatever they are feeling without trying to dismiss or fix it.
Breathing. There are so many different kinds of fun ways to practice breathing. The main thing to know is to calm your body and mind,, the exhale should be longer than the inhale. (ex. Breathe in for 3 counts and out for 5). The longer exhale sends a signal to our brain that everything is okay and it can relax.
Fun examples include:
Cookie breathing: Imagine you are baking cookies and you can smell the cookie (inhale for 3-4 counts) but it’s too hot, so you have to blow on it first (exhale for 5 counts).
Bubble breathing: Have fun as your kids practice long, slow breaths to make the bubbles grow.
Volcano breath: As you inhale, bring your arms above our head. On the exhale bring your hands to their heart. On the inhale, lift their arms above their head and on the exhale lower arms to the side.
Movement: Practice some yoga poses. You can check out YouTube and other places on the internet for free videos. Take a mindful walk around the neighborhood – what do you see, what do you hear, what do you smell? Be in the present moment.
Focus on things you can control. There are some things that no matter how much we worry or stress about it, we still have no control over them.
Have fun! Learn a new hobby or skill, start a new tradition (Taco Tuesday, Friday night movie night).
Reach Out: Call or text family and friends, send a letter to relatives or to nursing homes, find ways to support organizations you care about.
Most importantly, take care of you: Being a parent is hard and being a parent in a pandemic is incredibly hard. Take some time to focus on you.
Go on a walk, talk to a friend, journal, practice yoga, whatever provides some peace. Our kids are always watching us, so make sure to keep our own anxiety and fear in check. Reach out if you need additional support.
Remember that even though change and uncertainty can create stress, it is also a time for great growth.
We can and will get through this, we just have to keep breathing and reaching out to support each other.
Erika Davis, LMFT, LSW is a Minnesota based clinician with decades of clinical experience working with children, specifically ages 7-10 inside of the school system. Schedule a FREE consultation with Erika.