Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Like all of you, our family has been deeply hunkered down for going on two weeks due to Covid-19. We've been watching movies, playing video games, and only leaving the house for grocery store runs (all my husband, not me) and back and forth to the hospital where I work as a nurse. We've been doing our part with social distancing and if the state of my eyebrows and roots can tell you anything we are doing it REALLY well. Even if we shelter our children from all of the scary information in the news about Statewide lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders happening across the country (which we thoroughly support), the reality of their routines and the world they came to know and understand has been turned upside down in recent weeks. And, it looks to continue for weeks, and more likely months, into the future.
If we're being honest? It's not easy to parent mindfully when we are barely hanging in their ourselves. Global pandemics tend to complicate things like parenting, and this one has been a real doozy.
Managing the Anxiety
As the old adage goes "putting on your own face mask before you put on someone else's" really is vital in these times. If you are like most of us, you're at home with all schools and non-essential businesses in shut down. We are all a bit more stir crazy than usual, and the routines of daily life are shifting to accommodate this reality. Your Morning Routines may be out of whack, in favor of sleeping in later, staying in sweat pants, and not getting ready to leave the house like we've grown accustomed to doing most days. However, this most basic step will not only help yourself, but your children as well.
Maintaining a calm but controlled sense throughout your day with new routines centered around the current state of things will not only give you purpose and guidance, but will give your children a new sense of rhythm amid the chaos.
One obvious option, is to make it a point to get up earlier than your children, so you can have a good 90 minutes to move throughout your routine. Enjoying a cup of tea, taking a walk, and doing some light energizing yoga can be immensely beneficial to your own mental health. Eating a nourishing breakfast, bathing and dressing, and meditating as a family or alone can set a positive tone for everyone.
Develop New Routines
We may not have planned for it, but this is actually an ideal time to 'try on' a few new routines to see if they will work for you. Maintaining a relationship with your partner (including a sexual one), and carving out daily time for connection with family and friends (through safe social distancing practices like video chat) is an incredibly rewarding thing to focus on. Connection is a vital part of our wellbeing. This social aspect defines our lives in a very positive way, and neglecting that can have negative consequences. These are trying times, where we are being asked to do extreme measures for the greater good, and relying on your social network and the connection with family and partner are vital to surviving this.
Get outside everyday. See the sun, feel the air, smell the new Spring growth, hear the birds. This will enliven your soul, as well as that of your children. Nature is very healing.
Alter your personal practices and give yourself grace to do so. Maybe meditating everyday isn't something you can accomplish with your children being home. Give yourself the permission to carve out a different time, smaller sessions, or even do less sessions throughout the week.
Questions and Suggested Answers for your Kids
This is a scary time for everyone. The state of the world is full of unknowns, differing opinions, passionate opinions, and the possibility of losing friends and loved ones. These are big scary topics for any child to face, let alone in conjunction with drastic changes to their daily routines. When engaging in these conversations, it's important to feel grounded and safe yourself. Put your own anxiety in check. Children rely on us to be a mirror for their own sometimes wildly out of control emotions. Find your inner kapha Mama's and Papa's.
Start off by asking how they are doing. How they feel about staying home all the time right now. Give them space to explore that question. Help them label emotions or feelings about it, and ask them if they have any questions. It's important to understand that they may not; and that's okay! But initiating this conversation gives them the door to walk back to and open up if they do. It is difficult to answer some questions when the future with Covid-19 is so largely unknown. So just answer what you can. These are some common questions you may here, and how you can answer them honestly.
Will I or my Parent get sick?
This question and answer will rely heavily on the age of the child, so finding the appropriate answers will vary. But for the most part, it's important to locate a balance between honesty and increasing anxiety. Reassure children by explaining what measures are being taken in your town, city, state and nationwide to stop the spread of these disease. This can also be a great time to discuss and identify "Who are the helpers?". Remind them of all the people standing between your children, their parents, and their friends and family. Giving them the opportunity to recognize and be grateful for their service. Remind them that everyone is helping too, by staying home and doing their part. Remind them that we are all interconnected, and that we can conciously manifest good and light into the world. Also, remind them that most people that get sick with this disease will not feel very good, but that they survive and recover. Include some information on ways that they can personally do their part with hand washing, social distancing, and self-care.
When can I see my friends, or grandparents/family members?
Sometimes, kids just want to play with their friends or snuggle with their Grandma. This is an important time to remind them what they can do. FaceTime, video chats, phone calls, and watch parties are all ways that you can maintain that connection. Remind them that the goal of keeping our distance is to keep them safe and healthy if possible. And this is our part in doing that. Relax expectations on screen time right now, this is a major way in which we are all staying connected.
When can I go back to school?
While most kids probably enjoyed the extended break initially, most of them will begin to miss the structure of school. This is another time when it's difficult to do anything but acknowledge the reality of the unknowns in this situation. It is possible that we will be distancing for months to come. Focus on what they can do, and what you can do as a family. I have seen a lot of families throw themselves into the deep end with trying to homeschool children through all of this. Our son's daycare workers said "the best thing you can do right now is to read to him, everyday." Instead of focusing on the higher concepts presented in school, focus on empowering them to engage in household activities. Learning the household chores is a great thing to include especially younger children in. And since we all have nothing but time right now, teaching them how to do laundry from start to finish isn't as daunting.
I'm BORED. What can I do now?
Sometimes? It's a GOOD thing for your kids to get bored. We are inundated with constant barrages of screens, entertainment, and information. Boredom is a gift, as it requires us to engage with creativity and problem solving. This is one problem? I feel no need to fix. However, if you want to try and give them a gentle nudge, changing the environment (like going outside), introducing creativity tools (like blocks, legos, art supplies, or dress up clothing/supplies), encouraging movement, or giving them challenges to fulfill will be a good kickstart. But do not help them too much, creativity if born out of boredom.
This is a time to laugh, breathe deeply, turn our attention inward, slow down, and savor the beautiful moments of connection that are now possible within our states of isolation. We will find a way through this, even if it's in sweat pants, with cold coffee, and shedding some tears.