It’s not often that all of us face the same crisis at the same time, though obviously we’re all experiencing it in different ways. One thing that has changed for many of us is that we are spending significantly more time with our children. And while this does come with its own set of challenges, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is also a wonderful opportunity.
At this singular point in time, we don’t have to wake up our children at the crack of dawn to catch a bus. And there’s no rushing from school to soccer practice to hours of homework. This is an excellent time to tackle that giant puzzle you’ve been putting off, a rousing game of Sorry or just a private talk over a silly rom-com. Childhood goes fast. Enjoy this opportunity for some extra time with them.
Here are some other ideas to keep in mind while we’re all going through this crisis together.
Soothe your own fears. Your children will pick up on your anxiety, so make sure you’re managing your own stress levels as well as you can. Proactively managing your emotional health makes it more likely that you won’t pass your fears or stress on to your children. Nevada Health Centers Licensed Clinical Social Worker Christi Gunn shared some tips for managing stress in a recent article, and most of it can be done in your home, on your time. If you need someone to talk to, consider telehealth counseling. And Crisis Support Services of Nevada is also available 24/7/365.
Soothe their fears. It can be a lot more stressful not knowing what’s going on, so talk to your children. Let them know that it’s natural to be stressed, but that being overwhelmed by anxiety won’t solve anything. Answer their questions as well as you can, but don’t lie to them. And if you don’t know the answer, tell them that. Then look it up together. Rather than offering platitudes like “it will all be fine,” try to figure out what they’re actually worried about. You might be surprised. Childmind.org shares more tips for reassuring our children and not making them more worried than they might already be.
“This crisis has really opened everyone’s eyes to how tough things can really be and we talk daily about how to persevere,” said Reno father Sean Cary. “I have learned that by allowing them to have a buy-in to what is going on in this house, it helps to keep the emotions at bay. I have also learned that playtime is more important than ever. Sometimes they need to wind down. As do I.”
Help them stay connected. It may seem counterintuitive that we need to remind our kids to stay connected when it seems they are always chatting with their friends through texting, social media or gaming, but it’s important to ensure they don’t feel isolated. Make sure they’re actually spending time with others in appropriately socially distanced ways (perhaps a Zoom playdate, online game or FaceTime with a friend), rather than just sinking down the giant rabbit hole known as the Internet.
And while it might be kind of nice not being huddled up in a sleeping bag watching their baseball practice in the snow, it’s still important for them to practice. A number of coaches and instructors are offering virtual instruction. Find out if your athletic, dance, art, music or debate coach is offering online tips. Encourage your children to commit time to practicing, if they’re not doing so already.
Stay in shape as a family. You know how we’re all going to learn yoga or go on that hike when we have time? In Northern Nevada, we’re surrounded by amazing opportunities to get outside and explore, all while still honoring the six-foot-apart rule. And there are even instructors offering online classes. Make that #Quarantine15 be a welcome loss, not a gain.
“We have been getting outside to walk or play catch or something every day,” shared Sparks mom Jessica Santina. “On those walks, our daughter has revealed stuff about school lessons or things that happened with friends that we might not have heard otherwise. So while it’s difficult to stay at home and feel all of life’s uncertainty right now, we are enjoying the time together very much."
Get a better understanding of what they’re studying in school. You may not be exactly home-schooling, but chances are good you’re going to need to get more involved with their education than you did before. What a great opportunity to learn where they might be struggling in some areas and excelling in others. This can also be a reminder to send their teachers a thank you note or gift.
Help them help others. It’s hard to focus on our own problems when we’re helping others. While we’re on lockdown, we may not be able to volunteer at a food bank or pick up trash, but there are plenty of other ways to give back. While you’re writing your thank you notes to their teachers, encourage your kids to do the same. They can also send cards to people in assisted living, healthcare workers, garbage collectors or postal carrier. If you have a sewing machine, you could work together to make masks for our over-burdened healthcare professionals. Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs weeds pulled? Or a karma box nearby that you can fill with goodies? DoSomething.org shares a list of nine places where you can volunteer online.
Related: Take the #HomeMeansNevadaChallenge
Create memories. While this is a stressful time for adults, we have the opportunity to help shape the way our children remember this. How about starting a big project with them, learning about their musical tastes, bonding over an anime video or exploring your family history with them?
Amy Dewitt-Smith, a local mom of six, shares, “Today, our littles decided they want to show me their favorite hiking trail. I’ve been on it with them before, but I’ve have been working so much the past year they don’t remember, so I’m just going with it.”
Learn from them. What do they know how to do that they can teach you? Have you always wanted to learn how to play the piano or kill zombies on the Xbox? Maybe they can teach you the nuances of FaceTime or how to take a good selfie. And there are dozens of features on your smart phone you’ve probably never explored.
Learn together. Take a look at your stuck at home to do list and figure out what your kids can help you with. Whether it’s painting, updating the sprinkler system or mowing the lawn, these are skills they’ll appreciate as they get older. Or, if it’s something neither of you know how to do, there’s always our friend YouTube to guide us through. Leave the electrical and plumbing to the professionals though!
Connect with older children: If your children have moved out on their own, they may still be craving that sense of connection as much as you are. As Reno dad Robert Charpentier shares, “We’re empty nesters, but the boys have conspicuously sought the comfort of their connection to home.”
This is an excellent time to use FaceTime, Google Hangouts or Zoom for personal connection. While one-on-one conversations are great, so is family time, giving them a chance to connect with their siblings when that may seem less important. Instead of Sunday family dinner, maybe you send them pizzas and eat them together through Zoom.
The easiest things we can do through all of this? Tell the people we love that we love them, even older children who may not act like they care about such things. And thank the people who are taking risks to keep us all safe and healthy in our new reality. Our children will remember.