25 Mar How to Help Your Kids Navigate the “New Normal” with Coronavirus
If your life looked drastically different ten days ago, the good news is you’re not alone. With the vast majority of Americans (and even the world) in some sort of self-quarantine, many of us are adapting to the “new normal,” which can feel isolating, confusing, exhausting and a host of other emotions.
It’s important to know that in unprecedented times, there is no right or wrong way to feel and you should allow yourself to feel all the emotions from being “grateful for extra family time” to the “frustration of home-schooling your child” and even the “anger of others not following distancing protocol.” All these emotions are VALID.
If we as adults are feeling all the emotions, then we must remember that our little ones are too! As confusing as this time is for us as grownups, many kids are feeling even more perplexed at why they can’t go to school everyday, why they can’t have in-person playdates with their friends, or why they can no longer go to the playground when it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside. And guess what, they have every right to feel this way. Their entire daily lives have been upended and making sense of this all can be a lot for those little inquisitive minds.
Everyday I’m fielding questions from my daughter like, “Where are we going today?” “Can I have a playdate with ________ today?” “Am I going to school today?” My heart breaks a little more each day as I do my best to explain that we have to wait for everyone to feel better before we can do any of those things.
Below are some ways to help facilitate conversations with your kids, as well as ideas on how to create a little more normalcy in your day-to-day life:
1. Don’t Assume – ASK
Don’t make assumptions about how your child might be feeling or thinking. Just because we are anxious, doesn’t necessarily mean our kids are and vice versa. Instead, find a quiet time when you can sit down one-on-one with your child and ask them about how they’re doing. Ask them how they’re feeling and what’s making them feel that way.
To piggyback on number one, validate their feelings. Remember what I said in the opening paragraph: all feelings are valid. Validating can look something like this.
Child: “Mom/Dad, I’m feeling really sad because I can’t see my friends.”
Parent: “Of course you feel sad that you haven’t seen your friends, when I can’t see my friends that makes me feel sad too.”
Work together to find ways to change that emotion and/or distract from that emotion (if it’s negative.) Come up with ways that your child can see their friends. Can they FaceTime or video chat? Maybe a drive-by stop and chat from the car? Are they old enough to walk at a safe distance?
Note: make sure you are not indirectly invalidating your child when doing this. For instance, you may be invalidating your child by saying “I know you’re sad, but we can figure out how to see our friends in another way.” The word BUT can make your child feel like their sadness isn’t warranted. Instead try, “I know you’re sad, and maybe we can figure out how to see our friends in another way.” Simply replacing BUT with AND can make your child’s emotions feel warranted while still coming up with ideas on how to problem solve.
4. GET OUTSIDE & MOVE
If the weather allows, get outside and get moving. Vitamin D, fresh air and endorphins (the hormones released when we get our body moving) are all scientifically proven to turn that frown upside down. Bonus points if you can figure out how to socialize while being outside and moving (at a safe distance, of course.)
5. MAKE A GRATEFULNESS JAR
At the beginning or the end of each day, have kids write down one or two things they’re grateful for that day. Younger kids may need help with this; for example, ask them “what’s one thing that made you feel happy today?” Keep these gratefulness notes in a jar and on a particularly difficult day, take them out and read them as a way to remind ourselves of all the good things that are still around us.
6. BE PRESENT
Last but not least, just being there for your kids, both mentally and physically, goes miles. Now more than ever, we are able to be physically present with our kids (thank you self-quarantine!). Make sure your kids know they can come talk to you about anything, and when they do come to you, make sure you are present (i.e. turn the news off or put your phone down). Kids, like any of us, just want to know that they are heard.
While this is a scary and uncertain time for many, it is important to remember and reflect back to your kids, that this is just one moment in time. While right now we feel isolated and like there is no end in sight, we have to remember that this WILL come to an end.
Like every other moment in time, the only constant is change. We WILL get to go back to our old normal: dinner with friends, playdates, school, work, etc. It’s just a matter of when. Taking one day at a time and focusing on the present, instead of worrying about a future we can’t control, can help us keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep living life.
Authored by: Tracey Weiss