There’s a lot going on in the world right now. We’re all feeling anxiety and pressure of both the known and unknown. You doing ok? I’ll be honest, it’s hour to hour for me. And in knowing that I can’t be the only one feeling that way, we want to stress our belief in the spirit of motherhood and all its vulnerabilities, resiliencies, and strengths as we care for our children during this trying time. With that in mind, we compiled a list of resources and ideas in hopes you can find something to help make your day go a little smoother, ease your nerves, or just let you know that we are feeling it too and you’re not alone. So here goes:
How to Explain What’s Happening to your Kids
Your kiddos are going to sense the stress around them. You may see their attempts to process come out as toilet training regressions, tantrums, disruptions in sleep patterns, changes in eating habits, and the like. Unfortunately, these don’t help your stress level, but at least knowing what’s likely the root cause can remind you to respond with extra patience. Some ideas to keep in mind that may help:
- Give lots of extra snuggles, hugs, and kisses. Unless you have reason to think you may have the virus, now is not the time to socially distance yourself from your little ones. They need your love and reminders that they are safe.
- Try to set some semblance of a schedule. Far easier said than done in a chaotic time when childcare, preschool, activities, and even leaving for the office have gone by the wayside, but kids feel most secure when they know what to expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a general flow for the day - breakfast, reading, playtime, snack, coloring, lunch, nap. It will help ground them.
- Be mindful of the news they are exposed to. Though they don’t grasp the content, children are aware of tone (think anxious questions shouted at a press conference, sombre notes of dire statistics read on tv, and even the blaring red banners at the tops of nearly every webpage I open). Young children pick up on the energy of media around them as well as your reaction to it. Try to limit their indirect access.
For some helpful information about questions parents have regarding the virus, check in with this New York Times article. And for resources on how to talk to your children about Coronavirus, these resources from PBS and this article by The Child Mind Institute are worth a read.
Ways to Get Your Kids Physically Active
Many of us are in small indoor spaces practicing social distancing and some of us are still experiencing winter weather not conducive to extended time outdoors. But our kiddos need to get their energy out. If allowable, set aside some time every day to go outside, even if it’s just a stroll around the block. The change of scenery and fresh air can be a nice and often needed reset button for the day.
- If you’re fortunate enough to have a private yard, get out in it as much as possible. If you’re able to take walks while maintaining distance from other people, do so. Letting kids be kids outdoors as much as possible will help with the family’s sanity and sense of normalcy.
- Think of out of the box activities that push you into your yard if it is safe. Bust out the plastic Easter eggs from storage, put a single puzzle piece in each one, and have your kiddo search for eggs and then build the puzzle.
- With Spring here, make a picture scavenger hunt for items to search for while you explore - fluffy cloud, yellow flower, green grass, fallen stick - and head to an area outside to do some exploring and searching.
- Simple sidewalk chalk offers a number of activities - draw a twisty-turvy trail for your kiddos to follow, trace their outlines and have them color themselves in.
- For a great list of ideas on how to entertain your young kids, check out this blog post by Emily Henderson and the comments that go with it.
- For getting out energy while indoors, Go Noodle has some fun active videos for movement and mindfulness and Cosmic Kids Yoga has videos for your preschoolers to practice yoga and relaxation - some skills we could all benefit from right now.
Educational Activities for your Kids
With school and childcare closures across the country, the job of educating our kids has shifted to parents. Given the forced closures, we aren’t able to visit library story times, children’s museums, zoos, etc. and we’re likely going to need to relax a bit of our screen time guidelines. While nothing can replace in-person instruction and we’re not saying it’s great for our kids, we know screens are going to be in their little hands more in the weeks ahead so let’s try and make the most out of it.
- Here’s a large list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closures. Search for something that fits you and your kiddo.
- Be sure to check your local library’s website. Many are associated with apps such as Libby that allow you to borrow audio or ebooks.
- A number of the world’s best museums are offering virtual tours. What a wonderful way to explore with your little one online.
- Zoos and aquariums such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the San Diego Zoo as well as the National Park Service have webcams to check in on animals.
- Many children’s book authors are doing live readings of their own works on IGTV. Check out Mac Barnett, Sophie Blackall, and Oliver Jeffers. This is a delightful way to hear a story and learn some fun behind the scenes facts about the books.
- If you're looking for ways to have a dialogue with your children about the recent news, read this article from safety.com for some guidance on how to navigate the media and help kids maintain a sense of safety.
Ways to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety
There’s a heavy mental load on mothers right now as we try to work, provide full-time care and education for our children, maintain a household during a time of uncertainty, endure social isolation from the immediate support of friends and family, and mitigate the stress that comes with navigating a truly novel and frightening time. Simply put, it’s a lot. (Just typing that out in black and white seized up my chest. Deep breaths, everyone.) Give yourself some grace during this time.
- Remember the important role our senses play in how we perceive the environment and do your best to create surroundings that encourage peacefulness. Fill your ambient background with calming music instead of droning news or even silence. The Sirius XM Symphony Hall Station plays exclusively classical music that breathes some movement and air into a room. Spotify has Spa Playlists that feature the non-intrusive, tranquil instrumental-nature sound combination you may hear while getting a massage. Also think of smell. A favorite scented candle burning or essential oil diffused into a room or even the aroma of a favorite baked item can help calm you.
- Just as it’s important for your littles to move their bodies, you need to do the same. Exercise helps reduce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and can help regulate and even boost your mood. Your gym may be offering online versions of their classes and YouTube has no shortage of workout videos you can do with little to no equipment. Of course, if you can get outside and walk or jog away from others, go for it.
- Allow for some mindless stress release. Now’s the perfect time to share your Netflix and Hulu logins with a family member or friend (you just didn’t hear it from me) and binge something light that’ll make you laugh. Better yet, coordinate with friends and watch the same thing at the same time and chat online about it. We all need to get a little escape from corona news every once in a while.
- Do something to help someone who may not be in as fortunate a position as you. Not only will you be assisting a person in need, but the gesture will give you a sense of moving the needle in the right direction. The website Nextdoor connects neighbors and offers a place to post messages and communicate with those around you. See if there is something you can safely do to help out a neighbor. Our neighborhood is printing the same coloring book pages for kids to color and hang in the windows so everyone can go for a walk and see all the iterations of the same image.
- Pick a project or hobby you’ve been putting off. You may only be able to work on it for an hour after the kids go to bed, but dig out your sewing machine, that paint set in the arts and crafts bin, a scrapbook, or even your laptop to organize digital photos. Doing something either creative or productive can give a little respite to that sense of helplessness you may be feeling.
- Be proactive in trying to relieve your anxiety - mindfulness, meditation, and seeking out information on the best practices to alleviate feelings of uncertainty will help. This New York Times article has some good tips on how to address the anxiety you may be feeling.
- Lastly, remember to treat yourself kindly during these odd times. This article has some good stress coping tips for us all to keep in mind.
And remember, however dealing with the uncharted waters we are in looks in your home, it looks right and it’ll be ok. There’s no one ideal way to handle this. There will be days where it feels doable and you’re able to get some of your own work accomplished (if you’re fortunate to work from home), the kids will eat a decent meal, and you’ll even complete a preschool lesson plan with reading and a complementary art project. And there’ll be some days where everyone eats only buttered noodles and a sleeve of Oreos while watching Frozen I and II back-to-back in pjs on the couch in the middle of the day.And that’s going to be ok, too. Be kind to yourselves and to each other. We’ll get through it together.