As Nova Scotians continue spending most of their time in their family bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic, the novelty of being together at home has worn off quickly. Many parents are adapting to working from home: managing their workload while caring for their kids and taking on the new role of full-time teacher. It can be hard to stay grounded and meet the needs of their kids.
President and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Resilience, psychiatrist Dr. Jackie Kinley says, “more than ever, given the challenges we face, children and families need resilience.” She shares eight lessons for families who are stuck at home during the pandemic:
Lesson one: settle down
Find ways to ground yourself first and then help ground your kids. It’s not just viruses that are contagious; anxiety is too. Some suggestions of things you can try, listen to meditation music, aromatherapy, yoga, adult colouring books and walking.
Lesson two: be calm
Practise mindfulness. Collect your thoughts and don’t ruminate on the unknown. Create opportunities for quiet time. This can be done by reducing extensive screen and/or social media time. Here’s a resource on how to lead your child through a guided meditation.
Lesson three: be positive
Expect emotional reactions from your kids. Remember that emotions are natural. Parents must listen to what their kids are saying and validate their emotions. Expect that your children will feel everything from anger to sadness to fear. These feelings are natural and normal given the circumstances.
Lesson four: keep talking
Listen to your own emotions. If you can’t tolerate your own emotions, your child won’t be able to tolerate theirs. Emotions aren’t scary; they are important and relevant information. Having conversations with your kids about how they feel will make a huge difference in how they cope.
Lesson five: self-control
Don’t act out – resist impulsivity. Parents must be able to refrain from acting on their emotions. Instead, talk them out. Put your feelings into words, not actions.
Lesson six: teach awareness/explanation
Find a deeper meaning in this crisis. Parents should have greater awareness and perspective than their children. Parents have the ability to see the bigger picture and find meaning in things. Find ways to communicate that to your kids. There are many resources available if you need tips on talking with your kids about COVID-19. It also helps to not watch the news 24-7; if you normally keep the TV or radio on in your house, turn it off.
Lesson seven: respect personal freedom
Everyone needs space, including your kids. It’s important to maintain control but also allow some freedom and privacy – age appropriate of course.
Lesson eight: empathize and understand each other
Stay connected. Parents are responsible for modelling healthy relationships for their kids. Reach out to your neighbours, family members and friends when you need to talk, and your kids will do the same.
Building resilience in times of uncertainty is akin to exercising a muscle. Dr. Kinley says, “there are skills you can learn that make you more resilient and better able to handle stress”. One of the best ways to do that is to learn to see beauty in the little things. Some helpful ways to do this is to create a gratitude journal, each day writing down five things you’re grateful for. Another tool is to practice positive affirmations.
By using and sharing these lessons with friends and family, you can not only manage the challenges of sheltering at home but also help ensure that we all come out of this stronger, together.