Oh, parents. We know you're run ragged, and we're sorry. At this point—what, are we two or three or four weeks into quarantine? Does anyone really know anymore?—we have seen the Facebook livestreams, the FaceTimes festooned with sobs, screaming, barking dogs, dabbing, hysteria, and love, and the tweets. Oh, heavens, the tweets:
there is no food, beverage or activity that is off limits to my children now if it buys me a moment of solitude. Right now Ilya is drinking orange-flavored metamucil and playing in the litterbox— Emily Gould (@EmilyGould) March 28, 2020
And we’d just like to say: We salute you.
Keep doing what you’re doing, and if you need a reminder that you’re doing your best or you just want a few back up tips on how to deal with your wild bunch at this point, we spoke to Roma Bhatt, the director of therapy services at Legacy Community Health—she primarily counsels kids and adolescents— on how families can continue to deal and stay sane right now.
Vitamin D and immune-boosting exercise first thing in the morning are excellent ways to start the day, but since kids need to stay off all playground equipment, find other activities you can do outdoors. "Bring things you child is interested in," Bhatt says. " A hula hoop, board game, jump rope, a picnic—take things with you."
Remember that kids can pick up on your vibe.
“How parents feel is often transferred,” Bhatt says. “If you’re feeling exceptionally anxious, kids will pick up on that: Mom is scared. I’m scared. Uh oh. So model for your children.”
Stick to your routine.
“There’s a reason school starts and ends on time, and the same with work,” Bhatt says. “Humans have always functioned well on routines.” No doubt your family has developed a routine by now, and it’s important to just stick with it. In fact, to mitigate trauma during disasters, routine is important. "Keeping our bed times, eating at regular times—we need structure.”
So wake up and get dressed. Bathe as you normally would, and make sure everyone has a special space for doing work that’s clear of other things.
Remember that kids can only concentrate so long.
You children are likely working hard to keep up with schooling, but if you’re having problems getting them to focus, remember this: “You’re expected attention span is between 3–5 minutes per year of age, up to 45 minutes.”
One important thing Bhatt advises: “Do school work first, screen time later.”
Participate in family household chores.
Now is the best time to instill in your kiddos a sense of responsibility when it comes to their home's upkeep, rather than just watching you go off with a Swiffer. "You don’t wan’t to let kids touch household cleaning products, but make sure to find age-appropriate chores every family member can do."
Create new family cultures and plans.
“As difficult as it is for kids to process what is happening, you can make this special for your child,” Bhatt says. Since kids will be getting more one-on-one time with parents and caregivers, this is the perfect opportunity to create special family bonding: Video chatting and making phone calls with relatives counts, but this could also be a great time to get in touch with old-fashioned snail mail and send letters too.
“Get on your child’s level, and ask them what’s fun," Bhatt says, whether that means playing Twister or having a special dance time to let loose. "We’re generally pretty boring compared to kids. If we’re not willing to get uncomfortable, embodying that inner child, kids will miss out on that.”
How about 'Create a Story'? One person starts and another passes it. “Expressing thoughts and feelings in this way is good for children,” Bhatt says.
Listening to music can also be calming—audiobooks and Youtube as a family can be fun, and, Bhatt says, "It doesn’t have to take away from screen time, so kids will be happy, like that’s extra?”
Stay adherent to any medication.
ADHD can increase frustration for everyone, but one thing to think about? "During the weekend, a lot of parents don’t give their kids meds, and while that may be fine, doctors are now saying you might want to reconsider—to give your child all the resources and tools to be successful while hunkering down."