Small Steps that Can go A Long Way
These are not “normal” times and so we are all adjusting and trying to figure out our new normal. For parents, there is a double challenge of finding this new normal for yourselves as well as our children. But know that you are not alone in this journey and there are a few principles that can help guide you at this challenging time.
Many people have been under the Stay-at-Home orders for several weeks now, and have experienced ebbs and flows in their levels of stress. During times when you feel that your stress is on the rise, it is helpful to tune in and notice if there is a need that is being missed. Perhaps there was a bit too much time being spent on the news and not enough downtime between Zoom meetings and math lessons. We may be carrying our same ideas around “productivity” in our previous normal and carrying it over despite the Stay-at-Home directives, but even prior to the pandemic we know that the push for productivity was wearing people down.
There are several quick strategies to get to calm. Some feel calmer after taking deep breaths (inhaling for four slow seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds). Others prefer a grounding exercise to bring awareness into the environment. You can use your senses to notice objects in the room, the feel of the objects around you or the clothes you are wearing, the sounds in the room, the scents around you or on you, and the taste in your mouth. Practicing these techniques can help increase our mindfulness and thus help us stay focused and feel calmer.
2. Adjust Expectations
Expecting yourself or your child to function as usual is not realistic. There have been sudden and unexpected changes that disrupted not just the day-to-day routine that you had, but also the activities that you may have looked forward to for some time. It is absolutely okay to feel sadness, frustration, or worry. We can make space for these feelings and reconsider what the day-to-day should look like for now.
Many families find it helpful to keep the same structure that they had before in terms of getting up, getting dressed and ready for the day. But the challenge may hold again around the idea of getting “enough” academic work done. There are different schools of thought on how to go about homeschooling. There is what is considered “unschooling,” which is based on the idea that children are continuously learning, and thus do not rely on actual academic curriculum in order to gain understanding of new concepts. For example, in the home setting, you may find your child naturally moving towards activities that seem to be more “play” oriented, but there is still learning to be had here whether they are counting Lego pieces needed, experimenting with physics by creating structures, or working through social-emotional concepts, which can help contribute to lifelong success.
Some families, however, continue to find that having structured curriculum is helpful beyond the traditional school setting. In order to address challenges with staying focused, you may want to consider giving your child breaks between activities or after a certain time period. For example, focusing on an assignment or tasks for no more than 10 minutes at a time with physical or pleasurable activities during breaks. This requires some trial and error to determine what works best for your child.
Remember though that there is no “right way” to homeschool, since every child and family’s needs vary and especially at this time.
3. Savor and Play
While the day continues to feel busy for many working parents, you may find more nuggets of time than before to spend with your children. If you are not, then it may be worthwhile to see if you are burning yourself out or wearing yourself too thin. That time that you used to spend in traffic is no more, but maybe the morning routine has lengthened. Creating and finding moments of joy can help us reconnect with our children and vice versa. So enjoy that good morning hug a little bit longer, watch your child as they feed themselves from across the table, and spend some joining them in their play.
Some people have shared feeling helpless and concerned of what is to come, but it is important to remember what we are doing in order to create the best-case scenario. By washing your hands and social distancing, we are working together to create safety in our homes and within the community. We are flattening the curve in order to allow healthcare to those that need it most, when they need it most. Having a mantra around creating safety within your home and community is a great way to remember the power that we each hold.
During such challenging times, it can also be helpful to reach out for additional support. We are here to help you whether it is for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. We understand that everyone’s needs are different and we would be honored to support you at this time. You can call us at (818) 810-7079 to learn about what our services could look like for you.
Azine Graff, Psy.D.
Disclaimer: Information and resources provided on the internet by Harmony in Parenting - A Psychology Center, Inc.
does not constitute psychotherapy, a replacement for a therapeutic relationship, or a substitute for mental health or medical care. If having a psychiatric emergency, please visit your nearest emergency room or call 911.