Updated: Apr 27, 2020
4 Strategies to Help Keep Chaos at Bay During These Unprecedented Times
Did anyone else see this coming? The past few weeks have been unpredictable and scary to say the least. Maybe as a society we thought that this would pass without impact like H1N1 or Ebola and that life would carry on but fast-forward to today and just about everything is closed. With your kids being home-schooled and you working-from-home, your stress levels may have increased exponentially as you try to figure out how to navigate this pandemic. You may have found yourself trying to dot every t and cross every i in order to maintain some sanity-or you may be like me, froze in fear and did enough just to get by. Either way, it’s normal for your body to spring into action when met with uncertainty so here are 4 strategies to help you adjust while parenting during a pandemic:
1. Open Conversations
You child may have lots of questions surrounding school openings, washing their hands and even cancelled activities like birthday parties and sports practices. Some questions you may have answers to but others you won’t. And that's okay. Oftentimes kids think adults know-it-all and that is a dangerously toxic narrative. Saying, “I’m not sure”, fosters critical-thinking skills and allows them to utilize natural coping mechanisms that they lose out on when we attempt to rescue them. Empathy and transparency matters most during these critical conversations. It could sound like this: “We don’t know when you’re going back to school or when your soccer team will meet again, but we do know that we are going to do everything to make sure that you’re safe and happy during this time.”
2. Create a Schedule
Your daily schedule may be pretty similar if you have started working from home but now your priorities have changed. For many of us, this is our first time experiencing working from home and this has come with some major adjustments: Having a designated and functional work space, jumping on and off Zoom calls, and don’t forget, home-schooling. Integrating these demands doesn't have to be overwhelming. If your child is working through online assignments, this could mean designating 15 minutes every hour to review classwork and check in with your child. Maybe have a DIY lunch where you have two easy-two-make choices that they can assemble independently. And many schools are still open for your child to get lunch. Maybe you're experiencing furlough, this may be your first time that you have unscheduled time with your family in yearssss. Take advantage of this! What are some passion projects you have been wanting to do? Revisit your New Years Resolution. Yes, you most likely have forgotten about it. Start a family “book club” where you read independently and have a designated time to discuss. Or it may be time to finally finish that guest room. Either way, schedules help you allocate your time so that you don’t look up and wonder where it went.
3. Establish Non-Negotiables
With everyone being home now you may find it difficult to keep chaos at bay. In addition to creating a schedule it's important to have non-negotiables. We all have those things that drive us up a wall and it's even more essential that you set hard boundaries on what is and isn't acceptable at home. Maybe normal bed time is 7:30 but you push it back to 9 or put chicken nuggets on the menu twice in a week. That's okay. Remember that these are not normal times. What are the 2-3 hard rules in your home? Ours was no dishes in the sink-whether it be a cereal bowl or pots from Sunday dinner- no exceptions. Think about what rules are needed to help your family keep their sanity and stick to it. Rules are only as as good as the reinforcement.
Having an open mind during this time is paramount. It's easy to be hard on yourself and expect things to be just like they were- but they aren't. Give yourself grace and space to just be. Be flexible in how your normal day goes and constantly take note of how you and your family are feeling. We are all working under a considerable amount of stress. Daily tasks like getting groceries and gas now require advanced planning to ensure physical and psychological safety- meaning more executive functioning use or brain power. Little things now require more energy so you may feel more drained than usual. Are you more irritable than normal? Do you find it hard to wind down after the work day ends? Being aware of this will enable you to practice self-care in the very moment that you need it instead of burning out due to self-neglect. Pace yourself, this is a marathon not a sprint. There is no prize for being productive during a pandemic, you just need to do what keeps you healthy and happy.
Stress during these times is inevitable but it does not have to overwhelm you. You can have peace of mind while working-from-home and home-schooling. Use these strategies to help you adjust to the current reality and remember that this is not the new normal; it's the new now. If you're feeling burned out and at-ends with what to do, seek help from a professional. We offer tele-health services to provide care for your family within the safety of your home.
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