The COVID-19 stormed into our lives, and now, some of us are still under certain restrictions or even lockdown, and some are starting to return to some kind of new-normality.
While all of this is happening in adult life (and lots of people still need the time to process what just has happened), the question is how this impacted children? What this immense curve will leave them with?
By now, you might notice some changes in you, your partner, friends, or even your children.
These changes can appear in many forms, for example, changes in sleeping habits or eating habits, the amount of laughter around you, things you used to enjoy with might have changed, shifts in areas of interest, likes and dislikes, patience and the ability to cope with things you used to do offhandedly.
What we can do to make it easier for ourselves, our children, and family?
First, acknowledge the tough situation. Understand its hard for many people and you are not alone. It’s hard for both adults and children. Most of the world was asked, at some point, to stay home (or still at home), in many cases it included home-schooling and working from home, but the main thing is that our daily routine life has been disrupted. We didn’t choose it, we have been forced to this scenario due to an external force, a pandemic.
Therefore, acknowledging that this is an unprecedented and prolonged situation, might help you keep the balance and be kind to yourself.
Children experience this abrupt change as challenging too. They have been forced to stay home, not seeing their friends and having no school, being in some ways isolated from their peers and surroundings, this is hard! especially if your children are young and cannot perceive the rational reason behind this change. The isolation of younger age groups is more substantial; they do not capture the digital medium as a bridge to communicate with others, trying bonding through the virtual medium is harder for them.
Second, reconnect, ‘go back to basic’ for yourself.
Recall the basic things you enjoy with, maybe the things you liked to do as a child, what was the special thing that always made you happy. This seed of happiness, can grow and expand within you, which may also influence other family members. Connecting to deep passions is the core to ignite happiness in tough times.
Being at home may be the perfect time to go back to your passions:
- Create art
- Play a musical instrument
Alternatively, you can use the time to try out the thing you always wanted to. Maybe you can share this activity with others, and have a meaningful time together? The important thing is to re-connect with yourself.
Third, ‘back to basic’ for your children. This situation brings emotions up. Your kids’ emotions can be seen in different ways, like fears, anger, tantrums, refusals behaviors, or even withdrawing and not feeling joy in anything. Try to observe your children, as old as they are, in a new pair of eyes; observe them as they were younger from their age, even as toddlers or newborns. What are their basic needs? what do they need from the world, from their parents and caregivers? The most basic needs of humans according to Maslow’s hierarchy are taking care of physical needs, safety, and love & belonging (the top 2 layers are self-esteem and self-actualization). Children (and adults!) need to feel and know that someone “out there” is caring for them, will keep them safe, and love them. Thus, give your child a loving smile and a warm hug even if he or she doesn’t seem to need it.
Noting that stressful times may lead to regression in emotional needs, try to connect with your child in a similar way you have been connecting with them as toddlers, giving them sense of safety. If you can, increase playtime that includes positive touch; these can assist greatly in producing good hormones in the body and reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) on the other hand. These kind of activities and games are useful for this purpose:
- Writing on each other’s back
- Family circle massage
- Playing tennis balloon
- ‘Sushi roll’ on a blanket
- Hold a pillow between parent-child and walk across the room
- Follow the leader (you can add funny faces!)
- Drawing together following youtube videos
If your kids are too old for such games, you can simply have joint virtual family activities like trivia night (e.g. “Kahoot!”), or watching funny youtube together. Find ways to connect and have joyful family time.
Although playing games seem simple, they have such a profound impact. Our children’s bodies will remember the positivity they feel.
Lastly, don’t be shy to take “time outs” for YOU.
It is natural to feel exhausted sometimes! be open and compassionate to yourself, try to be aware of internal clues that signal you’re heading into ‘that’s too much’ zone, and take some “time out” for yourself. Tell your spouse, or your child, that you need a few minutes alone (making sure your children are safe). These days, “time out” places might be more limited but find the appropriate, safe, and available solution for you. Some options for “time out” can be:
- Take a few minutes alone in your bedroom, balcony, or garden.
- Do some physical activity by yourself at home.
- Go out for shopping, a walk, or run.
- Enjoy cooking time alone while hearing music you like.
- Talking with another person that always makes you feel good.
And don’t forget – be compassionate to yourself, you are doing your BEST!