This last month or so has been the strangest of times. I have been largely away from my blog, because I haven’t really been sure what to say. It doesn’t seem like the right time to promote things that don’t feel important to basic life needs. And let’s face it…that’s most things. Most families in the US and around the world are focusing on having enough food to eat for the upcoming weeks of social isolation and keeping their families healthy. Many people are worried about whether they will be laid off and if they will be able to keep their small businesses afloat during this time. Few things seem important other than that.
But, mental health.
Oh man, so many people I know, myself included, have felt this pandemic taking a huge toll on their mental health. Most of the things I try and do when I am feeling low include getting out of the house, spending time with friends, ANYTHING, to distract myself. Shopping, getting my hair done, going out to eat. None of those things are safe right now. Hell, my kids aren’t even in school right now, along with the rest of the children in America.
It has really been on my heart this week to spend time focusing on what my kids need for self care. During times of crisis, we should all be upping our self care. To me, that means using distress tolerance skills that I learned in therapy for a crisis. Kids can’t always tell us when they are anxious, but we can pick up on some of their social cues. Increases in nightmares, clinginess, wetting the bed, defiance, and other atypical (for them) behaviors can be a tip off that they are feeling the stress. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist, but I wanted to share some things we have been doing with our kids to help them through this time.
We have been somewhat honest about what is going on.
I save my panicked discussions for when the kids are out of the room or when they are in bed. But generally speaking, I think acceptance is important for adults and for kids. Our kids know what the Coronavirus is and that we are staying at home to protect ourselves and others from getting sick with a bad virus.
If you want to explain to your kids what is going on, just type “Coronavirus for kids” into the browser on YouTube. It’s way easier for them to see it explained as a cartoon. And while you’re at it, get educated yourself too. My favorite video on Coronavirus is from a doctor who explains how it kills and why we should be taking precautions.
Moving on with daily life is important.
We are still doing fun and healthy activities like we would on any given weekend. We are hanging out at home 24/7 these days so it’s just more of what we love. We are practicing social distancing when we go out to run and play outside, we go for walks, FaceTime family members, and try to be productive around the house. The weather is getting nicer every day so we are spending a lot of time in our backyard. The world may be on hold right now because of the pandemic, but I won’t let it dull our sunshine at home.
We do fun activities every day to keep our mind off of the unknown.
One thing I’ve focused on during this time of forced closeness in our home is not pushing too much; we are trying to slow down and enjoy each moment. There are some things I’ve been wanting to do like organize the pantry, teach our seven year old how to ride her bike, and paint some rooms in our home, but I’m resisting the urge to jam pack each day with a busy agenda.
Like everyone else, we are “homeschooling,” yet I think a fairer term is “crisis schooling.” This is definitely NOT how most people get their start at homeschooling, and I don’t want to criticize those who do this year round. The rest of us are just winging it. Although we have a plan for every day given to us by the teachers, we aren’t pushing it. We’re taking our time doing it all, and doing a lot of playing in between. Burning energy, getting movement in, and laughing are all more important right now than meeting deadlines.
Connecting with friends and family keeps us distracted from the stress we are under, and is good for them too!
We have been checking in with friends and neighbors to make sure everyone has the food and supplies they need during this time. It’s hard to feel like we are truly “connecting” people when we can’t come within six feet of them right now, but getting the kids to find creative ways to interact has been fun. People in our neighborhood have been leaving hearts and teddy bears in their windows so others can do a scavenger hunt as they go by. Our kids have written numerous letters and drawn pictures for relatives and friends via snail mail. We’re also let them FaceTime their friends via Messenger Kids because just like I miss seeing my friends, I know they miss seeing theirs.
We are trying to live in the moment.
There is so much unknown right now. I have family members and friends in the hospital. I know people who are expecting a baby and can’t have their husband in the delivery room at the hospital due to new Pandemic rules. I have elderly and immune compromised people in my life that I worry if I’ll get to see again. I’m nervous about what is happening in the world and wonder if people are taking the precautions to stay home seriously enough.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, I remember that depressed people live in the past, and anxious people live in the future. Peaceful people live in the present moment. I am trying to teach my kids to embrace the now, and enjoy self care. Our first “home school” lesson involved the five senses. It was a very fun mindfulness exercise. First we picked out five things we could see; then four things we could hear; three things we could smell; two things we could touch; and one thing we could smell. We used lotion for the sensation of soft skin, and also for scent. We ate chocolate chips for taste. It was a fun way to teach the kids self-soothing techniques.
Speaking of self care, we have been doing quite a lot of pampering.
In crisis moments, it’s important to up your self care. We have been taking lots of baths with bubbles, giving each other hand massages, and painting our fingers and toes. My kids have been especially into Piggy Paint, a safe, non-toxic nail polish that comes in a variety of colors. It smells delicious and fruity and the formula is water-based. I love that my kids can give each other manis (and give me manis!) without the smelly fumes. It’s non-flammable, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, vegan, and made in the USA. Most importantly, it’s readily available on Target.com, which is where I do 90% of my online shopping these days.
Any kind of self care that puts a smile on our faces is just what the doctor ordered for days like these. The Pandemic has got everyone freaking out, but I’m hoping the anxiety misses my kids if we do a good job giving them healthy coping mechanisms!
I’ll write a post soon on what I’m doing for my own self care these days. I’ve been doing quite a bit.