Quarantine Stage 2 -Distance Learning. 21 Tips to Make It Easier For Everyone
Many people, by now have at least started to shift their expectations and adjust. However, for others, the Stage 2 shift will be starting this week, or next, as spring break schedules end, and online school begins. Even if you have a bright child who is introverted, or if you already home school, being quarantined is a shift from normal. Depending on your child’s age, temperament and schooling situation, a variety of things might be happening or on the verge of happening any moment now.
Typically most children have changes in behavior when there are big changes in their lives. If your child is emotionally sensitive, physically intense, has sensory issues or is highly introverted or extroverted you have probably already noticed some major changes in your child’s or teen’s mood and/or behavior. It’s important to be patient and gentle with them as they are still adjusting to their new normal.
We are all feeling the stress of our disrupted routines, different ways of socializing and our limited ability to leave the house. Children rely heavily on predictable routines to feel safe. Even if your child is home schooled, their routine has changed if both parents are now working from home, they can’t go on field trips or have physical play dates. Introverted children now have more people surrounding them and less quiet time, while extroverted children have lower social interaction with peers. Kids who aren’t home schooled are now adjusting to using online resources and you to teach them. You will be adjusting to this as well. On top of all of this, it may be difficult for everyone to get enough movement, which is hard, but the worst for those kids who have a physical overexcitability. Considering all of this, it’s not surprising many kids are having higher rates of anxiety, frustration and difficulty regulating emotions, especially our bright, sensitive kids, whose brains never stop.
Not to worry, I’ve got you covered, and you’ve got this. Here are some ideas to help you and you’re kids make the next shift without panic, meltdowns or shutdowns.
1. Keep yourself in check and up the self care. Make sure you are taking breaks, getting enough sleep, and having proper nutrition. This will help you to be more patient and emotionally available to your kids who really need you right now. If your kid is losing it and you are losing it with them, no one is doing okay.
2. Create and maintain a routine for each day, which incorporates healthy habits, a couple little chores, school work and play breaks.
3. Continue to eat meals and snacks. Include healthy foods and water. Avoid the urge to binge on sugar and junk, which can contribute to mood swings later. Proper nutrition will help you combat stress, and your child’s stress.
4. Dress to improve your mood. While it might be tempting to let everyone’s hygiene slip, or live in P.J.s or sweats, don’t. Cheery clothes and good hygiene can improve everyone’s mood, and is part of that routine that helps our children feel safe. Try having a spirit week with different themed clothes each day to keep up morale. You can also do this with friends, and share the fun online.
5. Spend extra time playing with your children and teens. As with other areas of their lives, be kind and patient with them. Follow their lead and let them choose what to play. Play will help them to process what is happening, and will help all of you to better regulate your nervous systems.
6. Reduce stress and practice calming strategies. Play physical games like tag and hide and go seek. Take calm breaks while playing to practice deep breathing, using comfort objects and visualizing calm spaces.
7. Play every day. No matter what your age, play makes you happy, helps you to learn new things and relieves stress. Most ages can play online games with friends, play board games and card games. Make your own games.
8. Help Kids Explore your world. This can be going out in your back yard and looking at plants and animals, looking at different things in your house or doing science experiments.
9. Find ways to safely connect with others. The internet can be one of your best resources in this area. You can have virtual play dates, hang outs and trips to the museum .
10. Create a self care, comfort kit. Do this for yourself, and make one with your children. Your self care kit should include items that engage each of your 5 senses in a pleasant way. Include a weighted object and something that can help you move. Gum, breath strips and mints are great. Add a sketchbook, coloring pages, and/or a journal. Bubbles and balloons for blowing are good for practicing deep breathing in a fun way. Beautiful pictures, and pictures that evoke positive memories are a nice add, as well as some of your favorite music. Also consider using ideas from a sensory diet. Use the kits to help kids get in the mood to study, relax when their tired or to calm an intense mood.
11. Keep in mind everyone is doing the best they can right now. Tension may rise as we spend more time together. Try to be patient with yourself and others. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt when possible, and make repairs as needed.
12. Give space where possible. It’s important for everyone to have their own place to safely retreat and regroup daily.
13. Chunk out the day. Taking on a whole day of home study can be overwhelming, especially for kids and parents who haven’t done it before. Take it in small pieces with short, movement breaks in between. If possible, give your child or teen choices as to which tasks they want to tackle first.
14. Children may be even more emotionally sensitive than usual. Calmly give them words for what they are experiencing and model positive ways of managing stress. Help them to use their calm kit, practice deep breathing with long exhales with them, and allow them to utilize comfort objects. And don’t forget the hugs!
15. Find humor where possible. Laughter reduces stress and anxiety, and makes life more fun and everyone is calmer.
16. Help your child or teen to look for the helpers. When scary things are happening around us, it can be calming to notice who is helping and what is going right. Assist your children in finding those people, and empower them to be helpers when possible.
17. Choose where you focus your attention. By allowing yourself to focus on safety, helpers and what is going right you will feel more empowered, and hopeful. Help your children to do the same.
18. Notice what you can control in your life and make the most of it. Helping children to notice what they can control will also help them to be more open to participating in new things, especially those things that may be uncomfortable or frustrating.
19. Set and maintain appropriate boundaries with children and teens. When everyone is home, it's easy to loosen up. Like routines, knowing the limits helps kids to feel safe by knowing where they stand with you. Be gentle, but firm.
20. Stay present, and remind yourself, this is only temporary.
21. Talk to someone. Plenty of helpers are here for you and your children. Research shows online therapy is just as effective as meeting in person. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support in your area!
About the Author: Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.