In Tri Delta’s new series, “3 For You,” we’re covering the best tips from experts as we navigate our new circumstances during COVID-19. Tri Delta alumna Laura Ann Pierce, Southern Methodist, a licensed marriage and family therapist and registered play therapist, provides helpful hints on how we approach our children in determining new routines in our daily lives. Read her three tips below, watch her video and listen to Laura’s full interview on Let’s Talk Tri Delta.
Tip #1: Be Consistent
With so much unpredictable change happening daily, focus on what you can control. Offer yourself and your children predictable routines and structure whenever possible. Have a set time to wake up, a time to eat meals and a time to sleep. This structure will become consistent when other factors aren’t.
Structure doesn’t just mean a calendar. It means YOU need to also be consistent in your parenting so the children know what they can expect from you. This predictability is important for children, but for adults, too! With predictability comes safety. And in uncertain times, we’re all looking for a sense of safety and security.
Other ways to be consistent:
- Print out a schedule for children to follow on their own. If you are working from home, make your own schedule so you stay on task but also take care of yourself.
- Review the daily schedule at dinner for the next day or in the morning at breakfast so everyone is aware what is happening for the day (a big conference call for mom? Movie time for kids!) Outlining predictable expectations can prevent chaotic reactions.
- Mimic a school schedule, offering times of study and times of play (for grown-ups, too!) Or mimic your work schedule. If you typically take lunch at 12:00 p.m., take lunch at 12:00 p.m.
- For younger children, have a timer that helps them anticipate when a transition is happening, especially if they are transitioning out of play and into work.
Tip #2: Be Connected
Our bodies may need isolation, but our hearts need connection. As parents, the best thing to remember is to stay connected to your child. Listen to their fears (or even excitements) during this time. Pay attention to what’s hard for them. Notice the things they are learning. Children are looking for safety in this uncertain time, and they are going to look to their important adults to determine how safe they really are.
Remember that all feelings are ok during a time like this. Don’t minimize their fears; rather, validate their concerns while offering reasonable expectations. For young children, you are unlikely to hear them tell you they are struggling. Rather, they will show you with their behavior that they are having a hard time.
“Little Worm: A Story About Worry” is an excellent resource for families right now. This family-friendly book has a central message is that things don’t always turn out as expected, and while hard can feelings come along with that, there are always ways to manage the fear and anxiety. The book can be used as a social-emotional lesson for anyone participating in at-home learning. It’s also a great bedtime story to normalize messaging about fear and worry. In the back, there is a note to caregivers outlining specific ways to address worry with children if parents or caregivers are seeking extra support about that.
Other ways to be connected:
- Schedule virtual playdates with friends you typically see.
- Draw pictures or write letters to send to grandparents who you have limited contact with.
- Connect with friends through phone calls or cards.
- Seek out enough information to provide you with direction, but not so much information that you are overloaded. Prioritize personal connection over connection to your device.
Tip #3: Be Calm
Children are sponges, not only for information, but for mood and emotion. If you can stay calm and manage your own anxieties, you will send that important message to your children. If this is particularly hard for you, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with your therapist or find a therapist you can connect with to support you during this time. Many therapists are offering telehealth options so you can meet online instead of needing to make it into the office. Recognize that the changes are major stressors for many of us and while we are expected to make it all work, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task.
For moments when you are discussing stress or fear about the scenario, attempt to do so out of ear shot of children or after they have gone to bed. If you are overwhelmed (which is inevitable), allow yourself to take a break. If your child watching an extra Daniel Tiger can help you get yourself calm and centered, then let that happen. Manage your expectations for yourself during this time, too. Many things you might otherwise do won’t happen right now, and that’s ok.
Other ways to be calm:
- Do a yoga class online either by yourself or with your family.
- Read a book for pleasure.
- Take a walk outside and get some fresh air.
- Connect with your support network.
- Ask for help from a partner when you need it.
- Limit access to social media and new cycles.
- Avoid excessive alcohol use as a way to relax.
- Keep your systems and structure in place so you can have predictability.
Find more 3 For You topics and resources here.