Self-isolation, social distancing, and the stay at home movement: these are our new words, new reality, and new ways of being as we navigate the coronavirus pandemic. As stress and anxiety levels rise so does the uncertainty of each day. We don’t know how long this will last and we cannot predict what will happen. We do know it will end. We all need this hope!
As adults, we are trying to process the enormity and gravity of the current global situation and the “new normal.” Kids are trying as well, as best they can. Yet, it can be overwhelming for them. They are faced with the disappointments of not being able to see their friends, the cancellation of all sports and activities, no spring break vacation, and no school—indefinitely. It’s a lot for us all.
We absolutely can do something amidst change and uncertainty: We can focus on choice and we can teach our kids what they are in control of their mind, body, and heart. Here’s how we can empower them:
Choosing a healthy mindset: This is critical. It is all too easy to focus and obsess about the “what if’s” like “What if I get the virus?” “What if this never ends?” Yet we can also choose what true for you today and healthier thinking. This may include: “I have enough food and water,” “My family is here and they can support me,” and “I have activities to do at home.” Also try these positive coping statements like, “I can handle this if I take one step at a time” or “I’d choose something else but I can get through this, too.” Positive language that boosts us is the only language right now. “I got this!” and “I am not alone.” We truly are all in this together. It could help to make gratitude lists such as 10 things I’m grateful for today or future-focused lists such as 10 things I’m most looking forward to or practice silver lining thinking like now I have time to catch up on those books I wanted to read! It’s about shifting perception and choosing healthy thoughts!
Choosing a healthy body: We all need to stay healthy right now by being clean, keeping our distance, getting enough water, nutrition, and sleep, and staying active. Kids, especially, need to move. The health benefits are numerous: body movement is good for digestion, circulation, energy, mood, and brain development. We all need a dose of those “feel-good hormones” like dopamine, adrenalin, and serotonin and one of the best sources is exercise, not screens and social media which many kids believe. Get creative, using your home or backyard. Together, as a family, you can try jumping jacks, push-ups, sprints on the spot, play fighting, kicking a soccer ball in the basement, jumping on the trampoline, running around the yard, throwing the Frisbee, or playing with the dog. Exercise is a natural de-stressor and a distractor. Keep moving. Help kids choose this time to get fit, keep fit, and have some fun playing.
Choosing a healthy heart: no doubt feelings will go up and down at this time. One minute, kids will feel happy and seem “fine”; the next minute they will be teary and frustrated. Some may feel they need distance; others will crave constant closeness. Our feelings are a result of our thoughts. Think a positive thought; cultivate a positive feeling. Let’s start by honoring all feelings, encouraging self-expression in the ways they need, using their “I statements” like “I feel so confused…” or “I feel insecure.” Let’s also validate all feelings, reminding them it’s okay to feel sad, scared, and angry. Avoid dismissing feelings with phrases or minimizing feelings. Teach them to choose how to feel the feeling – name it, express it and release it. And then they can choose to have a happy heart – finding ways to feel happy and hopeful. This could include baking, cooking, arts and crafts, a bravery jar, listening to music, yoga, drawing or painting, playing an instrument, creating videos, or going on Tik-Tok.
Unfortunately, none of us can control the actions of others, how other people react, how long we will have to live in an upside-down world. But we can empower ourselves, then our kids to focus on what they can choose—their minds, bodies, and hearts.