As shelter-in-place and safer-at-home orders linger on, stress levels continue to rise. The world around has changed as we know it and this new normal has taken its toll on each of us. Learning how to appropriately manage how we handle the stress brought on by change is important, particularly for parents who are modeling coping skills for the next generation.
“Change is hard and we need to remember that life isn’t just changing for adults, it’s changing for our kids, too,” said Monica Roberts, LPC-S, Outpatient Therapist with Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Kids are looking to their parents to understand how to feel about what is happening in the world and how to handle the new stress that has entered their lives from all directions. The coping skills parents use today are the skills their kids will model later in life. By keeping a check on emotions and managing stress, parents are teaching their children essential coping skills.”
Roberts reminds us that navigating this new normal is just that, new, and it’s going to take time for all of us to find our rhythm. There will be hard days and there will be easier days and finding ways to manage those highs and lows that work for your family should be the ultimate goal.
“With everyone together and fewer places to go, each person in your home needs to have a designated quiet spot to escape to when they start to feel frustrated or overwhelmed,” says Roberts. “While we may feel frustration, it’s never ok to take it out on others. Put together a sensory box of things that make you feel better when you are stressed and keep it in your quiet spot. I recommend items that appeal to your senses like calming music and maybe some aromatherapy. Practice deep breathing and maybe journal how you feel. Find a way to express those feelings without being hurtful to yourself or others.”
Roberts also reminds us to channel our positive thinking. While a quarantine brings certain hardships, it can also be a unique time to focus on reconnecting as a family.
“Without the demands of extracurricular activities, events to attend, late-night homework and so on, this frees kids to find joy in their everyday experience,” says Roberts. “Even if parents are still working (in or away from home), carve out time to play a game, take a walk, ride bikes, do a craft project, watch a movie or bake a cake together. When you need some time to work, encourage your kids to explore outside, read a book, draw or play make-believe. Find the right balance of spending time together while also focusing on independent play and work.”
We’ve all become accustomed to busy schedules so it shouldn’t be a surprise that despite your best efforts, you’ll hear some grumbling about things your kids will wish they could do. Particularly for high school seniors who are having to manage the disappointment of missing major moments in their lives, encourage them to focus on the positive.
“There is a certain degree of disappointment parents and kids alike are feeling, whether it is missing a kindergarten play, baseball season, senior prom or a family vacation,” says Roberts. “As much as kids look forward to these milestone moments, parents do too. It doesn’t do our bodies or our minds any good to dwell on the negative. It’s normal to feel like things are hard because they are, but we need to remember that this is temporary. Take this opportunity to reframe how you look at this moment in our lives and find the good. Positive thinking is a powerful tool in warding off anxiety and depression and in building resiliency.”
Focusing our attention on things we can control will make our continued adjustment easier. While we can’t control events that are canceled, we can find our ways to celebrate. While we don’t know when quarantines will lift, we do know that this is a temporary season in our lives. Do what you can now and make plans for later. This gives you and your child something positive to look forward to.
“Having your life turned upside-down is hard on everyone,” says Roberts. “There’s no real way to plan for it, but we can control how we react to it. Those reactions will leave an impression on our kids for years to come. The best advice I can give is this, do the best you can in each moment and get as much out of it as you can. When this is over, hopefully, we can look back on this as a time that made our families better rather than a missed opportunity.”
ABOUT CANOPY CHILDREN’S SOLUTIONS: Canopy Children’s Solutions is Mississippi’s largest and most comprehensive nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions. Founded in 1912, Canopy offers a full array of integrated, community-based services in all 82 counties as well as intensive campus-based and educational programming. For more information, please contact 800-388-6247 or visit us on the web at mycanopy.org.