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All of us are beginning to realize that life as we have known it has dramatically changed. We’re at war against an invisible enemy that is wreaking havoc on our lives. Playdates for our children, lunch with friends, a steady income, worship, exercise classes, school, sports, graduations and even shopping are either non-existent, canceled, postponed, or look very different at this moment in time. Our lives have been interrupted in a huge way.

Even for the most spontaneous person, our dramatically different way of living has many of us on edge. And we may be wondering how to react during this COVID-19 outbreak.

“During times of trauma and uncertainty, we are stressed, weary and overwhelmed,” says Dr. Gary Oliver, clinical psychologist. “Our typical response is to ‘react’ in the moment, which often makes things worse. This is our emotional brain hijacking our thinking.”

Especially during these times, Oliver says we need to be intentional about “responding” instead of “reacting.” 

“In life there are only three kinds of situations: things I can control, things I can’t control but can influence, which is a larger group, but the degree of influence probably isn’t as great as we think, and things that are totally out of our control,” Oliver says. “We can’t control the COVID-19 outbreak. But we can be sure to wash our hands and distance ourselves from others. If you are a person of faith, you can pray. We can exercise to stay healthy, we can be kind and help others who are more susceptible to catching the virus.”

Oliver believes that focusing we can control and influence will help us thrive as we work get through this crisis. For each decision you face during this time, Oliver recommends you think of the situation as a blinking yellow caution light. We all need to slow down and proceed with caution because we’re at risk of reacting in ways that’ll only complicate the situation or possibly make things worse.

Here are some specific actions Oliver recommends to help us deal with the days ahead:

Sit down and make a list of all the things you can totally “control.” In all likelihood, this is a very short list. 

Then make a list of the things you believe you can influence. 

Finally, list the things you can do nothing about – and this is probably an endless list. Oliver says most of the time people are kind of shocked by how few things they can actually control. Some studies suggest that approximately two-thirds of what we worry about are things totally beyond our control.

Now, rank the list of things you can actually influence from one to 10, with 10 being the highest. The things at the bottom of the list are the things you actually have the least influence over. Then look at the things you scored five and above. Ask yourself, “What are some specific things I can do in these areas?” Your answers may be something like this: I can stay aware of the latest updates or I can practice good self-care. 

Speaking of practicing good self-care, Oliver points out that we are only as good for our spouse, children, extended family and friends as we are for ourselves. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can really be unhelpful to others. You can love yourself and others by eating well, resting, utilizing spiritual resources if you are a person of faith and getting exercise. 

Count your blessings. In challenging times, it is easy to focus on the negative instead of what you actually have. Make a list of your blessings. Do you have food? Is there a roof over your head? Can you walk, talk, see and hear? Do you have people who love you and are checking in on you? Do you have electricity, running water and access to the internet? Visually seeing your list is empowering. 

Support others. Ask yourself, “How can I encourage, express appreciation, support or pray for others?”

Find ways to connect face to face through Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or something else. Although we’re having to maintain social distancing, relationships are still so important and add value to our lives. Texting and Facebook are ok, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face contact. Seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice is comforting and psychologically, physiologically, and emotionally nurturing. We all need that, especially now. Isolation is good for not spreading the virus, but relationship isolation isn’t healthy.

Pay attention to your pets. Brain science now tells us that interactions with our pets can be life-giving, especially in times of crisis. 

When people feel like they can’t do anything, anxiety, fear, discouragement, and depression creep in. People become overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. 

These suggestions may seem small in the scheme of things, but they’re not insignificant. Instead, these recommendations can help you grow smarter and make wiser decisions. Look for the opportunity to encourage others, because it’s not just about your own survival. It’s about helping others, too!

Ask yourself, “What’s going to be my next healthy step?”

Image from Unsplash.com

Feeling overwhelmed with coming up with things to do with your kids stuck at home? Check out this ultimate list of ideas! Thanks to the Princess Awesome & Boy Wonder Community for the amazing suggestions!! (for actual quarantine, school closures, weekend social distancing, anytime!)

  • Have each kid pick a topic they’d like to learn about and spend 30 mins each day on that topic
  • Spend one day reading every single picture book we have in the house
  • Go through all the old mail laying around (ok, that one’s not for kids although they do enjoy helping tear stuff up)
  • Bake something every day
  • Have each kid write a letter and/or emails to a different friend or family member each day
  • Use all of our building toys on one giant structure
  • Wash our hands!!!!
  • Races of various kinds in the backyard (hopping on one foot, crabwalk, walking backwards, etc.)
  • Try stop motion animation with playdough
  • Facetime grandparents a lot
  • watch everything on Disney+
  • inventory the plants & wildlife (from bugs on up) in your yard.
  • learn the parts of plants/flowers & how they function (bonus if they learn the Latin names).
  • if you aren’t too squeamish & have a spare clear shoebox size tote or 5-10 gallon tank, catch some pillbugs (rolly pollies, sowbugs) & observe them (if you really do this, i can tell you how to set them up. i have about a thousand of them currently because it’s too cold here to thin the herd & they’ve been reproducing all winter. they’re pretty interesting).
  • write a short story & illustrate it.
  • learn how to do simple book binding.
  • make paper (from your old mail!)
  • have the kids help with yardwork in between playing games outside. They’re little, but they like getting dirty and “working” in the gardens.
  • GoNoodle! Great for guided movement, relaxation, etc.
  • Board games, card games
  • Legos. 
  • We have some extreme dot to dot books (1400 dots) that the kids love, especially the 5 year old! 
  • Lots of reading, playing with the dog, 
  • Working on learning to sew using stuff we have on hand. 
  • Card making/scrapbooking projects (mostly for me but kids can do it too). 
  • Getting the garden ready, we need to weed and work the ground. I might get seeds and we’ll set up to have our own starts this year.
  • Make tents and reading caves : ) flashlights, tidy snacks, books, and pillows!
  • Have a shadow show in the reading tent (we used blankets over chairs or a table)
  • Get binoculars and learn about the birds near your house, look them up on google and search for their birdcalls on YouTube
  • Learn how to make a stuffed animal
  • Play with cornstarch and water and cheap action figures
  • many educational websites are waving fees if your students school is closed
  • Collect a bunch of tape markers and cardboard boxes. That’ll keep them busy for a day or two.
  • Watch all the hand washing videos & vote on your favorite. Discuss why each good, helpful, funny. The Holderness parody one is hilarious, the Vietnam Tiktok one is great choreography, some have good songs etc.
  • Also pick your favorite song with a 20 second refrain or verse perfect for hand washing length of time.
  • Family puzzles. Ones that are 500-1000 pieces and a challenging but not frustrating picture
  • We homeschool (4 kids) and honestly, just have fun!!!!!
  • Team up and really clean and organize each kid’s space, making a donation box for each. Parents are included.
  • Have a board game day
  • kids can also make their own games! Board games, card games, you name it! My daughter spent a lot of time this winter creating soccer and football games played with cards for moves and pieces made out of legos
  • Write a story cooperatively. One person picks a character and the other picks a setting and then go gangbusters together.
  • the folding picture story one! We called it “eat poop you cat” one person draws a small picture across the top of a paper the next person writes a sentence that describes that picture and folds Over the paper top of the paper hot dog style to cover the picture. So the 3rd person only sees a sentence and they have to draw a picture. They fold over the sentence.
  • Any and all art is fun at home: beading, painting, drawing, play dough or kinetic sand, sewing, etc. when my daughter was young we could do art all day.
  • Massive board game tournament with all the (mostly forgotten) board games we own!
  • Stolen from “growing up global fb page”
  • If your school is going on #quarantine and running #schoolonline, get #GlobalKids for the special price of just $10.98. Take a screen-free, curiosity + creativity boosting, global empathy + engagement trip around the world, from comfort of your home
  • My daughter (6) has enjoyed doing yoga at home. There are kid-friendly YouTube videos and printed cards with poses.
  • Zumba or Dance-along videos on YouTube
  • We home school exclusively and the best advice I have is check out Pinterest. There are tons of ideas for activities, games, etc. 
  • Draw self portraits on blank faces 
  • color coded different interesting places on a map. 
  • I’ve had them draw maps of places and then make directions from one place to another to see if someone else could follow it. 
  • We’ve done scavenger hunts, indoor treasure hunts where they follow clues through the house to a “treasure” at the end (could be candy, a movie, whatever), and a lot of charades.
  • I made videos with my 3rd grade daughter teaching kids how to write code. Check out the videos here
  • My daughter wanted a doll house for her 18″ dolls. We saved cardboard boxes and got more from Dollar general and got to work. The closets and couch are cardboard as well. 
  • There are a few easy “kitchen chemistry” type science experiments that are easy to do, like making slime, baking soda and vinegar reaction, etc.
  • we put food coloring under the baking soda in a mini muffin pan and used Pipette to drop vinegar in and then you can see the color!
  • Last summer we did an experiment to learn what each ingredient did for a cake (so we made one following the recipe, one without eggs, one without milk, etc.). We then compared and contrasted the different cakes … Then we ate a lot of weird cake.
  • There are a bunch of ideas on the lab section of our webpage! And we have letters from women in STEM around the world!
  • give the dogs a bath and brush 
  • wash and clean out my car (mostly their food trash and dirty socks)
  • mow the lawn (my 11 year old just learned!)
  • play sidewalk chalk outside
  • glow stick party
  • popcorn + movie marathon
  • Listen to kid podcasts – we love story pirates and smash boom best. 
  • Declutter toys! 
  • Have an Olympics with a bunch of events competitions – funny ones, helpful ones like cleaning and really fun ones like minute to win in style.
  • Learn new card games
  • We’re going to learn to make sushi!
  • Lots of art projects! 
  • Dig up all the activity books, presents, etc that never got played with, and use those!
  • There’s always time tested building a tent in the house with blankets and chairs. Great for just before nap time.
  • We are going to bust out our hiking gear and try new hiking paths. As long as you stay away from over populated areas you will naturally stay a safe distance from others and sick people generally don’t hike!
  • Do a study on planets, then have the kids create their own planets- how big is it, where in the universe is it located, atmosphere conditions, can it sustain life, how long is a day/year, name it, etc.
    • you could even spread the planets out around the house to show “approx.” distance from each other. 
    • Watch this to learn about relative distance
  • Design a new space craft, draw plans, then create out of legos or household items. Spend some time pretending you’re on different planets with different gravity, you could seriously spend a whole week on just fun space activities.
    • But that’s not limited to space- these ideas would work for animals, geography, body systems, historical events/time periods, etc. Beyond that, do some fun physics experiments like making a bridge out of straws, egg drop protectors, paper airplanes, etc.
  • PuppetMaster:  an app where you can animate anything from a drawing to a stuffed animal.
  • Practice spinning poi – my daughter is just learning how to spin and it’s been fun practicing together.
  • Puzzle races: put several puzzles (20+ piece puzzles) in a paper bag and shake it up. Pour pieces out and give each person the puzzle box they are to put together. Go! (Cooperation tends to be a result as pieces are traded.)
  • Dig through cabinets and figure out recipes for that thing you got at the grocery store and thought “this is interesting surely it can be used for something!” And then make it!
  • Audible!
  • Water play
  • Make ice cream
  • Make and play with Play dough
  • Gardening
  • I let them “paint the fence” with washable paints outside
  • My mother used to let us put on swimsuits and get out our beach towels and have a pretend beach party on rainy or snowy days, complete with Beach Boys music.

For more COIVD-19 Resources, click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

Turn on any television, read the front page of the newspaper, listen to the radio or check in on social media and the chances are really good you will hear or see something about Coronavirus (COVID-19). As adults, we are hungry to learn all we can about it in an effort to protect ourselves and the ones we love. And when it comes to talking to our kids about Coronavirus, we try to be careful.

Even though you may think your children aren’t really tuned in to what is going on, think again.

Chances are good, even for very young children, that they know something is up. Mommy seems tense and uneasy. Daddy is watching more news than normal. People are wearing masks. The usual weekly trip to the grocery store or delivery from the grocery store included lots of toilet paper, bottled water and cleaning wipes. And, to top it off, a friend on the playground talked about some virus that’s going to make all of us sick.

As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do in situations like this. Will talking about it create fear in your child? If they don’t bring it up, should I say something anyway? If I’m not confident in what I know about this virus, where would I even begin to explain it to my child? These are all valid concerns.

The thing is, children are perceptive. They know something is going on. The fact that you aren’t talking to them about it could actually make the whole situation scarier. Clearly, you need to consider the age of your child as you decide what to say.

The Child Mind Institute, along with other experts, encourages parents to do the following when it comes to talking with your children:

Don’t be afraid to talk about it. 

Look at the conversation as an opportunity to share the facts and set the emotional tone in your home. Your goal is to make sure your child feels safe and knows that they can ask you any questions they have about this.

Be developmentally appropriate. 

There is a lot about this situation that is unknown. One of the easiest things we can teach at any age is the importance of washing hands. If the only thing good that comes out of this whole experience is that people learn the important habit of handwashing, that is a win for everybody. If your child has questions, try to answer them simply. And if you don’t know that answer, say so.

Take your cues from your child. 

Encourage them to ask you questions. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility for a child to hear from a friend that we are all going to die from this strain of Coronavirus. That is an unlikely scenario and being able to say so can alleviate unnecessary fears.

Deal with your own anxiety. 

Watching endless amounts of news can create more anxiety because your brain doesn’t know you are watching reruns of the same thing over and over. When you are experiencing high levels of anxiety, that is not the time to try and have a conversation with your child. Wait until you have calmed down. Setting limits on how much time you allow yourself to watch the news can help decrease your anxiety. 

Be reassuring. 

If your child is watching the news with you, watching people leave the cruise ships and seeing people in the hospital, it would be easy for them to believe they could easily catch the virus or that lots of people are dying from Coronavirus. It is helpful to reassure your child about how rare the Coronavirus really is, that they are much more likely to catch the flu, and that if children do get it, their symptoms are milder.

Focus on what you are doing to stay safe. 

We all feel empowered when we know what precautions we can take. Talk about washing hands and singing Happy Birthday or another fun song they like that lasts 20 seconds, when they come in from outside, after they go to the bathroom, sneeze, cough or blow their nose and before they eat. This is a great habit to establish in general. Also, getting enough sleep is important. If your child asks about wearing a mask, tell them that the experts aren’t telling us to do that at the moment and we are listening to what the experts are saying.

Stick to routine. 

Routines, rituals, consistency and structure provide security for children. When we waiver from the usual and customary, that’s when their radar goes up. If for some reason their school or child care center closes, think about how you handle things during any other break and do that. Chances are good that their schools have closed before due to the flu in an effort to sanitize the building and give people space and time to recover. Structured days – getting up at the usual time, doing the things you normally do –  will help your child to thrive even in the midst of this moment in time.

Keep talking. 

Keep the lines of communication open. This doesn’t mean this is the topic of conversation every time you sit down to a meal or are together. Tell your children that if new information comes out that would be helpful for them to know, you will for sure tell them.

Our kids look to us to see how we either respond or react to situations, and they often take their cues from us.

There are so many things in our lives that we can’t control, but we can determine how we handle conversations and things in our own home. Hopefully, this information can help you communicate what your kids really need to know, help them sort fact from fiction and ease any fear they may have in the process.

For more COVID-19 resources, click here.

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