Parents: Take a Breath—and a Break

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Families need schedules and structure in this at-home period amid COVID-19. But they also need a little leeway.

COVID-19 has instantly thrust a whole generation of Americans into strange, new territory. You've been expected to abandon your old ways and quickly figure out how to stay at home, work from home and school at home. That's a tall order for a lot of folks.

Many of us have long been accustomed to our routines: send the kids off to school each day, pick them up, dart to extracurriculars, prepare meals, do homework, off to bed.

Routine is a bedrock of parenting. But that's been tossed out. And you're suddenly home-schooling. And you can't have get-togethers with other families in the same boat. In fact, you can't have any get-togethers.

Melanie Grube, LMSW, a psychotherapist with Spectrum Health, said parents need to give themselves some leeway as they map out a path in this new territory.

"Not every family is the same," Grube said.

Here are her tips to keep things humming in your hive amid COVID-19:

Build a Schedule

Work to maintain some type of schedule for your kids. They're used to schedules at school and at daycare, which can be helpful for them. It doesn't have to be perfect, or even extensive, Grube said.

"Even having just a few hours a day that are scheduled can be helpful," she said.

Be Flexible

Rather than following a minute-to-minute agenda, try to loosen up the routine a bit. It's a new situation for everyone, Grube said.

"Try and create structure with blocks of time, rather than a detailed schedule that is impossible to keep," she said. "Designating a learning time for kids who have online homework can help provide focus and alleviate uncertainty around the day."

For younger kids, she recommends wireless time—turn off the electronics and make time for play and reading. And as weather permits, enjoy outdoor play.

Take Breaks

Parents need to remember to take an occasional break, Grube said—even if it's just for a few minutes.
"Try to take some time to relieve the stress of what's happening right now," she said. "Try engaging in some mindfulness and meditation techniques."

If you feel overwhelmed and you're able to leave the room for a few minutes, you should do that, she said. Take deep breaths—in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Give Yourself Some Leeway

"If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that you are just one person who is now taking on the role of many," Grube said.

Accept imperfection. Your kids will have meltdowns and there will be days when nothing seems to get done. But the truth is, you're getting it done.

"You are doing your best," Grube said.

Learning Resources

With American families staying home for the foreseeable future, many educational institutions have provided a trove of online content—much of it free. Museums, zoos, educational brands and others rolled out great resources to engage youngsters. A few examples:

Brain Pop
Google Arts & Culture virtual tours
Adventure Academy
Smithsonian activities
PBS kids
Boston Children's Museum
Smithsonian tours
San Diego Zoo

Written by Spectrum Health HealthBeat Staff.

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Spectrum Health HealthBeat Blog.


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