Helping the Family Stay Calm, Connected, and Less Stressed
Many families might be wondering how to keep their family calm during a stressful time and how to create peace and a sense of comfort for their children and for themselves.
Feeling Negative Emotions is Normal
First let me say that negative emotions are normal. Feeling like you’re out of control, feeling sad, mad, scared, these are all normal responses to highly stressful situations. All of us have a survival instinct that kicks in when there’s traumatic events happening, like the COVID-19 pandemic. The survival instinct is an automatic response in our brain, and it’s designed to help us survive. We can overcome the survival instinct, in this situation, by sticking to routine. So making sure that your child is getting up around the same time and going to bed around the same time. This will help them be able to sleep better.
Keep Up on Healthy Habits
You can also help your child by building healthy habits. One example would be avoiding naps or inactivity during the day, which will help you feel tired at bedtime and help you fall asleep more easily. Everyone should be avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, which will help us fall asleep at night as well. Additionally, it’s really normal for us to want to overeat during times of high stress, or for our bodies to crave foods that are high in fat and high in sugar. By actively avoiding foods that are high in fat and high in sugar during times of high stress, you can teach your body and your brain that you can regulate your emotions without overeating.
Helping Children Cope with Feelings of Anxiety
Many parents might be wondering about how to reduce their child’s anxiety and help them stay connected given the social distancing. What we know is that building connection with children helps them feel happier, reduces their anxiety, and helps them enjoy their day more. There are many ways to do this even with social distancing.
Encourage Children to Keep Connections With Family and Friends
One way is to encourage your child to connect with friends and peers via social media or on the telephone. It’s important, even during this pandemic, that parents are monitoring their children’s access to electronics. Having your child write letters, draw pictures or send cards to friends and family members. What this does is two-fold. First it helps them feel like they’re connected to a community, and it also helps them learn some life skills like how to address an envelope and why we put postage on things that were mailing.
Spend True Quality Time with Your Children
Another strategy is to spend quality time with your children. This means that for younger kids you’re playing with your child every day at least 5 to 10 minutes. During this play we encourage you to praise your children for the things that you like that they do, and ignore minor misbehavior. It’s really common during times of high stress for kids to behave defiantly or do things that are out of the norm. Ignoring minor misbehavior and praising your child for the things they do that you like, will help them build their self-esteem and will help them feel safe. Some other strategies to use when interacting with your children are to avoid questions and to provide your undivided attention. This means that you have to turn off your cell phone, put away your tablets, turn off the TVs and computers, and really just spend quality time with your child for at least 5 to 10 minutes a day, and we recommend spending this quality time with each of your children.
See latest updates around COVID-19 from CHI Health.
For additional questions, reach out to a CHI Health Behavioral Health provider.