Tips Amid COVID-19 and Social Distancing
By Michelle Hirschy and Ashley Marlow, school counselors
How to maintain a routine and manage stress.
You are likely in the same position as families across the country—facing canceled travel plans with cabin fever beginning to set in. In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to practice self-care and healthy habits. It is natural for children and adolescents to feel nervous about the unknown; they are looking to the adults in their lives to provide reassurance and stability. The best thing we can do for them is to give them a space to talk through their feelings and thoughts, while also providing direction for the journey ahead.
Routine and Structure
Children thrive on routine and predictability and need this to feel safe, especially in challenging times. One of the most important things you can do is to create order, with some flexibility, in your days. You can start by setting up a schedule that includes regular wake up, eating, learning, exercise and sleep times. It can be daunting to know where to start, but there are a plethora of online resources and sample schedules geared towards making the most out of school closures while maintaining a sense of normalcy at home.
Keep a Sense of Calm
It can be challenging to exude a sense of calm to your child when you are struggling to cope with your own worries and anxiety. One of the most important things you can do is to learn and utilize stress management techniques that can help you manage your feelings.
Research has shown that people experience an increase in cortisol levels, which are directly related to stress, even when seeing a stranger express stress virtually, a phenomenon called empathetic stress. This effect increases significantly if the person shown is a loved one. Remember that as you learn to manage your own stress, you will be teaching your child how to cope with uncertainty and difficult situations as they face them in their own lives and the future.
Embrace Social Distancing
One of the most challenging things for those who aren’t experiencing any sickness symptoms is to practice social distancing. To flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, we must minimize our contact with others outside of our home environments until this crisis passes.
This is a time to teach children about altruism and how by acting collectively, we can decrease the number of people who become sick. Our mindset for how we approach this time matters. If we (and by default, our children) view this as a punishment, it will feel like one. However, if we shift our view that this time is a gift to slow down and do things that normally get postponed due to busy schedules, we can find that this is an opportunity to:
Learn new skills, play games, read, write and create
Reconnect with family and friends via phone calls, snail-mail and video chats
Get outside, explore nature and exercise as a family
This is a difficult time for many, and studies(Post, S.G., Int. J. Behav. Med.) have shown that helping others can be equally as beneficial for your own wellness and are associated with greater well-being, health and longevity. If you are looking for ways that your family can give back to the community while practicing social distancing, look to the listing of opportunities that our director of service learning has shared.
Remember that this too shall pass and life will return to normal. In the meantime, we hope that these suggestions are helpful as you prepare for a staycation this spring break. Our community is strong, and we will get through this together.