Coronavirus Has Your Family Overwhelmed and Exhausted? Slow Down and Do These 3 Things to Find Calm in the Chaos

by Mar 18, 2020Emotional Resilience

I don’t know about you, but the Protect Young Minds team is feeling it.

The communal panic is palpable. Parents are scrambling. Children are disoriented. New COVID-19 schedules are flying around the internet making every parent feel like they now have to embrace homeschooling. (A huge task even when you’ve had months to plan, let alone days!)

Maybe. We. Can. Just. Slow. Down. Find some calm in the storm.

You’ve got time to make a transition from pre-COVID-19 to now. Before ramping up with a comprehensive schedule, we recommend doing these three things:

  1. Focus on connecting with a few fun activities
  2. Acknowledge our loss and grief with a sticky note exercise
  3. Shore up our resilience with family stories

Focus on connecting with a few fun activities

Friends, we’ve all been so busy listening to the news, getting updates on our phones, trying to figure out what’s up…and what’s shut down! It’s probably time to turn our attention to our children and be present with them.

We are in a unique situation with unique opportunities. Someday we may look back and (hopefully!) find that the social isolation helped to strengthen our family connections. 

So instead of focusing on a rigid schedule, just create a simple one for today. And keep it flexible and filled with a few windows to connect with your kids. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Go on a “walk and talk”–unless you’re “sheltering in place” getting outside in the fresh air is a great idea!
  • Go for a drive, explore a new area. Maybe play a counting game. How many red doors do you see? VW bugs or trucks? After the game, start checking in with your kids’ feelings.
  • Go in the kitchen and cook something yummy. Creativity isn’t just for painting! 

Acknowledge our loss 

Before we can move on, it’s important to recognize and grieve what we’ve lost. 

The coronavirus has canceled important events, trips, school, and time with friends. It’s normal to feel sad about that. It’s unfair, but there’s no one to blame! 

Let kids sit with these feelings. It’s ok. Teach them it’s healthy to feel our feelings rather than stuff them or try to ignore them. (Remember, that’s what fuels addiction–using substances and behaviors to distract ourselves from pain.)

Here’s a helpful sticky note exercise. Give your kids some pens and sticky notes. Set a timer for 5 minutes and ask them to write down all of the bad/negative things that have happened as a result of the coronavirus. Ask them to stick them up on a wall in a column. Set the timer again and give them another 5 minutes to write down some good possibilities that could happen as a result of the pandemic. (Learning to hand wash should be on that list! ha!) Put those sticky notes in a second column on your wall. Then read them out and discuss them.

Acknowledge the loss. Then pivot to the possibilities. Maybe you could even make some plans for helping others survive this challenge a little easier.

Shore up our family resilience

Researchers found something unexpected after 9/11–the power of family stories!

Kids who knew more about their own family history had:

  • More sense of control over their lives;
  • Higher self-esteem;
  • Greater belief that their families were successful.

This pandemic is disorienting! Nothing like it has happened in our lifetime. So use the power of family stories. We’ve got the researchers’ list of 20 questions. Here are a few to get you started with your kids:

  • Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  • Do you know where your parents went to high school?
  • Do you know where your parents met?
  • Do you know about an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  • Do you know the story of your birth?

Find the rest of the questions in this downloadable guide!

Join the 2020 Resilient Parenting Challenge

If you’re not one of our email subscribers yet, be sure to subscribe to become part of our 2020 Resilient Parenting Challenge. Each month we send you one simple activity to do with your child to build resilience. Resilience will help your child thrive during the current pandemic and throughout their lives. You can subscribe here and we’ll send you the challenges we’ve already issued plus a new one each month!

There’s time to develop a doable schedule. (In fact, we’ll be posting one in a day or two!)

Until then, try to lower your expectations. Slow down. Give yourself a break. If you’re a mom and no one’s checked in with how you’re doing, check in with someone else. Hang in there! Together, we’ve got this!

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.

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