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Helping Your Child Through the Pandemic Challenges – And you thought screen-time was an issue before!?

Kids already struggle with a lot just trying to be kids and figuring out life in general.

Now, any sense of routine they once knew has flipped upside-down. There is no real answer for when things will get “back to normal” … or if they will ever be the same again!

Even school is questionable from one day to the next. Some schools are fully open, some are completely virtual, some are only limited days… it all changes so quickly in response to this pandemic.

Virtual learning is a whole new ballgame. As if there wasn’t enough time spent looking at the phone, playing video games, posting on social media, and watching TV. Now, they get to be online all day for school too.

Frustrated kid doing homeworkSome kids self-manage just fine with being at home and on a computer all day, but many need assistance with everything from internet connections to math equations. Some children have extra hurdles, like ADHD, and they may need creative ideas for helping them focus and release some of their pent-up energy.

Most school sports and afterschool activities aren’t happening. There are no trips to the theater or the mall. Most of their outlets for me-time and exercise have been taken away – so have ours!

Kids need to expel energy and they also need connection with others. If they don’t get both regularly, it will likely result in some challenging behaviors. Younger children may have tantrums or become disconnected. Teens might rebel and push back harder than usual.

And how are you as a parent managing these new and demanding needs?

It may seem like there is nothing you can do to help them out, but I’m here to tell you some strategies you can employ…

Get them on an exercise routine. This may not be easy depending on their age, but it will be so worth it. Getting this regular exercise will not only help them physically, but the greatest impact is actually with mental clarity and focus.

You can turn exercise into a family challenge where everyone gathers for 15-30 minutes each day – maybe multiple times a day. You can get silly with this; I encourage you to. Put on an old Richard Simmons “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”, play an active game on the console like Dance Dance Revolution, or run an obstacle course through your house. Or maybe you’re a little more serious and you want pop in P90x and really get the sweat flowing. Just set a goal that sounds fun and is realistic and get it done!

Exercise routine as a familyIt’s better is to aim to get the exercise in at the beginning of the day and during a mid-day break – but squeeze it in whenever you can. If you see a slump happening (focus is lost, frustration sets in), take that opportunity to say it’s time for a break. Go on a quick walk, do a push-up challenge, jump some rope, blast music and dance like nobody is watching. Do anything physical – this will help teach them that we all need breaks and when they hit these dips during the day it’s important to not try to push through them, but instead take a step back, listen to your body, and do something to help reenergize and refocus.

Tweak their learning space. Redecorate the space they are using when doing their schoolwork to give it a more Zen feel. When things are tidy and uncluttered, there are less distractions and it is more calming.

Make it a team project to explore what’s going to work best for them – everyone has some input and participates in setting up the area. Maybe paint the wall that the desk is against a new color, move non-desk related things away from the desk space, and only bring in a few “extra” items that make you happy to be in the space.

Now that the space is refreshed, ensure the extra items can help bring focus and calm. We should think about the 5 senses and which your kid is most attune to. Some enjoy pleasant scents and music in the background while they work, so having a candle and a radio to play music at a low volume is beneficial. Some need constant movement, so sitting on a stability ball or having a fidget spinner handy is helpful. These things help the body calm down so we can focus – just knowing these things are nearby does a lot in itself.

We can get creative and have fun and do the best we can with what we have. The most important thing is that they feel comfortable and enjoy being in this space and that it is conducive to better productivity.

how to talk to my kidsFacilitate a weekly meeting. Kids need to be able to talk about what it’s like to not be with friends or do the things they used to do. They also need to be able to vent about whatever struggles they’re having with remote learning, or their fear of going back to class, etc. Sit them down weekly and invite these types of conversations in an open forum. Also be sure to ask about what is going well!

You can even plan ahead if they are older so they can book it in their calendar – “30 minutes to chat with mom/dad about my week”. During this time, be sure to ask open-ended questions to invite them to delve into specific topics, such as “Tell me about the things that happened in your history class this week?” and “Tell me some things that you’ve been doing for fun.”

These conversations can be hard, especially if you aren’t used to being so vocal and explicit with each other. Utilizing a therapist can help as kids tend to open up more with a third party, but you CAN do this on your own – just let your child know it’s a safe space for them to be real, and be sure to honor your word that they won’t get in trouble for opening up and sharing things you may not want to hear. This is the time to “be supportive without fixing.”

Giving your child permission and a safe place to open up and explore their feelings is the single most important thing you can do for their development. This is also a good opportunity for you to share what went on in your week – good or bad – it’s important to let them in!

Take a family outing. This may not be the time when we can take those family vacations we are used to, but we can still get out into nature. Yes, it’s hot outside, but we actually live fairly close to some great weekend escapes.

Quality time with kidsIt is at least 12 degrees cooler – and gorgeous – in Sedona. You can make the drive in just 2 hours and spend the day exploring Oak Creek Canyon. Take a picnic lunch so you don’t have to worry if a restaurant is open and just enjoy the day in nature together.

If you have the weekend open, take the 3-hour drive to Pinetop-Lakeside. With an average high of 83, you can comfortably go camping outdoors – or you can find amazing cabins and VRBOs to rent for the night. This area is full of great lakes and streams if you like to fish. Or bring some games and just spend some quality family time amongst the pine trees.

You may not be able to manage an outing like this every week, but could you make it a point to take at least 1 day-trip every other month? This gives the entire family a break to look forward to which can be really helpful in terms of overall mood and motivation. The kids may grumble about being torn away from their video games for a bit, but they will appreciate the time with family in the long run.

Having clear guidance and encouragement from parents is essential. By utilizing these tips, you can help your child to learn about their feelings and validate and express them in healthy ways, strengthen the family bond, and hopefully reduce much of the recently-added tensions in your home.

Sending you light and love,
Claire

~ You are worthy. You are capable. You are enough! ~

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