By Stephanie C. Nash, LICSW
President & CEO, Episcopal Center for Children
This is an unprecedented time in our world and, understandably, there are many questions and concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shut down of schools, business establishments, and restaurants combined with social distancing, and self-quarantine have resulted in major changes to how we navigate our daily lives.
Families with children of all ages are impacted by these changes. Parents are creatively looking to adapt to new routines to support their children while seeking to establish responsibility, peace, and joy in the household. The balancing act can bring both rewards and challenges.
Staying at home and following the directives from government officials is important. We all need to find safe and meaningful ways to support our children, one another, and seek self-care. Here are some tips to help.
Tips for family and self-care while home:
- Do frequent hand washing with soap and water. When not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Wash or clean incoming groceries before bringing them into your home.
- Wipe down common household surfaces that are used frequently, such as the kitchen counters, dining table, door knobs, refrigerator handles, bathroom counters, faucet handles, and other surfaces.
- Create a calm tone in your home. Adults should strive to be self-aware. Anxiety may be high for adults in the home, but it is important to provide reassurance and calm to your children – they are watching and listening to how you respond to this crisis.
- Check in with your loved ones and talk with your children about their thoughts and feelings. For younger children, follow their lead. Be honest and use appropriate talk. Limit child viewing of daily news broadcasts. For older children, be honest and have age-appropriate discussions. Validate their concerns while providing reassurance and understanding for their feelings.
- Maintain routines as much as possible. Young children especially will need structure that replicates a school week. Make time for snacks and movement breaks.
- Give daily, positive affirmations and encourage family members. This might be as simple as saying, “Wow, you are doing great at sharing the game with your sister” or “Thanks for being helpful by clearing off the table” or “You were so responsible with your online assignment.”
Offer healthy and nutritious snacks and meals.
Use the time at home to engage in activities with your family – such as board games, baking, puzzles, home projects, book discussions, arts and crafts, jam sessions, home recitals, dance and exercise workouts, yoga, barbecue, cookout, front porch picnics, and more.
Set boundaries. Give yourself permission for some quiet time/space during the course of the day. For many parents or guardians, that might mean getting up before everyone else, or having a quiet time to pray, meditate, or do breathing exercises.
Encourage family chores that are age-appropriate for everyone in the family. Offer praise for completed chores and talk about how everyone is working together.
Set intentions and realistic expectations for yourself. One way to do that is to write down what you intend to accomplish for the day.
Exercise self-compassion. Be kind to yourself during this time of challenges.
The gratitude for the commitment and compassion of first responders and health care providers is beyond measure. Thoughtful expressions of kindness from friends and neighbors within our communities continue to reflect humanity at its best.
The Episcopal Center for Children (Center) is a nondenominational, nonprofit organization that has been dedicated to serving the needs of children and their families for the past 125 years. In June 2019, the Center suspended operation for its K-8 therapeutic school for children with emotional challenges from the greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. The Board of Directors continues to be committed to its longstanding mission of serving children in determining plans for the Center’s future. More information is available at eccofdc.org and on Twitter and Facebook @ECCofDC.