Be concerned… but remember you are a role model for your children on how to deal with stressful situations. You are laying the groundwork for how your children will handle stressful situations across their lifetime; let’s give them a strong, mindful road map on how to deal with adversity. Teaching your children that anxiety is just part of being human can help them now and in the future. Resilience and emotional intelligence are skills they will take throughout their lives if we give them the tools to learn it.
Talk to kids in an age-appropriate way… and out of earshot if you’re talking about things that could upset them. You know your kids and what they can handle. Quick guidelines are to listen to your kids and their concerns, stay calm during conversations, don’t tell them more than they need to know, and give them advice on what they can do to be safe and keep other people safe. Even smart tweens and teens don’t need to know every detail of how this situation may play out. Kids have keen ears and may take things out of context, so be careful about talking in earshot.
Make the right choices for you and your family when it comes to interacting with others. Everyone has a different level of comfort right now. If visiting someone is going to be more stressful than fun, then skipping an event is going to be the best form of mental therapy. That includes keeping kids at home from school, not attending events, and not having play dates.
Precautions should be taken... but make sure the expectations we put on our kids are age-appropriate. While we want our kids to be careful, we also don’t want to make them overly anxious. Expecting a toddler not to touch anything as they walk down the street is not realistic.
Take breaks from the media…. and stick to reliable, less emotional sources for your news. Turning off the computer and TV and disconnecting can give you some distance and help you put things into perspective. Remember that news outlets are fighting for your eyeballs, and many will do that in a way that plays on your emotions.
Practice self-care… and practice it often. It’s important that we keep our own mental and physical health strong; too much worry can impact that. Eating right, exercising, meditating, taking deep breaths, and doing yoga can help strengthen your immune system. Set a timer on your phone to stretch and breathe every hour. Sleep is especially important, now more than ever. Taking an extra minute to relax in the shower can go a long way to getting some distance.
Be extra patient with your kids… they are feeling this stress too. Kids may act out the anxiety they are feeling around them through not so perfect behavior. They may regress to behaviors they have outgrown (e.g., potty training, sleeping), be worried and cranky, and have difficulty in school. Be patient with them, reassure them that they are safe, and maintain a sense of structure for them.
Be extra patient with yourself… there’s a lot going on. Given all that is happening, you may not be performing as efficiently as you would like whether it be at work or at home. You may be less able to concentrate,less friendly, and less patient. Take breaks to recharge and refocus and cut yourself a lot of slack.
Help the vulnerable… while protecting yourselves. If you have elderly neighbors, check in on them with a phone call. If there’s an older relative you can touch base with or order groceries for, now is a good time. Making sure you’re contributing to the larger community by reaching out is a way to feel less isolated. There is research that shows that helping others builds confidence in children so find ways they can be part of the solution.
Laugh and play whenever you can… they’re the best medicine. Game nights, movie nights, joke books, and looking through family photos can lighten things up and take off some of the pressure. We have lists of classic movies for kids here, and tweens here and here.
Be a good, supportive listener to friends and family… even if you think they might be overreacting. People deal with stress in many different ways, and having someone to listen to and talk through their fears with is part of being a good partner, parent, and friend. Being extra gentle with each other is especially warranted at times like these.
Stay connected… even if from a distance. With so many events and opportunities for interaction being cancelled, you may feel a bit alone. Park Slope Parents is working on setting up remote meetups to help people stay connected. If you don’t have FaceTime capabilities, you can use Google hangouts, Zoom, and Skype to keep in touch with people.
Fact-check everything before you post messages privately, on social media or on our groups… and don’t believe everything you read. In this age of social media it’s easy to share things that seem plausible and helpful. We find that it’s best to let the authorities give us information rather than relying on second-hand sources. These are the ones most trusted: CDC, NYC.gov, WHO, DOE.
There is a bit of good news… even in light of so many bad projections. From reports on the severity of coronavirus, this is not an illness that has been especially hard on healthy kids. While we need to be diligent, it is very unlikely that if your child has coronavirus they will have anything more than typical flu-like symptoms. Keeping kids healthy and less stressed is the best medicine for getting through this.
Remember to enjoy life… even though things are stressful. Spring is starting, there are walks in the park you can take, “signs of spring” to notice up and down the streets of Brooklyn, and much to be grateful for.
Park Slope Parents has been around for over 17 years, through some sad, dark times. We will absolutely get through this together.
The Park Slope Parents Advisory Board