- Rachel Rothman Borrero, LCSW-R
Life Under Duress (AKA: Surviving the Covid-19 Shut Down)
Hello out there! If you’re like most of the world right now you are likely to be bunkering down at home. These are strange and stressful times for everyone. Even people with minimal anxiety may be feeling the worry right now. People who adore being at home with their children may be struggling with the idea of weeks on end trapped at home together. The “magic” of family time may wear off some time around day eight (or for some day three or even day one). In this vein I want to offer some thoughts and ideas on what to do and how to manage these uncertain, and at times, overwhelming days.
1. Lower your expectations! Yes, it would be great to be a model employee and homeschooler and spouse, but let’s get real! I cannot say this loudly enough – THIS. IS. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. Yet, there are expectations for all of us, so what to do?? Try to focus on just doing your best. If you don’t get back to an email by the end of a day or if you snap a bit too much at your partner or if your child spends a day (ok, ok, 8-20 days) watching too much TV well then so be it. Ask yourself, “Will this short-term deviation truly matter in 5 years?” If the answer is no, then allow yourself a bit of breathing space.
2. Keep a general routine. This does not mean a schedule. Schedules can be rigid (10-11am: reading, 1-2pm science time, etc.) and unrealistic. When people by and large inevitably deviate from a schedule it can feel like a failure. It is NOT – it is just reality. A routine can give you guidance as well as flexibility and a more realistic mindset for yourself and family. In general:
Think about sticking to the same wake up times and bedtimes.
Remember to get dressed each day as if you had someplace to go.
Allow for TV time for the kids to be synced with your work time (or clean up, doing dishes, laundry time).
Pick a bigger portion of the day to focus on learning times for your kids, but remember that young kids need down time and play time. In fact, this all lends to their learning and is the essence of their learning. If they don’t do the whole sheet of math, but they stick with the routine of doing some math, then that goes in the ‘win’ file.
** The exception to this suggestion is for our special needs kids who may benefit from, and in fact, thrive with schedules. If that is the case for your child then do try to give them an outline and time frame for your days. I know things are really hard right now, but you can and will make it through.
3. Find ways to give yourself what you need. Only you know how you work and survive best. Introverts may need to be sure that they have some quiet time built in to each day, while extroverts may have to seek out video sessions with friends. By serving your own needs you give yourself more capacity to be the best parent you can be. If you are personally depleted, then your parenting skills will be depleted as well. We all run better on a full tank.
4. Be willing to think outside the box all the while remembering that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Learning doesn’t have one way of happening or looking. Be willing to take suggestions from the plenitude of websites offering it (some are listed at the end of this post). I’ve seen many posts online from parents dreading ‘homeschooling’ their kids. Perhaps try to keep yourself away from the role of teacher, instead reframing yourself as the supervisor of your kids’ learning. In NYC the grand experiment of Remote Learning launches on Monday, March 23rd. No one – not you, your kids, their teachers, the admins, NO ONE knows how this will all go. We’re all trying our best here and the more patient and forgiving we are the smoother this all may feel. Listen and read the lessons provided and expound on them to the best of your ability, just like you would with homework. If it doesn’t work or click for you or your child then email, text or call your child’s teacher. They’re doing their best.
5. Remind yourself as needed that this will end. In the grand scheme of things these weeks and maybe months are a small part of our long lives. This all feels very intense, but thinking big picture can help alleviate a lot of overwhelming feelings. These days will not be forever. This virus will pass. Life will normalize again. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed take some time to walk away and breathe. I’ve listed some apps below that can help with breathing, meditation and mindfulness.
At the end of the day we are all just doing the best we can right now. No one is perfect. This is even more true at this moment. There is literally no playbook for what is happening in our world right now. Try to breathe. Try to cut yourself, your spouse, your child and all the people you encounter some slack. A sense of humor may be your best defense in these days, and if you cannot find a funny moment throughout your days then remember what Maya Angelou said, “Every storm runs out of rain.”
Stay safe everyone and as always if you have concerns about yourself or your child please reach out for help.
Learning Web Sites
NYC Department of Education: https://www.schools.nyc.gov/learning-at-home/activities-for-students
List of various sites to visit from National School Choice Week: https://schoolchoiceweek.com/37-free-online-resources-for-schools-shifting-online-during-coronavirus/
National Geographic Kids: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden offers daily Facebook video posts with animals: https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/
Apps for meditation, mindfulness and humor (all should be available for iPhone and Android devices)Aura, Headspace, Calm, Stop, Breathe and Think Kids, Jib Jab, Laugh My App Off – Funny Jokes, Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids, Best Corny Jokes! Silly LOL!