We understand that many parents and families are struggling now more than ever. With the current pandemic, anxiety and worry is increased and emotions are running high. We have created this page to provide you with information and address some of your concerns to help you navigate through these times.
First and foremost, try and remember that everyone is doing their very best during this time. It’s unnavigated waters. Many kiddos with social anxiety are likely loving their new normal for the time being. In order to do our part and keep our social distance, we cannot be social in a way that we have been before. With that being said, we can use online platforms to help our kids connect with friends. Contact a parent and set up a virtual “play date”. Have your child pick out one or two things that they want to show their friend. They may be able to show them a toy that has been keeping them busy, a new game that they learned, or a fun dance that they have been practicing. The meeting can be brief, but it’s helpful to keep some kind of face to face contact throughout this time.
With that being said, try to make it as kid-friendly as possible. We want our children to be educated without instilling fear. Our kids have a much harder time filtering information, and as we all know, a lot of this information is extremely overwhelming.
Think through what you can tell your kids, use social stories and resources and explain the positive outcomes of doing our part by staying home!
Online video calls are a great resource to use for kiddos who are missing their friends. You can also send and receive pictures or videos with friends and family. You can also have your kiddo work on a picture or coloring activity and teach them how to send mail “the old fashioned way”. Take a walk to the mailbox for a fun activity! Always make sure you take off your shoes and wash your hands as soon as you get back home!
Kids tend to be hyperware of our emotions, including anxiety. Anxiety tends to come with increased busyness, increased arguments, and low frustration tolerance. While all of these things are completely normal, they can have an effect on our kids. Remember that it’s okay to let your kids know how you are feeling. As always, keep it kid-friendly as we don’t want to instill more fear in our kids. With that being said, we can’t expect our kids to talk about their emotions if we aren’t modeling the same behaviors. Let your kids know that you are having a hard day or that you are sharing many emotions with them, but also work on problem solving. Choose something that you can do with your kids to help calm or ground you both. Complete a daily mental wellness activity or just take a few minutes to do some deep breathing or take a “time out”.
There are a number of ways to help your kids cope during this time. As always, we want to encourage your child to talk about their feelings. You may want to use social stories or social scripts in order to facilitate this communication. Remember that if your kiddos are having meltdowns or tantrums, this is likely because they are having a difficult time expressing themselves appropriately. Try to give your kids emotional language by identifying what they are going through. “I see that you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to fix it. First take some deep breaths, and then we can go for a walk”. Sticking to some kind of schedule can also greatly help our kids cope with anxiety as this can help them feel more in control. Encourage your kids to practice some mental wellness activities to keep them grounded and fun activities to keep them active. Help your kids get some fresh air and exercise, as this is proven to help anxiety.
One of the best ways to reduce anxiety in the home is to turn off the screens. For good reason, there is currently a ton of media and news coverage on the current pandemic. Remember that a lot of this is covering the same information. Try to limit the amount of media coverage that you are allowing in your home. Checking for updates in the morning and evening, as well as watching major press conferences should be enough to keep you educated. It may also be helpful to schedule some relaxation activities to do each day. Finally, you can utilize this time to support each other within the family by scheduling family game night, family activities, or family dance parties! By doing this, you can allow everyone in the family to have fun and relieve anxiety at the same time!
It is important to get familiar with your child’s IEP. Look at each goal and make a list. After this, it will be easier for you to know how you can support the progress. There are several websites that are currently providing free memberships to support academics.
Once you have that list, it will be easier to filter out which activities are appropriate for your child. School staff will also be working to provide you with a contingency plan to support you in all areas. Seek support from school personnel and create a schedule at home, so it is easier for you to follow and know what you are looking to accomplish each day. Take it one step at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed!
The implementation of a schedule at home has to be done in small steps. Remember that this is not only new for you but also for your child. Start with just a couple of hours in which you are mixing fun activities with chores or school work . For example, at the beginning you can simply add eating breakfast, followed by brushing teeth, reading time,outside time, working at the table (activities vary depending on grade level) and then snack. You can continue adding activities as the days pass, building endurance for all of you. However, do not be too rigid with the schedule. Things might change, lunch might move a little later or earlier and that's OK. The most important part is that if you decide to have a schedule in place, it has to be one that you can follow, and that it is easier for your child to understand. Some kids preferred pictures, and other written words, so go with your child's preference. Placing a sticker, star or a simple checkmark next to an activity completed will not only be encouraging for your child but also for you. Take it one step at a time.
Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and many emotions are heightened. Encourage your child to share his/her feelings. Try your best to support your child when they open up about their feelings. Encourage your child to engage in productive activities to help alleviate these feelings. For younger kids this may include simple coloring activities or relaxation activities. These activities can be used to help ground your child as well as to distract your child.
Anxiety is often exacerbated by the unknown. There are a number of unknown variables with the current pandemic, and no one has the answers right now. Use age appropriate social stories to educate your child. Encourage your child to share his/her feelings with you. Remind them what you are doing to keep yourselves safe and healthy, and remember to keep adult conversations out of ear shot.
Staying focused in the home environment is tricky for everyone! It seems even more difficult for our kids, especially those who already struggle. Activities should be broken down into small parts Remember to meet your child where they are. Your child may maintain focus for 5 minutes or 45 minutes, and this may vary per activity. Use timers to help your child understand the amount of time their focus is needed. Give your child frequent breaks. Encourage your child to play during these breaks and avoid screens, as screen time tends to be more difficult to transition from. If you are using short breaks, screens may cause problem behaviors. If you have a very active child, encourage an “exercise break”. Have your child 10 jumping jacks or run in place.
Verbal and physical reassurance are the keys to navigate this. When your child is presenting with behaviors associated with the difficulty coping, reflect on their behavior using statements such as “I can see that you are upset and I am upset too” “I can see that you are sad and this will also make me sad” (these are just some examples). When your child sees that you are also experiencing the same emotions it will be easier for him/her to express how he/she feels, their fears and it will be easier for you to respond to them. Remember that you are your kids biggest model so expressing your emotions is also important but also presenting reassurance and how you are proactive about this situation.
Helping your child create a schedule can be very helpful in this. Additionally, within that schedule, structure time that your child is doing things independently. In that way, parents are able to schedule more intense work of their own during those times. These independent things may include educational games on a tablet, coloring activities or short worksheets, “relaxation time”, and meal times. Schedule these times during times when one or both parents need to work. If possible, work with all the adults in the home to schedule work at different times. If mom is working from 9-10, then dad can work from 10-11 and so on. Work on a schedule that is best for you and your family!
It’s very common for parents to feel pressure to limit screen time. Remember that there is a global pandemic happening, and this might not be your family’s most important priority right now. With that being said, there are a number of education programs and games available for tablets and many companies are waving membership fees. Please check out our list of companies doing this for more information! Balance some educational programs and games with “free screen time”. Set timers to help with the transition between the two, and try to spend more time doing educational based programs than “free screen time”.
If you have any questions or concerns, please fill out the form below and we will do our best to answer your inquiry.