Published on in Health Tip of the Week
Today's world is filled with school cancellations, parents losing their jobs or working from home, and a temporary shutdown of places and events your family would typically go to for entertainment and exercise. It's easy to feel overwhelmed and scared to face what the coronavirus may bring next. Here are five ways parents can make home feel like a safe and secure place for you and your family.
1. Acknowledge the problem
The first step is acknowledging the difficult situation you are in. Be honest with your children about how the virus is affecting your community, your state and the rest of the world. Explain what "social distancing" (also called physical distancing) means, and why it's important for everyone's health that we stay indoors with our immediate family and avoid gathering in groups. Let children know that it's common for people — even loved ones — to become nervous, tense and irritable with each other when space is limited.
2. Be flexible
Your ability to be flexible may not come naturally. But with external forces that are out of your control, you must work to be flexible — especially with your family. Be intentional in your actions and your words. Let your children know when it feels like things are out of control, it’s important to support family members. Draw strength from each other. Be kind to each other. Do your best to let go of their little irritating habits. Instead, tell them you love them. Let them know how resilient they are, even when things get tough. Model a home at peace.
3. Watch your tone and body language
Children and adolescents draw their sense of safety from their parents. It’s not only the words you use, but also the tone and body language you use. If you are feeling panicked yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to create a safe feeling for others. You may need to find a private space for your own little freak-outs, especially if things are getting tense in close quarters. Give yourself space. Work it out. Take deep breaths. And keep reminding yourself you’ll get through this.
After letting out your own feelings, you’ll be more effective in offering a sense of calm to others. Children and adolescents draw their sense of safety from their parents.
4. Show them information is powerful
During times of extreme stress, there is lots of misinformation to be found. Information can be powerful — if it’s credible. Use time at home together as a chance to teach your children and teens the importance of having useful information. Be direct in finding out what’s accurate and what information you can trust.
If you’re trying to keep your home as a safe haven, turn off the TV, limit social media and commit to only checking-in a few times a day with credible sources.
5. Get back to the basics — together
Take advantage of family time at home. Have fun and get back to the basics. Bring back “Family Night” but expand the concept to different times of day! Play some of your favorite board games. Sing songs Karaoke-style. Put together that 1,000-piece puzzle that’s been tucked away. Cook a family recipe together. Do a home-exercise workout. Watch some old family movies. Find something you’ve been wanting to fix or change around the house and do it together. Choose healthy escapes that allow you to take your mind off the stressful situation and concentrate on being together and enjoying the moment in your family home. Above all, listen to and respect each other. There is no more basic way to show your love.
A previous version of this was published by the Center for Parents and Teen Communication.
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