How to Stay Sane (and not kill your kids) During COVID-19

Image by ​Seth Doyle

(I will use the term parent to refer to the caregiver for ease of the article).

Whether you are a parent of a 5- or 15-year-old, this whole pandemic has thrown us all for a loop. I am a therapist, a mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 17. I’m also a wife, mom to a precious dog named Colby (who by the way is getting really spoiled and will probably need pet therapy when everything goes back to normal), and a business owner, as I have 18 employees so I feel your pain during these confusing times.

How Can I Help My Kids Through COVID-19?

I’m sure you are wondering, “What can I do for my kids and how can I stay sane during this surreal time?” For our younger children, we want to remember that their ability to understand and process all of this information is challenging. There are things you can do to help:

  1. Educate them. Teach them in a language that is developmentally appropriate to understand. I have included​ a cute infographic link. H​ere is a ​link to a youtube video explaining it with the use of puppets. (Please preview it first to ensure you want to show it to your child.)
  2. Ask the following questions: How are you feeling? Do you have any questions? If you don’t know the answers then it is recommended that you look it up from a reputable source such as the ​CDC​.
  3. Realize that your child may seem okay but have regressive behaviors, be more clingy, have temper tantrums, somatic complaints such as a headache or stomachache. All of these are normal reactions some may have given the circumstances, though if those behaviors continue, it can be helpful to reach out to a therapist.
  4. Don’t lie to your child. Explain things in terms that are kid-friendly. For example: “We can’t see grandma right now because we all need to stay safe. Otherwise, we could get each other sick.” We wouldn’t want to say, “We can’t see grandma because if she catches the virus she could die.” EEEK!
  5. You are now a teacher, playmate, and parent. This can be stressful. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Ask a friend or your child’s classmates’ parents to tag team with the online learning. Perhaps, one parent excels in math and can help with that subject while the other parent facilitates a reading group. The possibilities are endless. We need to remember that we are a community. Although social distancing is here, we can still connect and rely on one another!
  6. Try to dole out information in small chunks. Our brains can manage small bits of information but too much information feels scary and puts us on overload.
  7. Have a ROUTINE. We all thrive on a routine. It’s one of the reasons that your kids do so well in school. The same holds true now. Here are some ideas
  • Monday — Baking or cooking day.
  • Tuesday — The day we write a letter and draw a picture for grandma. We can mail it or email it to her. Then we can call her on FaceTime. Most kids love this idea!
  • Wednesday — Dance Party, walk in the park, basketball, cards, games, etc.
  • Thursday — Write messages to neighbors with chalk on their driveways.
  • Friday — ​Yoga for kids
  • I think you are all smart enough to get the picture and come up with other ideas.
    However, the last idea I have is to rotate out ideas every two weeks because the novelty may wear off. If there is something they still enjoy doing, that’s fine, but have other ideas in your back pocket, because it’s going to get old, like eating roasted chicken every Monday. 🙂
Teenagers and COVID-19
Image by ​Ant Rozetsky

For our teenagers, much of the above applies, just in teenager terms. The biggest challenge with our teens is they feel INVINCIBLE!!! I remember feeling the same way as a teen. They don’t think that anything will happen to them or to you, so they ask, “Why can’t I see my friends?” I remember my 17-year-old told me I was “psycho” before the Governor made his announcement.

One way that I’ve explained it to some of my teen clients is by using HIV or another type of STD as an example. “If you knew that by hanging out with your friend you could get HIV and then pass it on to your grandma and she could die, would you do it?” Inevitably the answer is a resounding “No” The following is recommended:

  1. Your teens may be scared, bored, mad, or all of the above so validate their feelings. Your teen is probably complaining, but they have every right to complain because this sucks. Statements such as “I hear you” or “I know” are helpful. Statements such as, “You are lucky you’re healthy” or “Stop complaining” will create tension.
  1. Spend some quality time with them. This involves doing something they want to do
  2. Teens are used to communicating via technology so encourage them to stay connected with their friends.
  3.  If behaviors increase reach out for help.
Self-Care and COVID-19

Self-care is of great importance right now because, and I think we can all agree, when mama’s not happy then no one is happy. Please do the following because you set the tone and example for your kids.

  1. Take care of yourself which may mean trying to have a little alone time if possible.
  2. Get dressed every day.
  3. Go outside for a walk, run, bike ride, etc.
  4. Meditate​, do ​yoga​ or some other type of exercise. There are many free offerings due toCOVID-19.
  5. Remind yourself that this is temporary.
  6.  If your finances have been impacted due to closures, look at ways to save money right now. Cook more, bake, call and get some bills reduced or postponed until a later time, take control in any way possible.
  7. FaceTime family and friends.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Clean out your home and organize it.

I want to add that right now we have seen our clients and their families needing more support than ever due to the current situation. Anxiety and depression are on the rise and will continue to climb due to the current state of affairs. The government has put some wonderful things in place for mental health needs. One being that teletherapy (video therapy) or online counseling is now covered by all insurance companies. Some are covering it 100% so there is no cost to you. If you feel you or your loved one could benefit, please feel free to reach out to us at (908) 415-2042 or email us at ​​ as we are proud to serve New Jersey!

Wishing you and your family good health!

Lisa Hillman is a mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 17. She’s also a wife and mom to a precious dog named Colby (who is really spoiled). She founded Exceptional Wellness Counseling (EWC) to fill a need in the community. EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury NJ and accepts a variety of insurances.

Check out Lisa’s professional bio here!

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