Although many talk as if the coronavirus pandemic is “over,” the fact is that it isn’t.
Life won’t be like “the old days” for a long time.
Families are still spending more time at home, as the usual flurry of summer activities have been pared down or eliminated. Although summer creates more opportunities for outdoor fun, it also means that, for most, there’s no longer schoolwork to keep kids occupied during the day.
To celebrate Father's Day, we decided it was the right time to give parents a little extra hope and inspiration. So we turned to the LSSND Family Coaching Program to get parenting tips and encouragement for all the dedicated dads and moms out there.
Christy Cellmer-Bushy, a family coaching specialist based out of our Grand Forks Program Center, says the pandemic has created a new kind of family stressor. “We’re just in such uncharted territory,” Cellmer-Bushy says. “We’re all learning together. So it’s important to talk about it.”
Here, she offers some ideas to help give family members an extra boost when they need it most:
• Practice self-care. When we’re responsible for others and feeling maxed out, it’s human nature to drop our own self-care first. But a parent who only gets four hours of sleep at night and lives off microwaved pizza rolls will not be at their best. They will only get more stressed, run-down and frustrated, which typically causes a negative “trickle-down” effect on kids.
Parenting “recess” can be as simple as carving out time in your day to take a bath, go on a walk, listen to a podcast or ask a trusted friend to watch the kids for 30 minutes. Like to write? Cellmer-Bushy recommends taking time to journal your feelings, complete with a daily gratitude list. Remember: It’s not selfish to give yourself a break. It allows you to be a better parent in the long run.
• Stick to a schedule. It’s tempting to throw out the planner once the structure of school has passed. But schedules, routine and predictability can be comforting to kids, especially children with special needs.
If kids are attending summer school, Cellmer-Bushy suggests “chunking down” time so studies don’t get too overwhelming. Rather than sparring with kids over three hours of homework, break it down into manageable spurts: Have them do 15 minutes of math homework, then give them a five-minute break to do something fun. Repeat this pattern until they’ve completed an hour of homework in that subject.
• We like to move it, move it. Go for nature walks. Put on music and dance. Take the dog for a walk. Exercise is a great stress-reliever for everyone.
• Keep it fun. Feel like all you’re doing these days is yelling at the kids? Channel your inner child and make time for playtime. Whether you designate one week to theme days (Mobile Monday, Tasty Tuesday), orchestrate a “crafternoon,” or have everyone run through the sprinklers on a hot da
y, make it a priority to create fun.
• Stop, collaborate and vacuum. This is a good time to recruit the kids to help out, whether that means helping to load the dishwasher, cook spaghetti or water the flowers. Just remember to keep it age-appropriate and to give positive reinforcement – even if they don’t do things exactly as you would do it. We know it is human nature to take pride in a project if we’re part of it, so enlisting help from the kiddos might even make them take extra precautions to keep the house clean!
• Just breathe. Yes, it’s hard to stay calm these days, but remember that feelings are contagious. Practice relaxation techniques with your kids, whether that be birthday candle breathing (take a deep breath in through the nose and exhale out through the mouth as if blowing out a candle) or inviting kids to join you in practicing mindfulness exercises. (Find three things in the room that I can feel, three things I can see, three things that I can smell).
• Look for the sunny side. We know it’s not always easy, but Cellmer-Bushy encourages parents to look at the positive side of this sometimes-maddening situation. Try to find the good things that have come out of the previous months (more time with family, everyone is walking more, we have a whole new appreciation for teachers).
If your children are acting up a lot right now, it’s important to give them positive instruction, Cellmer-Bushy says. Correct the behavior by modeling it, then compliment them and make a huge deal about it when they do it right. If you react to screaming and yelling with screaming and yelling, it will only escalate. Instead, be the adult. Let them act out until they’re done and reward them when they stop.
Cellmer-Bushy is also a big fan of reward charts to recognize all those little positive actions and small steps forward that happen throughout the day. Kids can earn a certain number of stars for an extra piece of pizza or 10 minutes of extra playtime outside. Recognizing those victories can go a long way toward encouraging better behavior and happier parent-child connections.
-By Tammy Swift