Starting daycare, preschool or kindergarten is a milestone in your child’s life. It’s always been an occasion for a cute new backpack and a chance to snap a few adorable photos. But during the pandemic, many parents are struggling and feeling isolated. Whether you’re choosing homeschooling, virtual learning from home or in-person schooling, the anxiety and stress can feel overwhelming.
Experts agree that it’s important for kids’ sense of security for parents to model healthy attitudes. Learning and teaching constructive ways to cope with stress and anxiety builds resilience that can last a lifetime. So what can you do now to manage your own stress and anxiety and build resilience in yourself and your children?
• Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation. Feeling scared and anxious is normal. Writing your emotions down through journaling can help reduce stress. Talk with someone you trust about your feelings, but don’t let yourself get trapped in negativity: ask yourself if you can see the situation as an opportunity rather than a crisis.
• Focus on staying in the present instead of dwelling on what-ifs. Regularly practicing mindfulness, alone or with your kids, will help. Mindfulness activities include breathing exercises, meditation (try an app!), or prayer. Other activities can engage all your senses too. Try preparing and enjoying a good meal (appreciate the different flavors and textures), taking a walk (feel the cool breeze and breathe in the scents of nature), coloring (notice colors and shapes), or listening to music (let yourself get swept up in the sounds).
• Create a daily routine. The sense of order offered by a healthy routine is more important than ever for everyone. Set a daily agenda and goals for yourself. If your littles are learning at home, plan to alternate remote learning sessions with periods of fun and free time. Chores, online social time with friends, and outside time are important too. End the day with family time and reading before bed.
• Consider getting help with at-home learning. Sylvan Learning of Broomfield offers both online and in-person tutoring for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. They can create a personalized schedule that fits your family. Visit locations.sylvanlearning.com/us/broomfield-co/school-support.
• Be thoughtful about your media exposure. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s not helpful to get sucked into apocalyptic worst-case scenarios. Consider establishing a time when you can turn off your phone or go off social media.
• Take the time to exercise, eat a healthy diet and get the right amount of rest: you’ll be better prepared to manage the stress of this time than a parent who doesn’t. Exercise gives you a boost of feel-good endorphins. Many gyms are offering classes you can take at home, or you can follow along with an exercise video on YouTube. If possible, consider investing in home personal training technology. Or just take the kids outside for a walk, bike ride, or a game of tag.
• Find a way to regularly shift the focus off your situation and give back. You’ll strengthen your social connectedness as well as your sense of purpose, which will make you happier and more resilient. Call a friend and offer to listen. Volunteer from home for a cause that’s important to you. Take your child along to drop off groceries to a neighbor in need.
• Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. During the COVID-19 health crisis you can call Mental Health Partners in Broomfield for parenting support or coaching at 970.528.0513, Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m. MHP’s KidConnects & Community Infant Program also provides additional parent support for parents of newborns and kids up to age 5 at 303.245.4418. This service is available all year during business hours.
By Amy Harris Van Vranken, Raised in the Rockies