Nobody can deny that these are extremely stressful times. Most of us have had no experience or training to prepare for this particular circumstance, but some suggestions can help all of us, children and adults. In a recent column (“There’s help here to get through troubling times,” The Daily News, April 8), Rudolf Rojahn, from the Family Service Center of Galveston County, had some excellent suggestions.
He suggests parents should “put on your own oxygen mask first.” This routine statement from the flight attendant emphasizes the need for the caregivers to be healthy to help their children. All adults should take a step back and see if they can organize their day to improve their physical and mental health.
This should include time for physical activity that could be organized gym routines or a long walk. In “normal” times, it’s recognized that physical exercise helps children think better, sleep better and feel better. Staying isolated doesn’t mean you have to stay inside but does have other rules such as 6 feet apart, no playground equipment, wearing masks and washing of hands.
The fear produced from the pandemic is real. Managing the fear is important so as not to have overwhelming, energy-depleting anxiety. Talk to your children about the daily presentation on the media of COVID-19 and its consequences. Healthy adults and children are unlikely to get extremely sick and die. All the isolation is to protect everyone and help others.
Teach your children to think about what they can control. What do they (and you) need to do in the next 24 hours? Can the family organize a schedule for everyone that includes chores, school time and playtime? The family can control the day-to-day activities, and this can give a sense of calm. Children who are bored are more likely to become frustrated and are more likely to act out, so having them help plan their activities can prevent boredom.
It’s important to praise success in schoolwork, chores or thoughtfulness to others out loud for all to hear. This includes praise for the adults in the family. All of us react positively to praise, and it reinforces good behavior.
All this togetherness will, and does, require discipline. Timeout works best. Remind them of what they did was wrong in as few words (and with as little emotion) as possible. Remove them to another room or turn the chair into the corner for a preset time (one minute per year of age). A kitchen timer will help. If the same behavior happens again repeat until they learn that a timeout will happen every time.
As always, reinforce healthy eating, healthy exercise and safe practices. Recognize and compliment each other in loving and positive ways. Be safe and wash your hands.