4 min read
dad and daughter reading

We love our children but being together 24-7 can get on a person’s nerves. The coronavirus pandemic is adding more stress and anxiety to life, whether you are working from home, supervising homeschooling, or continuing as an essential worker with limited time at home. Unmanaged stress is the number one cause of sickness, mental health, and relationship issues.

The following are survival tips for you and your family:

  • Decide on a calming routine (what works for you) to manage your emotions and stay calm. Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. Play soothing music to help you calm down. Time-outs are for adults too.
  • Learn to practice mindfulness to help you focus and be present in the moment.
  • Remind yourself that this situation is temporary and that you can get through it.
  • Develop a positive attitude of I’ve got this! I can survive this!
  • Take turns talking and really listening to each other.
  • Organize separate spaces for living and fun, eating and snacks, sleeping, homework, and working. Use boxes or separate containers for snacks and homework and label with each child’s name. Create a working area that is not on your bed or dining table.
  • Decrease anxiety by

Reassuring children (and ourselves) that we are safe and have food, shelter, and clothing. Tell them, “I understand that you are not happy, but we will be okay.”

Maintaining a routine of structure and predictability giving children a feeling of being safe.

Helping regulate children to manage their reactions by keeping them busy and getting plenty of exercise. Play regulation games such as Simon Says or Freeze that require children to listen to and follow instructions and practice self-control.

  • Establish routines. The order that routines bring is more important than the time on the clock. Have routines for morning that includes breakfast, lunchtime, after dinner, and bedtime. Be sure to include in the routine time to play and have fun, to read, to exercise, and to do chores.
  • Provide healthy snacks. It is normal for children to want to eat something every 3 hours, so keep healthy snacks, such as fruits and veggies. If their stomach is rumbling, they will misbehave. To control too much snacking, have a container labeled for each person and then allow them to select three or four snacks for the day. Store snacks on upper shelves so they are not easy to reach.
  • Get enough. Have a consistent time to get up and go to bed—and stick to it. Set a goal of having children getting ready for bed by 7:30 p.m. so you can actually have them in their beds by 9:00 p.m. The earlier that you can get them in bed, the more adult alone time for yourself. This is not selfish. This is time for you to have some much-needed peace and uninterrupted adult conversation with a friend or a partner. Don’t get into the bad habit of staying up until midnight every night because you will be cranky and have a bad day. Everyone is happier when everyone gets enough sleep. You cannot force a child to take a nap or go to sleep, but you can require them to stay in bed and listen to music or read to let their bodies rest. This also gives you a much-needed break!
  • Exercise for everyone’s mental health. Schedule at least one hour of exercise daily. This can be four 15-minute breaks or two 30-minute breaks. Have two to three periods of family fun and exercise time each day. Make it fun and full of laughter.
  • Make a fun-activities jar or container. Make a list of fun activities for your family. Let each person share things they think are fun and let an adult write them down on pieces of paper. Fold the pieces of paper and put them into the container. Have a container for each child or person. Use these to motivate and encourage good behavior. For example, tell children that when they pick up their rooms, they can select a fun activity. Or the first one ready for bed gets to draw a fun activity to do as a family.
  • Make a glitter or anger bottle. Fill an empty bottle almost full of water leaving some air space at the top. Put a small vial of glitter into the bottle; put glue inside the bottle cap and screw the lid back on. Let it dry. When you feel yourself getting upset, grab the bottle and shake it up, and then sit down and watch the glitter settle while you take deep breaths. You can make bottles for the children, too, with each person having a different color of glitter. Teaching children to calm down is teaching them an essential skill.
  • Require daily chores for everyone. We play together and we work together.
  • Make a chore chart. Use this chart for daily chores, once-a-week chores, and extra-credit chores.
  • Make a list of consequences. Include chores that are not enjoyed, such as cleaning the toilet, bathtub, litterbox, or car. Have a family meeting and tell children what your expectations or rules are and that if they fuss, argue, or don’t mind, then you will give them a consequence of your choosing. This is not mean. You have told them your expectations, so you are teaching them that their choices have consequences while helping them learn life skills.

For more parenting information, visit the Human Sciences Extension Facebook page and the Home and Family sectionof the Alabama Extension website.

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