I woke up this morning wondering if it is all a crazy dream. I can’t believe what is going on in the world around us. It’s such an uncertain time right now. I think everyone’s jaw dropped to the floor when they cancelled our children’s school until April 20th (and noted it may be extended longer than that). I know most of us are feeling stressed and anxious. I am trying to just stay calm, stay in the present moment and take things day by day. Some moments I succeed in remaining calm and some moments I look at my husband like a deer in headlights like I did at Wegman’s grocery store a couple nights ago. He was puzzled by my slow movements at the store. I am usually running through Wegman’s as quickly as I can. I am usually working from a list and am a lady on a mission. Last night I was a lady staring at empty shelves. There was a lot of food. We are not in a shortage of food. We just don’t have as many options as we are used to and sometimes it just hits me. You are going to have moments where you feel like you have it all together and you are going to have moments where it all hits you. This is all normal with what we are going through right now.
I have had so many questions about my son’s Bar Mitzvah in May. Everyone is so sweet to worry about this. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your concern and support. Max has been working on his Bar Mitzvah for a long time and so have I. If you don’t know what a Bar Mitzvah is: My son Max does a Temple service in the morning and is learning SO much in order to complete this service. The night time party that I have been working on is like a wedding. It is no joke! This is a Jewish tradition when your child turns 13 years old. I know the guests who are invited are all wondering what is going to happen. We know people have to book hotels and make travel arrangements. We are in the same boat wondering what is going to happen. Things seem to be regularly changing every day. I will tell you that Max’s Bar Mitzvah is not my main concern. Having it cancelled or rescheduled is not ideal, but this is not my priority right now. The priority right now is that we all stay healthy. Health and safety are my number one priority. My son’s Bar Mitzvah is not my number one priority right now. I did have a talk with him last night about the possibility that it will be cancelled or rescheduled. He is just so easy going and is going with the flow of all of this. My daughters probably wouldn’t have responded as well.
Your children (and you) are probably feeling disappointment right now with everything being cancelled and rescheduled. Let us use this as an amazing opportunity for us to teach them about perspective. I’m so sorry that your birthday party, musical, soccer tournament, etc. got postponed. Our children are all probably sad about something getting cancelled or rescheduled. Let us all stay healthy and let this pass so that all these events can occur. What matters right now is your health. I’m not worried about myself. I’m worried about bringing germs to our parents. My worry every day is about our parents (the grandparents)! I’m worried about our parents and I’m worried about all the businesses around us that have to temporarily close. Let us all find a way to support the businesses around us. We can pay personal trainers to train us on zoom. We can get takeout from local restaurants that had to close and can only do take out. Let us all find a way to support people. I will do my best to do my part in this. Let us all find our way in helping in this situation that we are going through. Helping others also makes us feel good and takes the focus off ourselves.
How can you help yourself and your children to cope?
Focus on what you do have control over. Apparently stocking up on toilet paper is helping people feel better. I am amazed by the empty shelves of toilet paper and paper towels. I am amazed by how much food people are buying right now. It is making people feel safer and well prepared. We can make sure we are washing our hands (apparently people weren’t doing this as neurotically as I always have). Teach your children the importance of washing their hands and keeping their hands off their face. Teach your children to eat healthy and why that is important. Eating healthy and taking your vitamins is good for your immune system. I also believe regular visits to the chiropractor and exercise both keep your immune system up. We also have control over our attitude during all of this. My daughter wrote her own thoughts that I will include at the end of this. She is talking about how she will get more family time. My kids all got a hot lunch today that I made them. It is so nice to not be rushing them to all their activities. My daughter is sad that she is missing theater. She is sad that her musical for next weekend is being rescheduled. However, she is trying to keep a good attitude about this and told me how happy she is to be home with her family. It is almost as if the universe is forcing us to slow down and have more family time. I totally understand that some of you are still going to work. I also understand that some of you have your children at home while you try to work. I realize that there are so many challenges right now. I also have faith in you and in our society. We will get through this.
Let us help ourselves and our children focus on what we can do. I have heard a lot of people tell me how excited they are to work on projects at their house that they haven’t had time for. We can go outside and for us it has been wonderful to get outside because we have been stuck inside a lot this winter. We are taking our dog for a walk. My daughter was roller skating outside last night. We played a couple family games last night. My 7 year old can practice for her dance recital. My 11 year old can practice for her musical. Her voice teacher is going to do her lesson online. We have such fabulous technology and there is so much we can do with that. I can give my kids good websites to work on their school subjects. An author is doing lunch time drawing classes online. My girls were jumping on the trampoline together. My son is currently gaming with his friends online. He is talking to his friends through his headset. He is the king of social distancing.
Here is my daughter Ella’s list of things she can do:
- Invent board games
- Watch movies
- Spend time with my pets
- Walk Tanner (our dog)
- Go outside
- Do school work
- Arts and crafts
- Spend time as a family
- Quiplash / firestick games
- Learn guitar
- Photography (her newest interest)
- Virtual field trips (there are so many online)
We can help ourselves and our children to stay in the present moment. Our mind wanders to what the future will bring. Our mind wanders to all the “what ifs.” At the present moment my family is all safe and home and I have food to feed them, a roof over their heads, clothes for them to wear, and we do have toilet paper! I’ll tell you what else you can do as a family: family yoga and family meditation which will help you all to stay present focused.
Some people may be feeling lonely and missing their family and friends right now. We can stay connected to people and help our children to stay connected with their grandparents, teachers and friends. My daughters Ella and Lillie love to face time their friends. My son Max talks to friends every time he is gaming on his headset. My husband is currently on the phone working. I am the texting queen and I text all day. I also feel connected on Facebook and Instagram seeing what my friends are doing. There are so many ways for you to stay connected. You can write someone a letter. I saw that people are suggesting that we write to people at nursing homes who are feeling lonely right now. I was joking with my book club that we could do our book club on Zoom. I am actually kind of serious in keeping our book club date and doing it on Zoom. I am thankful for technology keeping us connected. If you are feeling sad, depressed, anxious, lonely, please reach out to someone. You can even reach out to me!
I decided to hold a family meeting last night. Ella had said, “You watched the news all day today. Can you not do this tomorrow?” I’m glad that she communicated this to me and then told me the news was bothering her. It was a great opportunity to segue into a family meeting. I explained what my expectations were going to be. An example of this was that they were all going to be expected to do school work. I explained to them that they would (G-d willing) be okay if they got this virus. I told them it was minor symptoms in children and that my concern was in regards to us bringing germs to their grandparents. I told them the higher risk is with adults over 60. I explained to them what the symptoms look like. I asked them what questions or concerns they had for me. I asked them to go make me a list of what they CAN do. I also explained why we are not supposed to have play dates right now because my 7 year old was so confused about this. Reassure your kids that they can come to you any time with questions or concerns. Gauge their reactions to things as you talk to them. What are they worried about? What aren’t they telling you? If there are things that you don’t know the answers to go look it up together. I do that with Max all the time because he comes to me with hard questions.
Creating a schedule for yourself and your children will help all of you to find your new normal. Ella asked me today NOT to give her a schedule. She said she is scheduled out and would like a break from having a schedule. I think instead of giving my kids a strict routine I am going to make myself a list of things that I want to cover during the day. I want my kids to have reading time. I want them to have math time. We can come up with science experiments together. I can bake with them. They can walk the dog with me every day. I want them to have physical time inside and or outside of the house. I don’t want them sitting all day. I want them to journal about what is currently going on in the world. Your children may thrive on a schedule that they know that they can follow every day. Especially if you have to go to work or work from home. I told two friends today who have to work to put their oldest child in charge of their younger kids getting through school work. Their older children can keep their younger children focused on getting through the schedule while their parents have to work. It is a great time for giving our children more responsibilities. I also know these older children are going to have their own work to get through so parents needs to consider this too!
When you or your children are feeling stressed, find a way to refocus what you are thinking about. Be in charge of your thoughts. Don’t let your thoughts control you, take proactive control of your thoughts. Make sure your children don’t see the news on all day. This isn’t good for either of you. I want to stay updated on what is happening, but I don’t want it to be my focus all day. I also don’t want my kids to be watching and feeling anxious. Distract them with a craft, baking, a movie, a good book or something else to take their mind off the Coronavirus. My husband told me he took a total break from the news today and that his mental health needed it.
Our children are taking their cues from us. Remember that anxious parents create anxious children. This is a great opportunity to teach our children so much about perspective and attitude. We are all living through a historical moment in time. They will tell their grandchildren about what is currently going on in the world.
Here are Ella’s thoughts that I would like to share:
From a child’s perspective.
“I am Ella, I am 11 years old and corona virus is what is going on and here is what I think. First, I am only half scared because I am a young and healthy so for me it would not be deadly or much more than a flu. But what I am worried about is if I get it then I can give it to my grandparents because it is very contagious and if they get it could be very bad for them. Next, I think there is a good side to this, one good side is that if your family is home for a long time from school you can see them more and spend more time with them. Also, for people with kids home from school you can see what home schooling would be like because they would be doing online learning. So, for you people who are stressing I get it, but there is a bright side to everything, and this just goes to show it. But I do still miss seeing my friends from ATA (theater), but I will focus on the positive and everything will be just fine. Now I get times can be stress full right now, but you can do it! Push through this, it will get better and this virus will stop spreading.”
- What do you have control over?
- What CAN we do?
- Refocus – proactive thinking!
- Stay connected! Thank you to technology!
- Try to find some positives.
- Create a schedule. A new normal.
- Turn off the news.
- Have a family meeting.
- Check in with your children for questions and concerns.
- Stay present focused.
- Make sure you have someone to talk to.
- Have more family time (you don’t have a choice).
We hope that this was helpful for all of you. Share with us some of the ways you are coping with everything going on or struggles you are having.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R