With the global COVID-19 pandemic keeping populations isolated and practicing social distancing everywhere, many families are being forced to modify their daily routines and adjust to life at home. For some, this may not present much change from their current lives, but for many more, the closing of schools, businesses, and social areas have brought with it some major life changes. As parents try to navigate their way through a workday from home while simultaneously balancing homeschooling and the needs of their children, stressors can soar, wreaking havoc on family and career dynamics. Finding ways to help cope with social distancing while remaining productive and healthy can help the overall welfare of your family exponentially.
Dealing with the Pandemic
Anytime our lives are thrust into a major disruption of daily routines, we undergo a certain level of stress and anxiety. Research has shown that change results in higher stress levels in humans, in large part due to the uncertainty that come with the break in routine. Since the break in routine demands us to react and adjust, that adds stress to our otherwise auto-pilot sense of daily activities. While there is still debate over how some react with much lower stress levels than others, there are a wide range of choices we can make that will help us cope when faced with this demanding change.
With so much of the stress revolving around uncertainty, it makes sense to try and ease the anxiety of what we don’t know by learning more. By educating ourselves (and our families) about what is going on with the pandemic, we are essentially lessening the uncertainty. While it’s obviously not possible to eliminate the unknowns entirely, we can empower ourselves by staying current on the CDC guidelines and recommendations and ensuring we know how to do our part to help end the social distancing norm as quickly as possible. Knowing what is expected of us in the midst of a routine shift can help give us back a small sense of control which, in turn, lessens stress.
Identifying and Addressing the Stressors
Once you’ve educated yourself (and your families) on the details of the social distancing changes, you can help continue lessening the stress by identifying and addressing the specific stressors. If you’re currently struggling with staying focused on your career with home-induced distractions, or your child is finding it difficult to focus on learning activities without the constructs of a formal classroom, for example, start by identifying the issues.
Make note of what the largest issues are that are keeping your family from functioning more smoothly during the social distancing and try to get to the root of them. Are you having trouble staying productive with work because of too many loud noises in your area, or are you lacking certain necessities you would otherwise have with you (files, resources, etc.)? Are your kids struggling to focus because they are away from a designated study area, or are they simply bored? Finding out what is at the root of your stressors and addressing these issues will help minimize the overall strain on your family.
Finding Ways to Cope with Social Distancing
After identifying the issues that are causing the biggest stress to the confines of social distancing, you can start making changes to help ease the transition. Find spaces that are quiet and designate them for various tasks throughout the day (homework station during set hours, workstation during other times, etc.), minimize distractions in some spaces (quiet time for homework) and create distractions for other spaces/times (giving kids activities to do to help give you more time for your own work). Essentially, reestablish a new routine to create a bit of order to the otherwise confusing new schedule.
Outside of work and schoolwork, it’s also important to understand the social effects of the new isolation norm we are all experiencing. We are social creatures by nature, and most thrive on a certain level of daily interaction with others. While it’s imperative we abide by the guidelines of the CDC for remaining sheltered for the time being, this does not mean we have to give up being social altogether. Be sure to allow time for interactions like playing games and chatting with friends – just do them all virtually. Kids can play games with friends through your family’s tech devices or keep in touch with other family members and friends via phone calls or video chats.
If you find your children (or even yourself) getting a bit restless or a serious case of cabin fever, it’s likely due to a change in physical activity. Unfortunately, one of the effects of being told to stay home, is that many of us are getting a lot less exercise and physical play time than our bodies are used to – a fact which can lead to a great deal of pent up energy that can come out in all sorts of undesirable ways.
With schools, gyms, and most parks being closed to the public right now, it may be difficult to find ways to stay active, but it’s important to incorporate physical activity into your family’s daily routine. Activities such as hiking and walking are still permitted as long as safety precautions are taken (keeping the recommended distance from others, using your elbow or a tissue if you have to cough or sneeze, etc.). Use the time to explore various hiking trails or try a new workout routine outdoors. Plan a race for your children or try out a homemade obstacle course in your backyard. No outdoor space to conveniently utilize? Try out an online yoga class for children or a fun dance sequence to get them moving and burn off some of the extra energy.
Above all, the best thing you can do to help your children cope with social distancing is to work to maintain positivity in your household. Remember that we cannot change the current state of things that are forcing us to break from our routines, but we can change the way we react to the new (temporary) reality. Adaptability and education are our biggest friends right now, so stay in the know and try your best to go with the flow. Keep your focus on enjoying the new-found family time and finding creative ways to give your children some out-of-the-box learning and bonding experiences with the whole family.