The COVID-19 pandemic has marched through disrupting daily life and interrupting how children and families connect with one another. Many thought that the shelter- in – place order was going to be temporary. We thought that by July “things would be back to normal”. One of the biggest challenges to children and families is how to stay positively connected when you don’t have access to the things that fill you up emotionally and help you stay emotionally balanced.
When the schools went to online learning only children and teens lost their community. So, they had to turn to siblings and parents for connection instead of school and friends. Families are strained from economic stress, new demands on time, parents learning to be their child’s teacher, working from home, access to technology, to name a few.
Staying connected and being positive with one another is more important than ever. Many families are having what I call “COVID-19 burnout”. There are signs of boredom, irritability, frustration, intolerance, depression, and anxiety.
The uncertainty of the future and what we will all have to continue to adjust to makes staying positively connected even more challenging. Here are a few things you and your family can do to stay positively connected.
- Validate each other’s feelings. Remember you are all in this together. Of course, you may feel bored or irritable. Sometimes just knowing that others see what we are going through can be enough to shift the negative mood into a positive mood.
- Give some space. This may be difficult for some households, however, allowing some physical space can do a lot to de-escalate negative feelings. Sit outside in the backyard for a while to calm and focus yourself before engaging with your family again.
- Focus on the positive. There are a lot of negative stressors in the world right now. It can indeed feel overwhelming. When we focus on the positive, the silver lining, in each situation it can help to get through difficult times. Ask yourself, “what can I learn from this experience?”
- Create. Make a positivity chain. Using strips of colored paper, each person writes a positive thought our phrase on the strip and then links each of the strips together in a paper chain. You could write things like: “I love you.” Or “You got this.” Or “We’re in this together.” You can then find a special place to hang or display your chain so that you can see how your positivity is growing.
- Play together – It can be board games, lawn games in the backyard, riding bikes together, playing catch or even playing with balloons. One way to focus on releasing negative emotions and experiences is to use a balloon to blow your negative feelings into. The balloon than can be used to play catch with and then popped to release the feelings you don’t need.
Play therapy incorporates all these elements to help children and their families learn to express their thoughts and feelings in ways that help them feel closer to each other and remain positive. These are indeed challenging times. We are here to help for when you or your family are not able to work through these challenges. Remember, you are not alone.
Mary Ruth Cross, MS, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services, PC