This is the third post in a three-part series on the effects of COVID on families. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Ways to Cope and Carry On

Most people recover from COVID-19.  It is a beatable virus.  So when you see the rising number of cases, don’t forget to look at the number of recoveries as well.  It’s pretty high!  However, there are a multitude of sources that offer tips and guidance on how to navigate a COVID-19 world, especially if you’re feeling anxious.  There are many things you can do to cope and carry on.

  • Breathe. Pause.  
    Meditation, praying, these help you to just be still and breathe.
    I know it’s hard to calm the mind with so many things going on, but if you can take 5 minutes for yourself, in a quiet room somewhere, you’ll have a chance to decompress, breathe, get your thoughts straightened, and get a grip on your emotions.  Pause. Breathe.  

    The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Keep to a healthy routine 
    Just because you work from home now (or don’t work at all), or the kids are in virtual school, doesn’t mean we all get to sleep in, stay up late, miss meals, and zone out in front of the TV.  Sure, there are days when we need to do that, but if you keep to a regular, healthy routine you will be better able to cope with oncoming changes.  It will also help you get back to a structured routine when schedules return to normal.  

  • Get rest
    Sleep is so important, especially when under stress.  Since COVID-19 graced us, sleep disturbances have been on the rise.  While insomnia is to be expected during a pandemic or natural disaster, the prolonged self-isolation and lockdowns push these expectations further and we don’t know where it will lead as the pandemic continues on.  Make sleep your priority!

    The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Be kind to yourself  
    This is some heavy drama we’re going through.   How you respond to this will be new for you.  Be kind, and give yourself a chance to adapt and cope.  Be kind to others as well.  There are so many shocking videos out there displaying horrible behaviour by people towards essential-workers for wearing a mask, or for delays in service, that it’s heartbreaking to see.  Be Kind.  Also remember: kids emulate what they see.

  • Connect with others  
    Create your bubble, and expand it when the health authorities declare it’s safe to do so.  Don’t let fear hold you back.  Connection is important for our well-being.  It nurtures us, it helps us deal with adversity better when we know someone has our back.  Connecting means you can vent and unload on your trusted, loved ones, and it means you can support them in return.  Connecting with others helps us remember that we are not alone.

    The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Tips for parents of babies & toddlers
    For new parents who worry that their infant or toddler will not develop a proper interpretation of the world because of masks, here are some strategies or games you can play to help them
    •  introduce the mask in a comfortable place, like home, before exposing them to the masked world
    • Let them see you put the mask on, and explain that people outside are wearing masks too – this eases any possible anxiety as you are giving them a heads up and they will know what to expect
    • Talk to them through the mask, let them hear the muffle, and it also helps you find the right volume to use when speaking to your child
    • Make a game out of it – “guess my expression” is a great suggestion I found online, and I might want to play it with my teen!  Have your young one look at your eyebrows, your eyes, your forehead, which way your head tilts, and have them guess!
    • Smile behind your mask and say “peek-a-boo”!  Reveal your smile. Your child will learn that you will still be smiling even if you are wearing a mask.

      The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Seek help if you need it
    Whether it’s help caring for someone in your home or assistance for yourself, just ask.  

  • Empower your older child(ren)
    When your child or teen is worrying about loved ones becoming ill, focus on the risks of exposure and what you can control.  Denying that the pandemic is an issue only serves to minimize the feelings that they are experiencing.  Provide them with a sense of control by giving them responsibilities to help minimize exposure – ie. have them wipe down doorknobs twice a day, do the family laundry and sanitize clothes/work uniforms, or be in charge of setting up Zoom calls with friends and family you’re isolating from.  (Surprise birthday conference call, anyone? 🎉) These are things that are in their power to control, and it gives them a sense of helping out the family during the pandemic.

    The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Cut the news feed! 
    Leaving your TV or radio on the news all day, constantly regurgitating COVID stats and protocols can trigger anxiety in younger people.  A good way to address your need to get news and to ease your child’s anxiety is to sit down as a family and watch a credible source of news together, then discuss what you learn.  It’ll be a good way to hash out fears and dispel fears that might be the result of an overactive imagination rife with catastrophic scenarios.  You can also try to redirect children’s attention to other things in life – like discussions about school or future plans; playing games; going outside… anything to break the news cycle.

  • Validate feelings
    If your child missed a significant event due to the pandemic, feelings of sadness, frustration, anger or feeling robbed can present.  Do not minimize or trivialize these feelings.  Many events are seen as a rite of passage for children and teens, and to miss those kinds of milestones is a real loss for them.  Let them express these feelings and acknowledge that losing out really sucks.  It’ll be easier for them to recover if they have their parents backing them.

    The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Get creative with socialization
    The biggest issue with this pandemic for kids is the loss of socialization.  Teens, especially, have a hard time being apart from their social groups. Physically distancing from friends breeds resentment and frustration, which can lead to lashing out at parents.  It’s hard to explain to teens that they can’t hang out with friends and talk because it’s considered an exposure risk, especially if it’s about a virus that is typically more fatal to the older population.  Let’s face it, teens think they’re immortal.  But they do need socialization, so consider a Zoom party, a distanced visit on the driveway or giving them access to online chat rooms that they can all participate in and “watch” a movie together.  This applies to younger children as well – no playdates, but Zoom dates!

    The effect of COVID on families - part 3
  • Help teens move forward
    Many teens are upset at the job loss.  Not only is their cash flow impacted, but they also lose that growing sense of independence they’ve developed by earning their own money.  It’s even worse for teenagers and young adults who may be working towards a financial goal – for post-secondary school or a car.  Parents can take this time to help their teen polish their resume, look for safe volunteer opportunities, or help them job hunt.  

As parents and caregivers, we think we need to be strong for everyone else; that we are not allowed to show that we are worried, or scared.  But honestly, it’s a human thing to feel weak at times.  Keeping emotions inside and not reaching out when you need help is a surefire way to set yourself up for anxiety and loneliness.  It will come out in the form of excess coffee drinking, oversleeping/undersleeping or headaches; stress has many forms. It’s only when you open yourself up to help and unload your worries to neighbours, friends and family, will you truly realize that you’re not alone… we really are “in this together”.

You can find all of the resources and references for this article here

Rebecca Ramdeholl is a freelance writer and author of  The Little Book of Ass-Kickers: 5 Ways to Get Your Health Back on Track Naturally.  She directs a lot of her focus on writing about health and wellness (specifically for women aged 35+), along with nutrition, and mental health.  Her niche writing includes topics on prepping and homesteading for newbies, as well as website content creation for small, online businesses. You can find her at The Poe Scribe.