09 Apr Parenting in a Pandemic: 5 Tips for Strengthening Family Connections During COVID-19
COVID-19 has taken over the world in recent months, and experts are still uncertain as to when the pandemic will end. While the social distancing and shelter-in-place measures are a necessary step for the good of society, they have also placed a heavy burden on families. Unfortunately, increased stress, like the kind brought on by the coronavirus is also a risk factor for substance abuse and other mental health issues. Our mission at Next Step is to bring hope, help, and strength to East Texas youth and a big part of achieving this goal centers on strengthening the family. While it may be difficult, we believe that the extra time families have with one another could actually work to their advantage. Here are five tips for strengthening family connections during this chaotic season.
1. Chalk it up!
Sometimes the best thing to do in the midst of chaos is to embrace your inner child, and nothing screams little kid fun like chalk! Here’s a list of some fun chalk games to try. Turn your driveway into a Hot Wheels racetrack, decorate a few parking spots outside your apartment complex, or play tic-tac-toe. If you want to be a part of something bigger, join the movement sweeping the nation and #ChalkYourWalk by visiting your local park and writing positive messages like the one shared by canoes_and_creativy on Instagram!
2. Scavenger Hunt!
All kids (whether big or small) love scavenger hunts. Got little ones at home? Make a list of things to look for in nature and hit the woods. Elementary school? Turn it into a car game and look out the window for words in alphabetical order! Big kids? Selfie scavenger hunts are the best! Have them take selfies in front of interesting things and share the photos with you over dinner.
3. Bake something!
Cooking is a great way to spend time together. It provides opportunities for little ones to read, follow directions, and measure things. Put your teenager in charge of making dessert. Share a family recipe or find one online! Make a COVID cake and decorate it with hideous colors or punny jokes. Here’s a good one from the Twitter-sphere:
Whatever you end up baking, be sure to sit down and enjoy it together. Research reveals a strong connection between family mealtime and reduced youth substance abuse. One of the greatest protective factors in a young person’s life is the relationship with parents, and mealtimes are great opportunities for families to connect.
4. Plant a garden!
Spending time outdoors is great for your mental health. March-April is prime planting season for East Texas. Pick up a few different planters or seeds from your local hardware store or garden shop. Slap on your shades, grab your radio or Bluetooth speaker, and spend some time gardening! Want to go above and beyond? Here’s a short video for how to build a handsome planter box for under $23!
5. Parents, prioritize your own emotional health.
Perhaps the most important thing parents can do during this time is what therapists call “setting the emotional tone” for their household. Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist and author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, explains this concept by using the analogy of an airplane pilot.
Imagine you’re in the middle of a flight when out of nowhere there is unexpected turbulence. The plane is shaking, drinks are spilling, and people are getting scared. How the pilot responds to the sudden turmoil will set the tone for how the passengers will experience this season of uncertainty. The best captains won’t ignore the turbulence or respond in panic, but will calmly explain the scenario to the passengers, along with the next steps for getting through it. For parents seeking to make the best of this season of sheltering-in-place for their families, the biggest question isn’t “what?” but “how?” Kids don’t need things to keep them busy as much as they need parents who exude calmness and confidence. As parents, the best way to take care of our families is to first take care of ourselves.
Hopefully these five tips can get you started on dreaming up ways to make it through this difficult season. For more information on ways to keep your family safe, check out our blog or these other great resources! Get creative, stay calm, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Looking for more ways to connect with your kids? Check out some of these awesome resources!
Harvard University Center on the Developing Child: Activities Guide: Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence
Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics: Kids’ Zone
Department of Energy: Games and Activities; Virtual Field Trips to National Energy Labs
Environmental Protection Agency: Games, Quizzes, and Videos about the Environment
The Library of Congress: Presentations and Activities to Help Students Learn about History
NASA: Interactive Lessons about Space, Earth, Solar System and Universe; Lessons from Astronauts about Living in Space; STEM Activities for Students of All Ages
The Kennedy Center: Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems; Tour the Kennedy Center with The Pigeon
The Smithsonian: Free Smithsonian STEM Games and Simulations; Meet the Animals of the National Zoo; 3D Exhibits and Virtual Tours; Smithsonian Magazine Ten Museums You Can Virtually Visit; The Museum of Natural History Virtual Tour; Digital Smithsonian American Art Museum; Distance Learning Resources
NOAA: Use Real-Time Ocean Data to Explore the Environment
USGS: Learn from Home About Physical science, Geography and Maps
USA Today: 100 things to do while stuck inside due to a pandemic