We reached out to one of our favorite Mamas, Emily Barnes, and asked her how she's coping during quarantine. We were delighted to hear her helpful perspective.
I have three children aged between 12 and 17. The global pandemic we find ourselves in has bred a wealth of questions and concerns from each of them. They are old enough to understand the words they are hearing and the pictures they are seeing, but too young to really comprehend what it all means for themselves and the world they inhabit. I mean, can any of us really comprehend what we're living through right now?
I, like thousands of parents & caretakers around the world, have found it difficult to know what to say to our children during this unprecedented time. How do you explain the unexplainable? What I have tried to do in the absence of a satisfactory explanation for the madness, is to help them stay mentally healthy during the lockdown. Below are my 5 top tips for keeping children calm during the Covid-19 lockdown.
1. Your kids have super-powers!
Let's not beat around the bush, the current global situation is overwhelming. Children (and adults) want to feel some sense of control in a world that seems to have lost it. The power of handwashing, sneezing into their elbow and social distancing for a period of time should not be undermined. Each of our kids has a real responsibility there. That is power.
2. Risk assessment
Our children are young and lack perspective. It's important that they understand who is at high risk here, both healthwise and economically; the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, small business owners, the homeless. I'm not suggesting for a moment that there aren't children out there at risk. In my hometown of Portland, Oregon I have seen firsthand how terrifying this situation is for those families who are food-insecure.
What I am suggesting is that we try to help our children maintain a sense of perspective. Many families, including I hope, your own, will come out of this with their health and ability to work intact. Yes, their new normal may look different, but we can and will get through this.
3. Modeling calm
As parents, we have to model calm during a crisis. I mean real calm, not the fake kind (you know they can see the panic in your eyes!).
Meditating for a few minutes every morning to find stillness in the chaos will do wonders for your own ability to respond calmly and rationally. Do it for them, if not for yourself. There are literally hundreds of apps, podcasts and YouTube videos to help you, and lots of them are free for the duration of the pandemic- dive on in and find your meditation jam.
4. Seeking 'Normal'
Nothing is normal at the moment. Our children are watching their teacher teach classes on Zoom, their clubs are canceled, their friends are gone, their Dad dresses like a bank robber to do the grocery shopping. IT'S NOT NORMAL. Their little world has been flipped upside down with no knowing if or when it might un-flip itself.
We have tried to make our children's home a space that offers some normalcy and familiarity amid the madness. We make sure to talk about the mundane (and not just COVID-19), we continue with movie nights and game nights on a weekly basis. Their chore list continues and bedtime routines are maintained. Our hope is that these normal routines will help them to feel grounded and secure.
5. Cherish this time
I know I know, you're suddenly a full-time working mom who is also a full-time teacher, cleaner, cook, entertainer, therapist, and friend. You're exhausted and you just want life to return to normal. But the situation we find ourselves in is unique and offers up opportunities with our children that we wouldn't otherwise be granted.
We have worked hard to shift our priorities to make space for some of these opportunities. As a mom with teenage children, I am thoroughly enjoying family meals together every night. My eldest and I are enjoying sewing together (he loves to make his own clothes). My youngest and I have been binge-watching Lego Masters once all his homework is done and my daughter has been teaching me some Tik Tok dances before bed (I'm shockingly bad!).
These are experiences that I might not have made time for without the lockdown in place. Yes, maybe less vacuuming gets done, I might forgo a scratch-made meal for frozen pizza (again) or the dog might have to cross his legs for an extra half hour before I can take him out to pee. But these moments with my children take on greater priority right now because this too shall pass. We will slowly return to a new version of normal, more resilient than we knew possible. Our days will be filled with demanding routines and, no doubt, our regular daily stresses and responsibilities will return.
Our children will go back to school and their friends. Their clubs will resume and we'll mostly be called on to give them a ride or Venmo them a few dollars for dinner. We'll spend more and more time apart, the face masks will be left at home and the virus paranoia will begin to dwindle.
The memory of loved ones lost during this horrific pandemic will never fade, but the memories of our somewhat odd day to day life no doubt will. My hope is that we will emerge from this with a few memories that we can cherish. Memories of resilience and tolerance and respect for one another and the thousands of heroes who got us through this. But I also hope that we will emerge with memories of calm, supported, healthy children who have a newfound appreciation for how powerful, lucky, strong, and loved they all are. That, to me, would be a lockdown well spent.
A Peek into Emily's Lockdown Life
We introduced our kids to meditation at a really young age. For both my husband and I, it has been an important component in our toolbox for life, so it felt natural to share it with them as a way of helping them cope with stresses in life. What I hadn't bargained on was that still, in their teenage years, we sometimes just get the giggles for the first two minutes. I swear it feels just as good though :)
Since we were forced into lockdown back in March, we have been making use of every indoor and outdoor space we have. Our garage roof now houses our Victory garden, where we have planted salads, veggies and berries. It also works as a great place to practice, especially first thing in the morning when the sun peeks over the trees right onto the space. If I can persuade the 12-year-old to join me, it's really quite lovely! Are you finding any odd spaces to workout at home?
As my children grow older and change, I always try to find areas of common ground with them - which can be challenging. This period of time at home, though testing at times, has also given us time to hang out together. My eldest is an insatiable sewer and makes clothing for himself and his friends every day. Dusting off my old sewing box and relearning how to sew with him has been golden.