Conscious Caregiving in Pandemic Times

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Reality Check: 

We do not know the lasting impact of this collective experience. We know that childhood adversity can manifest into limitations that last a life-time. The “soft” or “super learning” years are our best chance of setting a positive course and solid foundation for learning and living.

Luckily, the human brain and body were made for processing change and adapting. We know that safe, supportive, and loving relationships can lessen the effects of trauma/adversity on children’s development. 

The adult brain has a little more resistance to change and uncertainty. It will be our work to sustain and nurture ourselves so that we can be present for our children. Throughout this blog, I will share insight and tips for intentionally empowering and support ourselves as caregivers in this time.

Caregivers can start by practicing 3 simple skills to build relationships and buffer adversity:

  1. Listen
  2. Celebrate the “Sunny Spots”
  3. Seed Hope

You can help your child and yourself be resilient to adverse experiences by building in assets and/or buffer experiences each day. Learn more at Developmental Asset Framework.

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Examples Developmental Assets

Give Yourself Permission to Experiment

Homeschooling, teleworking, isolation, uncertainty, illness, societal and economic unrest are just a few things that are pressurizing and already pressurized system. I predict, there will be bright spots and hurdles. The way through it inwards in commUnity- relationships have never mattered more. By figuring out what gives us the most joy, quality time, and sustenance and amplifying that, we give a gift to our children.

Together we rise. Try these evidence informed ways to beat stress.

Ingredients to Grow Resilient Families

  • Drink LOTS of water
  • Move often- Kid Friendly Movement and Yoga?
  • BREATH
  • Go outside, witness beauty 
  • Eat and sleep well- take naps
  • Have fun, play
  • Connect with people who feel safe and loving
  • Talk about your feelings
  • Sing, Yell, Cry- use your voice
  • Read, watch, and think positively when possible
  • If you feel overwhelmed, find support
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Focus on what you can control
  • Make space for Mindful Moments
  • Be the person you would have needed if you were a kids in these times.
  • Build in special events and experiences that are once-in-a-lifetime.
  • Ensure kids remember more than just a virus and being “stuck” at home. Remember camping in the yard, making Moon Sand, and learning a family song or dance. Make it memorable. 
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Start with what you know.

So much is unknown right now. It is important to keep what you can know in perspective. I think the old idea that “knowledge is power” has never been more important. Get to know yourself and your family again in this new reality. Can you become aware of how your needs and your children’s needs have changed? How they might continue to stabilize and evolve over the weeks and months ahead? Give yourself a new “True North” by getting clear on who you are and what you give or ask for in this present moment. Try these self-coaching questions:

  1. What are my roles and who am I really responsible to/for?
  2. What is my unique value add in this time?
  3. What resources or supports can I discover?
  4. What do I believe is the safest and most important next step/need?
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Talking to children about COVID-19 and social distancing?

Stephanie Grant, PhD recommends these 10 tips:

1. Don’t ignore what’s happening, because your children – especially those with histories of trauma – will pick up on the fact that things are unexpectedly different in their worlds. But do avoid making them nervous.

2. A good message is to talk about the virus and how “we’re working together to keep more people from getting sick by pausing school and other places crowds may be…it’s so awesome so many people are working to help one another out!”

3. Focus on what WILL stay the same…little things, that you’ll still get up and eat breakfast, you’ll still have lunch, you’ll still sleep in your bed, etc. Give a nice long list.

4. If you sense a child is becoming anxious about it, call it out casually: “I noticed you might be kind of anxious about something…I’m wondering if it has anything to do with XYZ?”

5. Provide visual structure for your kids at this time. Make a visual plan for the day, introduce it in the morning, and work your way through it during the day. It will take extra effort on your part, but will help them with any anxiety and these unexpected changes.

6. Outdoor play and field trips, baths, sensory play, etc. will be helpful activities. I’ll likely post some other ideas over the next few weeks on my Facebook page as well.

7. Remember that unexpected change, loss of routine and structure, and increased stress in the world will be HUGE triggers for many of your kids. Focus on co-regulation, keep expectations appropriate, and give grace to yourself and them.

8. Deep breaths, guys. Deep breaths. We can do this together.

Tips by Stephanie Grant, PhD

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Last thought: Just Let Them Play: An Alternative Approach to Schooling at Home During the Quarantine

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