by Dawn H. Haaz, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist and jkidphilly Parent Ambassador
If someone would have told us a year ago that we would be quarantined for weeks due to a pandemic, that schools, places of worship, businesses, and restaurants would be closed, and parties and other social gatherings canceled, most of us would probably have thought they were crazy. We are certainly in an unprecedented and uncertain time. For many of us (including children), our current situation feels unreal and brings up stress, fear, and anxiety. As some of you may know, in addition to my role as a Parent Ambassador for jkidphilly, I am also a licensed psychologist. Thus, I thought it may be helpful to provide some tips for creating normalcy for you and your family during this abnormal time from my perspective as a psychologist, mom, and leader in Jewish life.
Talking about COVID-19 with your kids- By this time, most children are aware of the virus or at least changes in their daily life as a result of the virus. Here are some ways to decrease their anxiety about the virus.
- Provide developmentally appropriate information to your children about the virus. Answer questions as appropriate without causing more alarm than necessary.
- Avoid watching the news or talking openly about concerns in front of young children.
- Provide reassurance that you and your family are safe and that you are keeping them safe by following recommendations from doctors and other professionals.
- Keep an open dialogue where they feel safe and comfortable asking questions and talking about how they feel.
- Manage your own fears and anxiety as best you can (see Self-Care below). Children pick up on our anxiety even when we don’t talk about it directly.
Create structure– People, and especially children, thrive on structure, routine, and predictability. Of course, for most of us, our lives and routines have been suddenly interrupted. As parents, it’s important to create as much normalcy and structure during this time as possible.
- Try to keep to the same schedule for sleep, meals, baths, and other routines as much as possible.
- Include at least some time for academics each day during the week for kids in school. Many kids are being given assignments through school. If that’s not the case, you can easily find age appropriate activities and worksheets online.
- Try to include at least one of your child’s school specials (i.e. art, music, gym, library, etc.) into each day. Get creative and find fun ways to do so.
- Don’t forget recess. Make sure to incorporate fun, physical activities as well as down time.
- Try to continue with extracurricular activities at home. Some extracurricular activities are getting creative by providing activities virtually or emailing video/links to continue the activities at home.
Family bonding time– For many of us, daily life is often chaotic balancing work, school, extracurricular activities, and household chores. We often don’t get to spend as much quality family time as we would like. While many of us are still working, we may also have more time at home for family time. Find ways to make this time together special.
- Spend time outside when it is nice out doing family walks, bike rides, playing sports/games, BBQing, or planting a garden.
- Make a fun meal or dessert together, such as make your own pizza, tacos, breakfast for dinner, ice cream sundaes, s’mores, or bake a special treat.
- Have a movie night or game night with popcorn or other special treats.
- Look through old family albums and reminisce or make a new family album, scrapbook, or recipe book.
- It’s the perfect time for spring cleaning while jamming out to your favorite songs.
Social connection while social distancing- As social beings, we thrive on connection with others. While we might be spending extra time with our immediate family, we are likely missing out on valuable connections with other friends, co-workers, gym buddies, fellow parents, and congregants. Don’t forget the valuable connections your child has from school, synagogue, and extracurricular activities.
- Connect regularly with friends and family through text, phone calls, and Facetime. Help your children connect with friends and family too. This can be a great time to Facetime with extended family and friends.
- Use social media to connect with others when it is helpful but know when it is time to take a break when it is causing more stress and anxiety than helpfulness.
- Introduce your kids to the concept of pen pals (by snail mail or email). They can write letters/send pictures to cousins or friends. You can even find a pen pal for your children through parent Facebook groups.
- If you are struggling with extreme anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, make sure to reach out for professional help. Many therapists are currently offering teletherapy during this time.
Practicing self-care- It’s always important to practice self-care, but especially during stressful times. Remember, we can’t fully take of others, if we don’t first take of ourselves.
- Make sure to take care of your physical needs. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat well-balanced meals.
- As much as you love your family, being together at home 24/7 during a stressful time, can be overwhelming. Many of us also need to continue working while taking care of our kids. Make sure to take breaks and time for yourself. If you have a spouse, partner, or other family members in your home, ask them for what you need.
- Take deep breaths, engage in meditation, prayer, and/or yoga. There are plenty of apps and online resources.
- Engage in activities that are relaxing and de-stressors, such as listening to music, reading, watching TV, engaging in art/creative writing/journaling, gardening, taking a hot bath/shower, or physical activity. Encourage your children to do the same.
- Reach out to people you trust to talk about and process your feelings and concerns.
Incorporating Judaism- For many of us, being Jewish is an important part of our lives. Religion can especially be a calming and stable force during stressful and uncertain times. It is a perfect time to connect to Judaism in some way that feels comfortable for you.
- Join jkidphilly on Facebook live every weekday at 10 AM over the next couple weeks for songs, stories, and other Jewish activities.
- Read jkidphilly books as a family.
- Bake a challah, hamantaschen (it’s never too late!), or another Jewish treat.
- Put together a recipe book for Passover.
- Many synagogues are broadcasting Shabbat services online, which anyone can access.
- Support the community- This is a frightening time for all of us both regarding the health and financial stability of our country and the rest of the world. Let’s band together to support and help each other during this time.
- Think before posting on social media. Are my posts/comments more helpful/uplifting or hurtful/judgmental of others?
- Reach out to elderly and ill friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and congregants. See if there is anything they need that you can help them with.
- Of course, this is a particularly scary time for small businesses, restaurants, and nonprofits as well as employees who are no longer getting paid. Please support these businesses/people, if you can. Shop local businesses online, buy gift cards for restaurants/businesses to support at a later date, make a donation to your favorite nonprofit, or drop off a gift card for a supermarket to someone you know is taking a financial loss.
- While doing spring cleaning, set aside books, toys, and clothes you no longer need to donate.
- Have your children do chores around the house while home to earn tzedakah (money for charity) to donate to a good cause or to support a local business/organization. Remember, every bit counts!
I hope these tips are useful for you and your family and can help create some normalcy during this difficult time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dawn H. Haaz, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist in PA. She earned her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Chestnut Hill College with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. Dr. Haaz sees adults at the private practice of David A. Nover, M.D, P.C in Warrington. Additionally, she is the Founder and CEO of the local nonprofit organization, Girls Empowered, Inc. For the past four years, she has been serving as the jkidphilly Parent Ambassador for the Doylestown area. Dr. Haaz and her husband are natives to Doylestown, and she is excited to be playing a valuable role in increasing the Jewish community for their almost 5-year-old son and other young families.