In parts one and two of the Pandemic Toolbox, we explored the need for us as adults, to be well informed; but not fear driven. We considered the need to maintain routine, but remain flexible, and the need to negotiate more tech time for our older children so that they could maintain contact with friends. We were also reminded to keep connected ourselves, with our own friends and family, for our own sense of well-being!
In this final part of the toolbox, we’ll take a look at five additional tools that can help us to stay connected with our children.
While physical access to places outside of our homes may be curtailed during the pandemic period, virtual access has opened like never before. Audible has made thousands of classic children’s and adult’s books available for free to listen to on their websites (USA and Canada). Zoos, museums and national parks have provided free virtual tours on their websites as well. One can watch live video of animals in their natural surroundings. How cool is that?!?
It’s a great time to access these resources while they are free! In other cases, there are many trial offers that can also be explored for limited periods of time.
Do you have a list of projects that you’ve been waiting to do? If so, there’s never been a better time to start! Artists offer free tutorials on YouTube or from their websites. Pick one with your child and learn together.
Has your child ever wanted to try music lessons? Many teachers are offering online lessons; some of whom may have space available since regular students may not have access to video. If you have the instrument at home or can get your hands on one, video music lessons are a great way to go!
Do you have family stories your child has never heard? This would be a great time to share them. Your child may be reluctant to hear you out if you just announce that you will be sharing your family history with them Instead, a great way to introduce this topic is to simply pull out the old photo albums together and then start to answer the questions that emerge!
Alternatively, find old family heirlooms and retell their meaning or start a family tree project and research your heritage line together. Learning about one’s family history is a great way to connect children with their roots and potentially make connections with you in the process!
8. Stay Confident
Your children don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to be confident and present. Confidence is not being 100% certain; it is in trusting your ability to manage. According to a paraphrased version of Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, confidence is trust or reliance that is applied to one’s ability to believe in their competency. This then allows a person to walk forward with boldness and courage!
You won’t be perfect and somewhere along the line, you will likely need to apologize for not getting things quite right. That’s okay! We are all learning together as none of us have ever walked this path before! When we falter, we simply apologize. Our kids can learn through these moments as well. We will be modelling humility, teachability, collaborations, compromise, and forgiveness in action!
9. Mitigate Anxiety
Some of our kids struggle more with anxiety than others. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be more prone to anxiety than others during the pandemic period. While our gut response may be to counter their anxious thoughts with facts and logic, that is the opposite of what we are advised to do. This is not a matter of the head. It is a matter of the heart!
On March 26, 2020 the team at Asperger Experts (www.AspergerExperts.com) sent an email to their community members recommending the best way to help anxious individuals! It is summarize as follows:
- Validate their feelings as real,
- Help them stay calm (but DO NOT SAY “Calm Down”), and
- Once calm TOGETHER find real science that validates or invalidates their belief
Only then can you discuss how to manage the topic at hand (i.e. hand washing protocols, staying home, etc.). The team also mentioned that while anxiety levels may be higher, kids still need to be held accountable for their actions and life still needs to be maintained. The increased anxiety we are all feeling is not an excuse to let our responsibilities slide.
It would be tempting to not require anyone to do anything during this time, but let’s face it, allowing our responsibilities to slide will only increase anxiety levels when the inevitable occurs. Bills need to be paid, meals need to be made, laundry needs to be washed, and personal hygiene needs to be maintained.
As parents and adult’s, it’s up to us! We are the ones our children look to in order to see how they should react and respond in moments where life is not going as planned! If we are anxious, they will be anxious. If we let our responsibilities slide, they will too.
If we spend our days in front of the news networks, we will miss valuable moments to connect with our kids and potentially model worry or alarm for them. They don’t have access to this information unless we provide it. Yes, we need to be informed but we must keep in mind that our children may not understand or process the information like we do. They’re not old enough yet. We must take this into account and see the world through their eyes.
As much as the brave health care workers, police, grocers and others head to the front lines each day to serve and protect; you too are a frontline worker. Your children are looking for their hero in you!
Be informed … Maintain Routines … Be true to your feelings so that you can find the calm … Stay Flexible … Be Honest … Be Reassuring …and Trust …We will get through this.
“We are Better Together!”