Creating a new normal during uncertain times

COVID-19 has disrupted our day-to-day lives like never before. Social distancing has resulted in school dismissal and a lack of certainty regarding when we may return to a normal school day and thus routine. Cathy Guttentag, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and a clinical child psychologist with UT Physicians said, "Routines and schedules provide children with a sense of stability, security, and structure that can help keep boredom and frustration to a minimum. An important way to maintain some sense of routine is to keep sleep schedules relatively consistent." Guttentag also states, "Keeping children active and able to burn off their energy may be particularly challenging, but even with social distancing, unless you or your child is actually ill, you should still have some options, such as going for walks, creating an obstacle course around your house, or playing music and dance videos." If your own work-from-home requirements limit your ability to be a Pinterest-worthy parent at this time, give yourself a break and just do what you need to do to keep your household functioning. Try to... - Create Routines – Our teens thrive on routine. Consider sitting down with your teen and making a daily schedule - keeping their regular bedtime and morning routines, sitting down for lunch at the same time as they do at school, and incorporating small amounts of academic time throughout the day. Keeping these small things consistent can help our teens to feel regulated, calm and make a potentially scary and uncertain situation feel much more predictable. (An example of a schedule can be found here.) - Manage your anxiety in front of your teens and be mindful and aware of your teen's anxiety which may look like a change in behavior such as more irritability, using dark humor, or asking a lot of questions. - Use screens wisely and limit COVID-19 information intake for yourself and your teens. Steer clear of social media that makes you anxious and restrict news consumption, especially one hour before going to sleep. - Put yourself in your teens shoes: They may be disappointed about canceled events, needing to move to online learning, school dismissal, lack of sports teams, spring vacations, celebrations such as birthdays and graduation, not seeing their friends in person, or other things not happening or being postponed. - Maintain regular health habits including adequate sleep, healthy meals, and moving your body and getting outside every day if you are able. Get dressed as though you’re meeting people outside. Build in time to exercise, from YouTube (Highly recommend Yoga with Adriene!) in the living room or outdoors. This is not the time to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. - Encourage family bonding through household help which may include helping around the house with cleaning, laundry, preparing meals, taking care of household pets, or organizing and tidying areas. - Stay Active and Social: Fill the day with projects and end it with pleasant rituals such as reading and catching up with friends over video. Watch funny movies during a virtual Netflix social hour or set up a chocolate and chat date. Psychologists say the one thing most associated with emotional resilience is social connection and support, so set up a circle of friends and contact them daily. Check on your neighbors. Nothing beats doing something nice for others. And these days, we need something nice. - Don't forget to relax! Consider what anchors and relaxes you—meditating, music, yoga or gardening. Play games, start a journal, listen to music, color, do a puzzle, help your kids practice mindfulness, spend time in nature, do yoga or stretch, have a cup of tea, or even take a nap. Big 4 Takeaways (from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center) 1. Move. Our bodies need to move. They need to stretch, reach, twist, bend, step, sweat, to whatever degree works for our unique shapes and constitutions. 2. Nourish. Always wanted to make a dietary change, learn to meal prep, teach your kids to cook, or sample a new cuisine? Now’s the time! Structure one or two 30-minute chunks of cooking into your days. 3. Connect. This one, more than ever, is key. Humans need to feel connected. We need to feel seen, heard, and understood by another human—and to extend the same in return. 4. Be. Amid all the “doing”—the preparing, protecting, adjusting, coping, responding, providing, procuring—humans need moments to simply BE. Resources:

UT Health: Creating a new normal for kids during the uncertainty of COVID-19
- Columbia University: Stay Calm and Create a Daily Routine during COVID-19 crisis - NESCA: Making the Most of COVID-19 School Closures - Child Mind Institute: Supporting Teenagers and Young Adults during the Coronavirus Crisis - Greater Good Science Center/UC Berkeley: 4 Things to Do Every Day for Your Mental Health - Katie Novak: Schedule for the day (Creating structure)


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