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March 29: Navigating a Confusing Time

Updated: Aug 18

This week in Massachusetts we learned that schools will be closed through at least May 4. This news felt overwhelming to many families at a time when many people already feel flooded with worry about health, finances, job security, and how to balance working from home and monitoring remote learning for children. As we enter another week of physical distancing from one another, I encourage parents to consider these thoughts:

  • All we can do right now is do our best, and that will look different for different families on different days. The priority needs to be the physical and emotional health and well-being of ourselves, our families, and our community.

  • Remember that children will do best if they have the presence of a calm, caring adult to help them navigate the confusion and tension engendered by current circumstances.

  • Nobody will have the perfect parenting response to this stressful and unprecedented situation. If you make a mistake, remember the importance of modeling: apologize, make amends, and move on.

  • Stay connected with people outside of your home via phone or teleconference, but it’s valid if you find that type of socializing tiring or just less satisfying that in-person interaction. Keep connecting, but be mindful of setting limits on phone or video interaction if you find them draining.

  • Try to create peaceful time for yourself every day – even if for just 5 minutes. Keep up healthy habits of going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day, putting screens away for children and adults at least one hour before bedtime, incorporating exercise and physical activity into every day, and getting outdoors when you can.

  • If emotions are running high during a given moment, remember one of my favorite parenting mantras: Be the thermostat, not the thermometer. A thermometer goes up as the heat goes up, and often as parents we find that our children’s strong emotions trigger strong emotional reactions from us. The job of a thermostat is to maintain equilibrium, so if the heat goes up, the thermostat turns off to cool things back down to baseline. In a ‘hot’ parenting moment, try to be the thermostat and maintain your own calm equilibrium rather than matching your child’s big emotion – this might mean walking out of the room or closing your eyes and taking some breaths.

A couple of additional resources that I hope will be useful:

  • I found this article about feeding children during COVID-19 to be both helpful and reassuring.

  • Some school systems are ramping up their remote learning this week and many independent schools will be back in session. A parent shared this useful article with tips about learning from home.

  • Several mindfulness apps – such as Headspace are offering free resources throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent tools to help us maintain equilibrium during this chaotic time. Keep in mind that even a brief (10 minute) mindfulness practice can help relax your body and improve feelings of well-being.

  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium website offers wonderful live web cams which both children and adults might enjoy and find soothing.


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© 2020 Dr. Rachel Kramer