The last few months have no doubt been a struggle for so many families. Stress from Covid-19, nationwide protests, state wide lockdowns, and the completion of academic terms from home has left many families feeling like they are swimming in an ocean with no land in sight.
A recent KFF poll, found that as many as seven in ten Americans (72%) find that their lives have been disrupted significantly by the coronavirus outbreak. More so now than ever it is important to keep family stress levels in check, as stress can take a heavy toll on individual emotional, mental and physical health. Left unchecked stress can cause a variety of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and loneliness. Chronic stress can also contribute to a number of physical problems including cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity, obesity, gastrointestinal issues and skin diseases.
As families dive into a new normal of summer there is no better time to reflect on how things have been going for you and to take the opportunity to reflect on where you would like things to go over the next few months. Remember, that much learning comes from not only doing, but by thinking about and reflecting on what you want to do.
As families, you will always remember your time together during the coronavirus pandemic and how it was defined. Children can take this opportunity to learn to be adaptable, flexible and resilient. Define the memories that you will create together. Will this summer be marked by stress and uncertainty or joy and opportunity? When you participate in new activities, outside of your normal routine and comfort zone there is so much room for learning to take place. So, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself this summer, will you sink or swim? Will you face the challenges of still so much uncertainty head-on? At 7Chairs we have put together some tips to help ride the wave of stress and uncertainty.
- Break up the Monotony: Day in and day out can look the same if you let it. Change, excitement, it is up to you! Although camps and summer travel vacations may no longer be in session – make up a new calendar together at as a family. When you open up your mind you will discover that there is so much to do literally right in your own backyard. Enjoy a fancy picnic, play tourist at open venues in your town, create a family book club or enjoy a night of painting or board games together as a family. Whatever you choose make sure it is new, different, playful, or even silly!
- Declare Time and Space as Screen Free Zones: It is important for the body and mind to take time and unplug from those electronics! And taking time away from your phone or computer allows you to be more present when engaging in other activities. Children will follow your lead so establish sound, consistent screen rules in your own house. Remember screen time is a choice and establishing zones and times in your house which are screen free will open up other pathways to communication and discovery.
- Regularly Check in With Family Members: Family meals are a great time to check in and see how everyone is doing. Perhaps you have a “chatty” child always looking to engage in conversation or you may have one that gives you quick, simple one word answers. To encourage discussion try asking open ended questions. In my house, we use a little strategy I call the “peach and the pit.” Ever since my kids were little at dinner time we take turns going around the table pondering and describing the best and worst part of their day; the sweetest, juiciest moment (peach) and the tougher, harder one (pit).”
- Be a Positive Role Model: It might seem as if your children aren’t listening and watching what you say and do, but the good news is that they really are. Remember you serve as their role model, so take this opportunity to show them how to handle stress, adversity and uncertainty with strength and confidence. Show your children how to care for themselves and for to care other members of your family as well. And while you are at it why not try some new forms of self-care during this time? There are so many free apps out there to explore or try something you might not be familiar with like mediation or yoga.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Lastly, remember the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during these stressful times. Eating well, sleeping well, getting exercise every day and spending times outdoors are all great stress busters. This Saturday marks Family Health and Fitness Day. The theme this year is “Get Outside and Celebrate Nature.” So, celebrate this weekend by visiting a local park, trail or beach. Your mind, body and children will thank you!