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COVID times are hard times. You and your family face stressors that none of us imagined. The pandemic is lasting longer than we expected and the longer it lasts the more we have to adjust and readjust. It’s easy to feel defeated in the face of financial, physical and emotional stress that doesn’t seem to let up.

In the midst of our adult responsibilities, we can forget that children are also experiencing extraordinary stress. Their world, too, has been upended. And children soak in the stress the adults in their lives are experiencing.  What can we do to stay strong? And how can we help our children stay healthy and well?

Here are some tips from the Child Mind Institute to help you and your family thrive despite the challenges.

Managing your stress:

  • Cut yourself some slack! Remind yourself that there’s no playbook for what we’re going through.
  • Be smart about what you’re reading and watching. If your social feeds are making you anxious, take a break, and focus on accounts that are calming.
  • Set achievable goals. Give up those unrealistic expectations for what you (and your kids) can achieve in this stressful time.
  • Practice mindfulness and self-care. Focusing on the moment, without being caught up in the future or the past, is an important coping skill.
  • Stay connected virtually. Keep your support network strong, even when you’re only able to call or text friends and family. Socializing can help you feel better and stay grounded.
  • Accept your feelings. Many of us feel sad, angry and anxious right now. Acknowledging that — instead of fighting it — allows us to ride out our emotions, and it might even free us up to move on and say, “Okay, so now what needs to be done?"

Helping children cope:

  • Be a mindful family. Find a way to help everyone take a moment to slow down, stay present and come together, like family yoga or a quiet walk in the woods.
  • Stick to routines. Consistency and structure are calming during times of stress. As much as possible, kids should get up, eat and go to bed at their normal times.
  • Make and post a schedule. Changing activities at set times each day lets kids know what’s coming. Work together as a family to set a realistic schedule, then print it out and go over it together each morning.
  • Alternate work and play. Alternate chores or schoolwork with fun activities and free time. Kids learn more when schoolwork is divided into chunks geared to their attention span. And knowing they will soon be rewarded with something they enjoy helps them focus in the moment.
  • Use positive attention! Attention is the best way to influence children’s behavior, and it helps to make that attention big, bold, specific and immediate. Instead of "Good job,” try "GREAT JOB GETTING STARTED ON YOUR ASSIGNMENT SO QUICKLY!"
  • Validate feelings. Kids, especially teens, will be disappointed about losing important experiences like sports, proms, plays and graduations. Let them share their feelings. Listen without judgment, and resist the urge to reassure them that everything will be fine.
For more information and resources from Child Mind Institute, download this PDF: