By Dr. Cat Baker, PhD, BCBA-D
While much has changed in our world, country, states, communities, and homes over the past number of months, one thing remains constant for us as parents: our children need us. We have never parented during a pandemic, and we have a lot to adapt to and guide our children through. As this pandemic continues, it can be tiring as the stress feels like it won’t go away. I want to remind us all of some simple steps over the next three weeks that we can take to maintain our mental health and the mental health of our sweet children. I am breaking this into small segments because I understand our time and attention is specific and generally comes in small windows. I see you, Moms and Dads.
Those of us with children with unique learning needs may have found the changes in schedule, uncertainty, and new responsibilities especially overwhelming as you learn to balance the many hats you need to wear. Some of us may me experiencing “zoom fatigue” and isolation in working from home for long periods of time. Whatever you are feeling, remember that you are not alone, and I have some simple tips to offer you to maintain some ease during this time.
While it’s not “easy as 1, 2, 3…”, I will be sharing 3 simple but profound tools for maintaining a positive setting in our continued “new norm” for you and your family.
- Create a schedule (or re-create if you have fallen off of one)
Children need to know what to expect and what is expected of them. Having a simple schedule gives them a sense of security, which they (and we) need now more than ever. Keep your bedtime routine consistent and create consistency throughout each day.
Our bodies need to move! If you have been around here long, you have heard me say this many times: movement helps our brains operate at max capacity. Children especially need physical activity to thrive. Consider incorporating a family walk into your evenings. Take 5 minute “brain breaks” throughout the day to stretch and do jumping jacks. And most importantly, PLAY together! Children learn so much through play. Never underestimate the bonding and emotional regulation power of running around together and being silly. It’s doing more for your brains and bodies than you might think.
- Sleep (and feel free to nap)
Ensuring our children (and us parents!) are getting plenty of sleep is vital. Create a simple bedtime routine and stick to it. It will help your brain prepare for sleep and restoration. Minimizing screen time, caffeine and sugar, and setting the tone for rest in the evenings by dimming the lights and reading before bed can do wonders for all family members. You can read our more in-depth blog post on sleep here.
As always, remember that we are here for you and we are happy to help you customize any of these strategies to your family’s unique needs. You’re not alone!