Part 2 of 2
By Bernard Freeman
Social distancing doesn’t mean we need to be lonely. Staying in touch during challenging times can help us stay emotionally healthy.
“Anxiety, unease and missing your connections with friends, family and others can take a toll on well-being,” said Professor Dana M. Litt, PhD, of the University of North Texas. “While physical distancing is what’s being called for right now, we shouldn’t underestimate the basic human need for social support and interaction. Not only does it enrich our lives, it also keeps us happy and well.”
Keep in Touch with Neighbors
Ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, a viral social media post urged neighborhoods to play a game in which people put up paper shamrocks on their windows and doors, allowing neighbors to go on a shamrock hunt. Another creative idea has been having children decorate their sidewalks with sidewalk chalk messages and pictures for their neighbors to see while taking walks around the neighborhood. Think of creative ways to keep your neighborhood in touch from a distance.
Keep in Touch with Friends and Family
Checking in on family members is a great way to keep family connections strong.
“For many young adults, communicating online is a major part of their social life, and especially so when they can’t be face-to-face with friends,” said Litt. Younger kids also need the continued connections to their peers that play dates provide. Professor Melissa A. Lewis, PhD, of UNT added, “Let them know the seriousness of what we’re facing right now and offer them alternatives for staying close with their friends in new and different ways.”
Facebook Messenger offers a chat service for kids that allows parents to approve all contacts. Alternatively, allow kids to connect via FaceTime or Google Hangouts, as well as monitored online games.
Connect with your Community
Social media sites such as Nextdoor are a great way to learn about needs in your immediate community and help meet them.
For example, perhaps a neighbor is collecting face masks for hospitals. Perhaps an elderly neighbor needs help getting to the grocery store. Staying in touch with our community is more important now than ever, despite the challenges. Also check with local organizations for ways to volunteer from home. Some charities could use volunteers to make phone calls from home.
Teach Independence Skills
Can your 12-year-old wash his own clothes and cook a meal for the family? Can your 5-year-old brush her teeth, comb her hair and wash her face without help? If not, take the opportunity to start working on independence skills with your kids.
Parents have a lot to do, so teaching your kids independence skills not only prepares them for life, but it frees up some of your time and reduces your stress level. It’s a win-win. It does, however, require effort and a lot of trial and error.
If you aren’t sure which skills your kids should have at which age, check out FamilyEducation.com’s age-by-age guide to life skills at https://bit.ly/2WAt0U1.
Here are some ideas on skills to teach while you’re spending a lot of time at home.
Laundry, cooking and yard work are all appropriate age-level skills for children 10 and above, according to FamilyEducation.com. (After all, if kids can work a video game controller, they can certainly work a washing machine.) If you haven’t taught these skills, start with small tasks, such as sorting laundry or chopping vegetables, and encourage your children to work their way up to full independence.
Ask kids to make a schedule for their day. According to Scholastic.com, even preschoolers can benefit from a picture schedule to start learning time management, and grade-schoolers should be learning to plan long-term projects and set priorities. Teens should learn about balancing socializing (including time spent on social media) and their education.
Giving kids projects to do can help them learn and take pride in their own independence. Let your child choose a project of which to take ownership. This can be a long-term project, such as planting a garden or redecorating their bedroom, or a short-term project such as building a craft or small wood project. Let them research, plan and execute the project, only providing input when absolutely necessary.
With all independence skills, it’s important to know that your child will not “get it right” the first time. There will be lots of wrinkled laundry and half-cooked chicken — and lots of patience required on your part. Kids learn from failure. It’s your job to remind them that you believe they can do it, and encourage them to learn a lesson from their failure and try again.
Also keep in mind that they might be more willing to take ownership of a task when you allow them to do it their own way. They might be perfectly happy to wear a wrinkled shirt, and you might have to be OK with that.
For more help teaching independence skills, follow HR Mom on Facebook. Melissa B. Griffin says her advice is “for parents who realize they have ONE JOB: to work themselves out of a job.” She offers ideas for teaching independence and leadership skills. In one post, she challenged her 15-year-old son to take on the task of replacing a broken headlight on the family car, including finding and purchasing the part, and using a YouTube video to learn how to complete the repair and finishing the job.