Connecting with Teens: Do Things Together!

Many parents of teenagers find that their teens normally have very busy schedules and that
time spent with their parents is not always the top priority. Being home with your teen gives
you plenty of chances to do things together, to strengthen your relationship, and to connect
with one another.

Having fun with your teenager is a great way to connect with them. Some ideas for having fun
together include playing games together, such as a video game or a board game or learning a
skill together. Perhaps your teen can even teach you something new, such as a technological
skill or something they have learned in school. Bonding through teaching, especially when
teens have the opportunity to teach their parents, is a meaningful way for parents and teens to
connect.

Another way to connect with your teen, especially during social distancing, is by exercising and
being active. Whether you do yoga together or take a virtual kickboxing class, exercise is one of
the most beneficial ways of bonding with someone you love because it also provides many
emotional benefits, such as reduced stress and anxiety and decreased rates of depression.

Engaging in artistic activities, such as building a vision board or painting, is another way to
connect with your teen. Not only are these fun activities a way to keep busy while social
distancing, it gives parents the opportunity to spend relaxed time with their teens, which is a
relief from our daily hectic routines.

By using this extra time that we have to connect with your teen, you are setting the tone for your relationship. You may even find that you continue these activities long after social
distancing ends.

The Bonding Benefits of Family Fitness. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/the-
bonding-benefits-of-family-fitness-1257087

Emotional Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/emotional-benefits-exercise-feel-good-go4life

Managing Parenting Stress During COVID-19

Managing Parenting Stress During COVID-19

By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant

Doing our part to help stop the spread of coronavirus means practicing social distancing and self-isolation, and while this is important, it’s also really stressful, especially as a parent. As parents, you may be balancing working from home, child care, homeschooling, and self-care, all while managing both your own and your children’s anxieties. With stress levels at an all time high, it can be difficult to find patience and keep your cool as a parent, especially if your kids are having a hard time adjusting to the new normal. Know that you are not in this alone, and there are steps you can take to help cope with the stress and anxiety! Try the following tips to manage stress and keep your calm with your kids during the coronavirus pandemic.

Take deep, calming breaths. Breathing is a powerful tool that can help us regulate our emotions and regain composure when we are experiencing intense feelings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or upset with your kids, try taking deep, calming breaths before you react. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting to four each time. You can even try closing your eyes if that feels comfortable for you. By using your breath to slow down and take a moment before responding, you can have a healthier, more constructive interaction with your kids!

Find the root of your emotions. When you feel like you are losing your cool and getting angry with your kids, it’s important to look deeper and determine if there are other factors contributing to what you are feeling, especially now with all that is happening with COVID-19. Are you tired, stressed, anxious, or upset about the current circumstances with the coronavirus pandemic? If so, know that this is a normal reaction and give yourself some grace and self-compassion. Take a moment to pause and recognize that these are difficult times and they may be contributing to what you are feeling. This can help you gain control of your emotional response and come up with a more effective way to communicate and handle stressful situations with your kids.

Remember that your kids are going through a challenging time, and their behaviors may be a response to the stress, anxiety, and fear of COVID-19. An important part of parenting is being aware of your kids’ experiences and trying to look at things through their eyes. Keep in mind that behaviors that may cause feelings of frustration and anger for you as a parent may be a result of the current changes and challenges of COVID-19. Your kids may be having a hard time with the transition to social distancing and self-isolation, as well as experiencing feelings of sadness and anxiety due their sense of normalcy being uprooted and the uncertainty of this pandemic. Give your children space to express their emotions and remind yourself that this is difficult for everyone. When you approach difficult situations and behaviors with your kids from a perspective of curiosity and understanding, you can find compassion and empathy, leading to more effective and constructive outcomes. 

Pull your kids close and hug them often. When you’re feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with your kids and don’t know what to do, try asking them if you can give them a hug. Hugging your kids during moments where you feel like you are losing your composure can have a calming effect, reminding you and them of the loving bond you share. Focusing on physical and emotional connection not only helps you calm down, but it also shows your children that they are loved and cared for, which is especially important during moments of social distancing and social isolation.

Create consistency and stability. An important part of regaining composure as a parent during social distancing is to set yourself up for success ahead of time. By creating consistency and stability  in your kids’ lives during this time of uncertainty and instability, you can avoid potentially stressful situations. A great way to establish consistency is to create a weekly routine and set clear rules and expectations. Developing predetermined rules and expectations can help you feel more prepared to handle challenging moments as a parent, leading to more constructive outcomes with your children.

Make self care a priority. Another key element in being prepared for difficult parenting moments during COVID-19 is establishing social support and engaging in self-care. When your needs are being met, you will have more patience and compassion for your kids and be less likely to lose your composure during stressful or frustrating situations. We encourage you to engage in a self-care activity at least once a week and to connect virtually with friends and family who provide support and comfort during this difficult time.

Today’s blog was adapted from our Split Seconds: How to quickly regain composure as a parent series.

Talking to Kids about COVID-19

By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant

Coronavirus has led to some pretty big changes in our everyday lives, and it’s normal for us to be feeling confused, overwhelmed, and uncertain. These changes may be especially confusing and difficult for kids. It’s important for us as adults to help the kids in our lives understand what is going on and to support them through the feelings they’re having related to COVID-19. 

Talking to kids about the coronavirus may feel like a daunting task when we’re also experiencing uncertainty and instability; however, it’s an essential part of supporting their emotional well-being during this challenging time. Try using the following tips to help guide you through this conversation with your kids!

Provide developmentally appropriate and factual information. Withholding information about coronavirus leaves kids to their imaginations to try and understand what is going on, increasing uncertainty, fear, and stress. While kids don’t necessarily need to know all of the details, it’s important to talk to them in a developmentally appropriate way. When providing information about COVID-19, be certain to do research and get fact-based information before starting the conversation. You have the ability and responsibility to filter the information in a way that your child can understand without overwhelming them.

Start with what your kid(s) already know. A great place to start a conversation about coronavirus is by asking your kids what they already know. This gives you an idea of how your child is understanding and processing COVID-19, and it provides an opportunity to correct any misinformation. 

Be open to questions. Your kids will probably have lots of questions, so it’s important to let them know that you are there to answer any questions they may have. Try your best to answer the questions clearly, honestly, and simply. And remember, it’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers. Just be honest and let your kids know that even if you don’t have the answers to all of their questions, you will be there to get through this together!

Speak in a way that is calming and reassuring. With all of the worry and panic that can stem from the uncertainty of coronavirus, it’s important to be a stable and calming presence in your child’s life. When talking to them about coronavirus, try your best to use a soft and calm tone and provide reassurance. 

Give your child specific tasks that can help them feel safe and in control. Another great way to help kids feel more secure and reassured during this challenging time is by talking about what they can do to stay safe, such as washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching commonly used surfaces. 

Give your child space to process their emotions. We’re all experiencing a lot of emotions related to the coronavirus and the many changes that come with it. Let your kids know that it is normal to have feelings of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, and give them space to talk about these feelings. 

Check out these great resources aimed at providing factual information about coronavirus to kids! 

References

Bartlett, J. D., Griffin, J., & Thompson, D. (2020). Resources for supporting children’s emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/publications/resources-for-supporting-childrens-emotional-well-being-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Ehmke, R. (2020). Talking to kids about the coronavirus. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/ 

Tips for Live-In Couples to Strengthen Their Relationship While Social Distancing

Tips for Live-In Couples to Strengthen Their Relationship While Social Distancing

By Camila Dos Santos, M.Ed., Program Coordinator of the Healthy Relationships Initiative 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the term “social distancing” into everyday conversation and has changed the way most of us communicate and interact with our loved ones. Despite the fact that many of us are spending more time with our spouses or live-in partners, you may have found that social distancing has impacted that relationship. The added stress and uncertainty of this pandemic means that this time is not always spent intentionally or positively, which can lead to conflict in your relationship. In this blog post, we will provide you with strategies to strengthen your relationship while social distancing with your live-in partner.

Remember that this is a new situation for everyone and lean into your partner. We are all figuring out what to do and how to navigate the current circumstances.  With things changing daily, there are added levels of stress for us all, but couples in healthy relationships support each other and build each other up at all times, especially the most challenging.  Lean into your partner to help get through these times together. Communicate your feelings, ask for what you need, and give your partner the space to do the same. This is a time for clear, honest, and regular communication with one another.   HRI provides conversation starters for couples that may be useful in sparking up discussions that strengthen the relationship. 

Spend time working on general relationship skills. All relationships have their challenges and strengths and these can be exacerbated during times of crisis.  By spending time working on building general relationship skills, such as positive communication and conflict resolution, you can strengthen your relationship now, as well as beyond the pandemic. Couples who practice basic relationship skills are more equipped and likely to apply these skills during challenging times.  HRI provides tip sheets and reflection activities to help couples work through conflict and practice healthy relationship skills together. Don’t assume or expect that this will happen – work for it and be intentional about practicing these skills. 

Give each other (and yourself)  grace and patience. We all need a little grace when navigating uncharted territory.  We can’t expect ourselves or anyone to handle everything perfectly, especially when things are changing daily.  One of the best things you can do for all of your relationships, but especially your relationship with your live-in partner, is to give lots and lots of grace and practice patience during this time.  All of us are experiencing tremendous changes to the way we live life and we would all benefit from some time and space to process those changes. If you are struggling to have patience in your relationship, practice taking deep breaths before responding in heated discussions, give yourself space or a time out when you need it, and practice attentive listening when your partner speaks. Paying extra attention to your nonverbals when communicating is crucial, and avoiding negative nonverbals such as rolling your eyes, will help to keep communication positive and productive and will make sure everyone feels heard and respected. 

Make time for positive connections. It may seem silly to think about making time for your partner when you are likely spending more time together than you have in the past, but just because we find ourselves at home more does not necessarily mean that we are connecting and bonding more with our partner. While you may not be able to have normal date nights or other special time together, you can still be creative about connecting with one another.  Some ideas to set aside your worries and intentionally connect include: taking a walk together without devices and without talking about the pandemic; cooking a new meal together; reading a book and discussing it together, or working together on an art project such as a vision board. Even if you only spend 20 minutes per day focusing on your relationship, it is time well-spent that will pay off later! 

Partner relationships can be a source of tremendous joy and also great stress. During uncertain times and social distancing, our relationships benefit from being even more intentional about connecting and communicating with our live-in partners and spouses. By practicing these strategies now, your relationship will be prepared to handle the challenging times we are all facing and will be strong enough to conquer whatever comes your way. 

Homeschooling Tips for Families with Special Needs

Homeschooling Tips for Families with Special Needs

Camila Dos Santos, M.Ed., Program Coordinator of the Healthy Relationships Initiative 

The coronavirus pandemic has left families juggling a number of priorities, including many parents who are now homeschooling their children. Parents of children with special needs may find themselves overwhelmed, while their children may struggle to adapt to their changing schedules. This situation is a learning experience for everyone, and families with special needs may benefit from trying the following tips. 

Read books of interest to your child and ask creative questions to spark engaging discussions. Use this time as an opportunity to make reading fun for your child. Oftentimes, students do not get to choose the books they read at school, as many are assigned based on their reading level or on topics being addressed in the curriculum. Ask your child what books they would like to read and read them together.  Doing this every day is a worthwhile and educational activity, whether your child reads to you or you read to them. Ask questions throughout the story, such as “what do you think will happen next?” or “How do you think the character felt when that happened?” These questions will help spark engaging discussions and get your child excited about reading.  Reading with your child is a great way to connect with them, while also serving as a calming activity if your child becomes stressed or anxious at home. 

Set up a routine that is similar to their daily classroom routine. We are all struggling to adjust to our schedule changes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and children with special needs may need more support to adapt to changes. By setting up a routine that is similar to their daily classroom routine, you can help your child adapt to the at-home routine, while setting clear expectations for learning.  Incorporate all aspects of the day, including academic time, play and rest, and eating times to help minimize negative behaviors and help your child know what to expect from each day. For additional guidance on helping children adjust to changed routines, the Autism Society developed a handy toolkit for parents.

Use visual guides to help your child adapt to their new normal. Children with special needs benefit from hearing and seeing information in different ways. By using images and words to illustrate different parts of the day, you will help your child anticipate changes in their day.  This can help minimize disruptive behaviors and keep your homeschooling environment calm and productive. Visual guides can also come in handy for setting other expectations, such when to do chores or how much screen time they’ll have that day.  Placing visual schedules in a place where they are visible to the entire family will help maintain consistency and keep everyone on the same page. 

Incorporating these strategies into your at-home learning routine will help your child adjust to their new schedule, minimize negative behaviors, and enhance connection and bonding amongst the entire family. 

4.6.20, 4.13.20: Free Webinars

 

The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed lives and relationships all over the globe.  To help support you during this uncertain time, HRI is providing two free webinars on April 6th and April 13th.  See below for more information about each session, as well as how to register.

Monday, April 6 from 12-1 pm: Parenting Young Children During the Coronavirus Pandemic: In the face of COVID-19, many parents are now homeschooling their children, while juggling other priorities, such as working remotely and balancing family priorities.  Presented by former School Counselor, Camila Dos Santos, this hour-long webinar is free to all, and will provide parents of young children with strategies for healthy parenting during a pandemic. To register for this live program, click here.

Monday, April 13 from 12-1 pm: Staying Connected While Social Distancing: Social distancing guidelines is crucial to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, but it can make us feel disconnected in our relationships.  Participants will learn strategies for staying connected and hear insights into how to maintain healthy relationships of all kinds while social distancing. Click here to register for this free one-hour webinar.

Please direct any questions to HRI Program Coordinator, Camila Dos Santos at c_dossan@uncg.edu. We look forward to having you join us!

Tips for Talking to Kids about COVID-19

Coronavirus has led to some pretty big changes in our everyday lives, and it’s normal for us to be feeling confused, overwhelmed, and uncertain. These changes may be especially confusing and difficult for kids. It’s important for us as adults to help the kids in our lives understand what is going on and to support them through the feelings they’re having related to COVID-19. 

Talking to kids about the coronavirus may feel like a daunting task when we’re also experiencing uncertainty and instability; however, it’s an essential part of supporting their emotional well-being during this challenging time. Try using the following tips to help guide you through this conversation with your kids!

Provide developmentally appropriate and factual information. Withholding information about coronavirus leaves kids to their imaginations to try and understand what is going on, increasing uncertainty, fear, and stress. While kids don’t necessarily need to know all of the details, it’s important to talk to them in a developmentally appropriate way. When providing information about COVID-19, be certain to do research and get fact-based information before starting the conversation. You have the ability and responsibility to filter the information in a way that your child can understand without overwhelming them.

Start with what your kid(s) already know. A great place to start a conversation about coronavirus is by asking your kids what they already know. This gives you an idea of how your child is understanding and processing COVID-19, and it provides an opportunity to correct any misinformation. 

Be open to questions. Your kids will probably have lots of questions, so it’s important to let them know that you are there to answer any questions they may have. Try your best to answer the questions clearly, honestly, and simply. And remember, it’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers. Just be honest and let your kids know that even if you don’t have the answers to all of their questions, you will be there to get through this together!

Speak in a way that is calming and reassuring. With all of the worry and panic that can stem from the uncertainty of coronavirus, it’s important to be a stable and calming presence in your child’s life. When talking to them about coronavirus, try your best to use a soft and calm tone and provide reassurance. 

Give your child specific tasks that can help them feel safe and in control. Another great way to help kids feel more secure and reassured during this challenging time is by talking about what they can do to stay safe, such as washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching commonly used surfaces. 

Give your child space to process their emotions. We’re all experiencing a lot of emotions related to the coronavirus and the many changes that come with it. Let your kids know that it is normal to have feelings of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, and give them space to talk about these feelings. 

Check out these great resources aimed at providing factual information about coronavirus to kids! 

References

Bartlett, J. D., Griffin, J., & Thompson, D. (2020). Resources for supporting children’s emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/publications/resources-for-supporting-childrens-emotional-well-being-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Ehmke, R. (2020). Talking to kids about the coronavirus. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/ 

Supporting Older Adults During Social Distancing

Supporting Older Adults During Social Distancing

Camila Dos Santos, M.Ed., Program Coordinator of the Healthy Relationships Initiative

Social distancing has prompted us all to significantly reduce or eliminate face-to-face interactions with those outside of our homes.  While it is important to continue to follow social distancing and other important guidelines associated with stopping the spread of the coronavirus, we must also be intentional and proactive about how we connect and support loved ones.  In this post, we will provide tips for how to proactively support older adults during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Share vetted resources that help older adults cope with negative emotions and engage in proactive healthy activities.  With limited face-to-face social interactions, it is important for older adults to spend time engaging in activities that keep them balanced and emotionally and physically healthy.  To ease anxiety, share articles that provide tips for coping with stress. For older adults who can no longer continue their regular physical activity, send them tips for staying active to help promote a healthy lifestyle from home. By sharing reliable resources, you can help older adults stay healthy while social distancing. 

Help them avoid scams.   Older adults are even more susceptible to being scammed in times of crisis.  Help them avoid scams by providing factual information and keeping them up to date on different scams happening both locally and nationally.  It can also be beneficial to help older adults set up online banking accounts so they can monitor their finances without having to visit the bank.  When talking to older adults about scam risks, make sure you listen attentively to their concerns. It may be helpful to check out some strategies for adults to talk to their parents  about scamming to avoid any negative feelings, such as shame or embarrassment.  

Regularly demonstrate your love and concern. There is perhaps nothing more important than regularly demonstrating our support and concern to the people we love.  While we all benefit from feeling loved and supported, older adults especially need to feel this during a time of crisis. Call, video chat, and text regularly to let them know you are thinking about them.  Sending a care package with their favorite items or a handwritten letter can help brighten their day. Being consistent and intentional when showing love will help stay connected even in social distancing. Involving the rest of the family in these efforts can help everyone feel the positive effects of a strong support system, so encourage children to reach out to their older loved ones, create drawings for them, or teach them how to play an online video game. 

Many older adults have been dealing with the negative effects of social isolation long before the age of social distancing and many family members have supported older loved ones in preventing loneliness before the coronavirus pandemic began. However, it is more important than ever to be intentional about reaching out and connecting with the older adults that we love.  By practicing these tips regularly and intentionally, they will feel more supported during a time of extreme uncertainty.   

 

References

Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks

Protect your parents and grandparents from scammers. Retrieved from https://www.wfmynews2.com/article/news/local/2-wants-to-know/protect-your-parents-and-grandparents-from-scammers/83-80a03891-1136-48f4-9d88-40e28de57734

Kirchheimer, Sid. Protect your parents from scammers. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-08-2013/protect-your-parents-from-scams.html 

Encouraging older adults to stay active and safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/blog/encouraging-older-adults-to-stay-active-and-safe-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

Grieving the Loss of Normalcy

By Taylor Gabbey, HRI Graduate Assistant 

All of us experience grief at some point or another. When many people think of mourning, they usually think of the loss of a loved one through death, whether that’s a friend, family member, or beloved pet. However, grief and mourning are not limited to the people we lose. 

Right now, people across the world are experiencing grief. Students who have worked hard all year have had to leave classes and friendships behind; many adults are no longer leaving home to work, and some are unable to work at all; and many of the things we enjoy–going to the movies, taking vacations, just connecting with friends over dinner–are no longer possible. These are all things that make up pieces of our identity, and it is okay to grieve the loss of that normalcy.

What does grief look like in these situations? You may have heard of the Kuebler-Ross stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Despair, and Acceptance. All of these are common responses to loss. Right now, some people may feel angry that projects or events they worked hard to put together are no longer going to happen, or angry that places they enjoy are temporarily closing. Others may feel depressed or fearful that things will be like this forever. Still others may engage in denial or bargaining, and continue to violate social distancing policies. (While a normal reaction, these last two responses can be dangerous and put others more at risk.) Each person grieves differently, and some might experience several of these feelings at once. What is important is to recognize that these are normal, healthy responses to a very troubling time. If you or someone you know is feeling upset, that is okay. Hold space to process your grief by practicing self-care, talking on the phone with a friend, or just giving yourself permission to cry about your losses. The unique thing about the quarantine is that we are all experiencing it at once, so let’s give each other grace as we go through this grief together.