The Montfort Group

Preserving Family Wellness During A Pandemic

With the rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like an understatement to say that things feel scary. During this time of uncertainty, while we are all in close quarters with one another as a family, it is of utmost importance that we are aware of the influence we have on our children and their emotional wellness.

It is our job to appropriately shelter our children from the intensity of current events as their minds cannot handle the gravity of the situation the same as ours. A child’s mind can become traumatized and permanently scarred when given information that is emotionally intense or beyond their ability to process. 

As parents, we are at the helm of our family’s ship, how we care for ourselves, and our own emotional wellness is the model for our children. We must be mindful of how this emergent and ever-changing situation is affecting our family, especially our littlest members. Let’s protect the mental wellness of our kiddos, so they don’t walk away from this pandemic physically well but permanently traumatized.  Stay well so you can keep your whole family well!

1. Take care of yourself

Most importantly, you must care for yourself so you can care for your children. Remember how the flight attendant always says to put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else? There’s a serious reason behind this warning. When you are emotionally red-lining, it is impossible to have empathy or patience for your child, and you will most certainly relay those emotions consciously or unconsciously to your children. 

Science shows that the stress hormone cortisol is abundant in the bodies of children who are living in stressful environments. Rest assured that even when you are not saying anything, they are busy registering the emotions on your face, from your body language, and when you speak, in your intonation and inflection. 

Check-in with yourself several times throughout the day to see where your emotion meter is hovering. When you are aware of your feelings, give voice to the emotions, and label them (I’m feeling extra anxious, nervous, worried, terrified, etc.) Once you are aware of your feelings, you can take appropriate steps to care for your emotions, helping to avoid taking them out on your family. 

2. Unplug

There are really only so many updates that a person actually needs during the day. An over-saturation of the 24-hour news feed and social media can feed your anxiety factor unnecessarily. Set a limit for yourself regarding how much exposure is necessary for you to remain knowledgeable and then put the electronics down. Try implementing an hour where you completely disconnect from the constant flow of information. Give your mind a chance to recover and empty its mental cache. 

Be aware of what your children are hearing and seeing. Children are adept at sensing our moods and reacting accordingly. If your children are acting out, they may be feeling anxious, scared, or out of control. 

3. Make a schedule

In a time where many daily routines have disappeared overnight, it’s clearly not just children that thrive on predictability, we as adults need consistency and predictability just as much as they do. Setting up a routine gives everyone a sense of normalcy and stability. 

4. Quiet time

Work in quiet time for everyone, even if your children have outgrown naptime. The whole family being together for long periods without breaks is bound to create tension and result in frustration, annoyance, and feelings of claustrophobia. Building in time during the day to pause allows everyone to get some time out, especially the ones working the hardest, YOU! 

5. Do things together

Pull out the board games, play cards, do puzzles. Take family walks, bike rides, or create a scavenger hunt to do around your home or in your neighborhood. Cook meals, bake cookies, paint, color, make crafts, sing, have dance parties, build indoor forts. Have movie nights, eat popcorn in your pajamas, and snuggle close with blankets and pillows. Choose chapter books, like the Harry Potter series, and designate a time every day to read aloud. 

Don’t forget to hug, kiss, and snuggle with your children, no matter their age. Physical closeness increases our happiness hormone, oxytocin, which helps us stay well. Seize every day as an opportunity to pause from the uncertainty of the outside world and immerse yourself in the magic of childhood, not just for them but also for you. 

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