Strategies for Families to Adapt to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
- Increase sense of safety: You can increase your sense of safety by keeping up-to-date on information that can help you stay safe and sharing that information with your family. Focus on actions that are in your control, such as physical distancing and hand washing.
- Increase calming: Consider reducing activities that could potentially trigger anxiety—such as watching the news—even if you don’t think children are paying attention. Talk with your family about how there will be times when each of you may not be at your best, and that it is important to try to be patient, tolerant, and kind with each other. Help children manage difficult emotions. Let them know that feelings such as sadness, anxiety, and fear are understandable and that it’s okay to talk about them. Offer simple calming strategies, such as showing empathy, talking through concerns, taking short breaks, labeling feelings, and focusing on breathing.
- Connect with each other: Dedicate time to connect regularly with loved ones within and outside your immediate family by video, phone, text, or notes. You can also create new family rituals that promote connection. Ask your children what they would like to do and schedule it into your time together.
- Build personal and family competence: involve the family in a problem-solving approach to challenges, where you talk through problems; break them down into smaller chunks; brainstorm creative solutions together; negotiate the solutions that will work best for everyone; and take small, steady steps towards your goals. Demonstrating patience, forgiveness, and tolerance with yourself will show your children how to do the same. You can also document what you have learned from the positive things you’ve seen others doing.
- Foster hope: Focusing on the ways you and your family are safe or strong can help to foster hope. Try to find creative ways to promote hopeful messages or highlight things you’re grateful for. For instance:
- Put pebbles or notes in a jar every time you want to mark a good thing that happened.
- Have family members share their favorite things about each other.
- Make a list of what you’re grateful for, what your resources are, or what makes you smile or laugh.
- Make a book or artwork to share your gratitude, hopeful messages, or meaningful thoughts.
The strategies you choose from this list or develop on your own can make a difference in maintaining your family’s hope, ability to endure, connectedness, ability to remain calm, and safety. They may even become healthy habits that keep your family strong through other times in your life together. Remember that as you practice these actions, you don’t need to be perfect or steady at all times. Do your best, be kind to yourself, and remember that anything you do to role model these types of strategies will help your children as adults and caregivers themselves.