April 3, 2020
Welcome to Friday! It's going to be pretty soggy outside today, but the weather looks nicer for the weekend. I'm starting to get very excited about gardening. I am usually at the office all day most days, and even though I'm working from home now, it's amazing the amount of chores a person can get done with a few minutes here or a few minutes there between appointments!
What projects are you thinking of tackling with your current homebound situation? It's funny how we think everything is set just the way we like it, or at least things are appealing, and then when we have more time to look, we realize there are changes that we like to make. When I was growing up, my mother used to update the wallpaper in various rooms on a regular basis. Once a year, she would pick a room and redo it. Never more than one room at a time, but once per year, there was some change on a consistent basis. She really enjoyed wallpapering, and it kept everything fresh. For years, I've wondered how she could ever tackle that, and now that I'm home a little more, as she was when I was younger, I understand how we look at things a bit differently when we're surrounded by them all the time!
I'm going to tackle my gardens. Last year, we redid the flower beds, and they are truly my place to go to relax. I love pruning my roses, weeding out the beds, and arranging annuals around my perennials in a way that changes things up every few months. We all need a little escape in our lives, and the gardens are my escape. This year, I'm going to grow a vegetable garden. It's been years since I had one. Our soil is rocky, so I'll need to put in raised beds. That should keep my older son occupied with construction! And I'm going to start seedlings inside, so my younger son can help with the process, as I think it's really important for our kids to engage a little more kinesthetically in learning, so this will supplement his distance learning.
Projects shouldn't become overwhelming; rather, they should be enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding. We're all homebound for a while now, so think about things that you can take on as projects that will yield positive and enjoyable results! Don't necessarily tackle something outside of your skillset, but also don't underestimate your potential if you combine your ambition with a few DIY Youtube videos!
Please let me know what you're thinking of identifying as projects for this spring! They can be individual or family projects. Let your imagination soar and never underestimate your potential! Now is the time to explore it!!
Have a wonderful weekend!
April 2, 2020
Today is a good day to check in on our mindfulness activities and to take our emotional pulse. It seems like a lot of people are spinning a bit this week, and that's truthfully part of settling into a new routine. When that new routine is so unpredictable and unknown, it's harder to settle. I think that's a large part of what I'm seeing as a clinician right now. I know it's hard to face the unknown, especially when we are bombarded by so much stimulation, news, social media, but I think that if we could all just take the time to center themselves and breathe, they might have an easier time coping with what's going on in the world right now.
I have another short video to share with you. Amy Thompson is a yoga master and social worker. This is only eight minutes long, but it addresses breathing and calm and also points out that we are doing a lot of sitting right now, so standing and upright activities are important to include in our daily movements! I hope that you will take eight minutes to watch and follow this video!
I'd love to hear about some of the activities you and your family are doing to stay active and healthy. I was keenly aware, yesterday, that after a full work day I hadn't moved very much. Usually I try to schedule in some breaks between sessions so that I can get some activity in, but yesterday wasn't one of those days. I felt it once I was done working!! I was stiff, sluggish and smiling didn't come as naturally as it normally does. Today, my plan is to start with stretches and some yoga, "go to work" (I said that to my mother the other day and she blasted me for going out of the house to the office I calmly explained that going to work means going to my home office, not the one in West Simsbury), do some gardening of my veggies that I've started in the house to be transplanted outside once it's warm enough, and make some time for reflection at the end of the day. My day is structured because of my work schedule, and it's also important to schedule in free time activities.
We don't have to be tyrants about scheduling free time activities, but if we don't make an effort to schedule them, we won't do them! It's too easy to take time to lounge around watching TV, to check messages more times than necessary, to retreat. But, if free time, enjoyable activities are roughly scheduled into the day, we are more likely to engage in activities that will elevate our spirits and encourage better health. Please give it a try! Remember, I'm holding myself to the same recommendations that I'm offering to you!
I hope that you all have a wonderful day!
April 1, 2020
The sun is brightly shining today! That means that there should be extra outdoor time today for everyone! Take a little extra time to observe how amazing nature is - I get so excited when I see the red buds on the trees in springtime. They're out there! And, as I mentioned yesterday, the bears are out, too, so yesterday I ordered my "Bear Barrel" to replace the regular trash barrel. I'm pretty intrigued by the idea of a barrel that is bear resistant - I've come to dread Tuesday mornings in spring and fall when the bears just wait for me to bring out the trash and then they dump it and drag it everywhere. Last fall, I was cleaning up the mess and followed the trash into my neighbor's woods only to come nose to behind with a bear. He was occupied chowing through the trash, but still... a little too close for comfort!
Watch out for April Fools Day today!
Does anyone have any good recipes they'd like to share with others? While we're not short on food, I am finding that with the reality of low stocked shelves in the grocery store or through Instacart (which I'm finally getting the hang of!), we have to be a little more creative in our recipes. This is a great opportunity for everyone in the family to contribute ideas and learn some new cooking skills! I'd love to receive some of your recipes so that we can post them here for others to share!
Cooking is a great way to build bonds. Yes, it can get messy with a few cooks in the kitchen doing things their own way, but I strongly recommend that various family members have certain responsibilities in the kitchen each day, and every cooking session needs to end with each person cleaning up their own mess. By including everyone in the family in the cooking experience, so many life skills are explored. For example, taking inventory of groceries, planning menus and recipes encourages the strengthening of executive functioning skills. Measuring ingredients involves math skills. Stirring, kneading, carefully chopping, etc, focus on sensory and motor skills. And, the conversation or verbal expression that evolves during a cooking experience is a spontaneous opportunity for social skills interaction. Such enrichment as well as remedial support all in what seems like a non-school-based environment! This is how skills are reinforced and generalized. And, when the result is a yummy entrée or dessert, even better!!
I'm going to share my recipe for the ice cream cake I made yesterday for my son's birthday.
1. Crush 36 oreos and mix with 1/3c melted butter
2. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan
3. Spread 1/2 gallon of softened ice cream over the oreos. I used cookies and cream for this layer
4. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 of the oreo mixture over the first layer of ice cream
5. Spread 1/2 gallon of softened ice cream over the crumbs. I used mint chocolate chiop for this layer
6. Freeze the cake for five minutes
7. Spread a layer of Mrs. Richardson's hot fudge sauce over the top
8. Add sprinkles on top of the hot fudge
9. Freeze for six hours
We always enjoy ice cream cake, and I was able to get the ingredients in my first Instacart order. My son didn't know I'd ordered ice cream because I'd hidden it in my freezer in the basement, so he went into his birthday expressing sadness over not having an ice cream cake. At 6am yesterday morning, before he was awake, I made the cake and had it ready for dessert last night. Surprises are fun!!
Please let me know of any fun/special recipes that you make! I'd love to share all of your ideas.
Have a wonderful day!
March 31, 2020
Spring is springing! Even though we had flurries this morning, my daffodils are looking quite cheery and irises are popping up. Can you feel a different energy in yourself? It might not always feel positive right now given the circumstances, but this time of year brings an extra boost which can sometimes feel like a positive rush or sometimes that extra energy can make us feel a bit irritable. Try to channel it towards positive activities that will allow for that burst of energy to be used productively!
I want to focus on positives, but I also want to make sure I'm informing you as needed. This week, kids are feeling a lot of awareness surrounding the transition to our new life styles, and they are melting down. In the past few days, I’ve helped families who are dealing with major tantrums on the part of their usually predictable children. Do not worry - you are not losing your sweet children. Rather, they are in week three of a transition, and it takes at least three weeks, usually four, to reach a comfortable functioning spot in a new lifestyle. Do not let up on the structure you've created for them out of sympathy! That structure is their safety net as they process through feelings of loss, confusion, and fear. They will return to their normal selves shortly, but the reality of not seeing friends on a daily basis, having to do solo school work at home, not having the outlets that they usually enjoy in after school activities, is taking a toll. And this does not simply apply to elementary school children. It applies to everyone, actually. You will see it most in students up through age 18, but let’s not try to fool ourselves, we're all feeling a little bit "off" as we try to define our new worlds. It's ok. Surrender to the process and you will get through it - we all will. But if you fight it, it will only be prolonged.
It is very important that we maintain expectations for ourselves and our children during this time. We can feel sorry for each other's struggles, but caving in or lessening expectations will not make the situation better; in fact, it will worsen it because expectations provide a sense of stability. I know this is challenging, but I need you to trust me on this one!
In the meantime, how do we manage this? Well... toss in some fun opportunities to release some energy! Draw with chalk on the driveway, conduct relay races, plant flowers, grill homemade pizza on the grill, ride bikes, take a nature walk and see nature coming to life as spring springs! I saw a bear last night - our first of the season! We have a lot of bears where I live, so my first thought this morning was, "now I'm going to have to take the garbage out a little later so the bears don’t flip it!" Note to self - call DPW to get on the waitlist for the new bear lock containers they've ordered!
Try to prevent yourselves from becoming stuck in a rut. Don't binge watch the same show every night - mix it up a bit! As a family, maybe watch a National Geographic show and virtually vacation in a national park or "visit" a far off place! Have a campfire sing along in your living room without a campfire! Try to schedule at least one new activity every day, both for yourself and your family, so that things don't become tired and boring and so that that extra burst of energy can be used for positives and not irritability.
Be strong, have faith, and be well. You are amazing people who can create very new designs in the fabric of your daily lives - take the risk to be creative!!
March 30, 2020
When I look back to when I started the blog two weeks ago today, it's a bit overwhelming to see how much has changed in those two weeks. We were all so ready to set up our new daily structure, and everyone felt so "comfortable." Here we are two weeks later, and the reality that it takes at least three weeks to adjust to a transition is setting in! Last week, kids began online learning, parents became overwhelmed in managing being principals and managing their own work, families realized that there really can't be any going out anywhere, and the news was horribly daunting. The good news? We're two weeks into the transition, which means in one more week, we should have our routines humming along as much as they can hum!
Every day is a learning experience! I've never used Instacart before - guess what? The $1.99 flour I ordered wound up being out of stock and the substitution they delivered cost $10 a bag! Who needs that much organic flour at that cost?! Not me, (and I'd ordered three bags!!) but at least I realized what I need to do to make sure that it doesn't happen again - I can click the "do not replace" button or leave comments that instruct the shopper not to pick something with a higher price. I cried when I saw my receipt, but I'm chalking it up to live and learn (at a financial price that will force me to learn quickly).
We got the whole family set up on Zoom yesterday! It was so good to see faces that we haven't seen in a couple of weeks all on one screen! We brainstormed ways to stay connected and have decided that Yahtzee on Zoom could be a lot of fun! My younger son's birthday is tomorrow, and it's hard to face not having access to friends on your special day. So, we've designed an online Zoom party where he and his friends can play games and I will provide e-gift cards to the winners of the games. It's not a typical birthday party as we know it, but we all have to face that right now, nothing is the same as it was, and that's ok. Let's take the time to be creative and appreciate what we do have! We might find we create new social outlets to explore.
I'd love any ideas or suggestions that you might have for online programming we might provide. I'm thinking of a lego club, Zoom game nights, etc, but if you have any thoughts, please share them! As things are becoming more routine, we're all learning how to be more efficient in tapping our resources to access connectedness, so I'm open to hearing your ideas! Thank you so much to those of you who have shared resources and ideas! I'm trying to incorporate them into the blog as effectively as possible so please continue to share!
How is the distance learning going for those of you with school-aged children? This is a work in progress for districts, and I believe you will be seeing more video connecting efforts in the next few weeks as the feedback I'm receiving from districts is that they are very aware of how "cut off" students feel and they want them to know how much they are missed, how integral they are to the school community, etc. So, while you may feel last week was perhaps a bit "read and do" in format, I wouldn't be surprised if you see things change a bit as everyone has a little more time to adjust to distance teaching/learning.
I hope that you all have a wonderful week, and I look forward to chatting in this blog tomorrow!
March 27, 2020
Hello Everyone - welcome to Friday!
It's hard to see the news and not become fearful. As we've said so many times, this is a challenging new reality to face. We don't have control over our world as we may have previously thought that we did. Change is always a constant, but things have been changing so rapidly that it can often feel as though things are out of control. And, anxiety seeks to feel the stability of control, so without that stability, anxiety escalates.
Let's dial it back a bit! I've sent you some relaxation and yoga strategies. Use them. Not everyone likes the same thing, which is why I've tried to give you a few variations on the theme so that you can try things out, pick and choose, etc. In addition, let's think about ways that you can gain a sense of power in a world where you might currently feel powerless:
- Get outside every day. Fresh air not only boosts your mood, but it allows for an opportunity to vent some extra energy AND it helps to strengthen your lungs and build immunity. Yes, we're entering "April Showers" territory on the calendar, but grab an umbrella and some boots and go puddle stomping with your family! It's childish and silly and fun and oh so healthy!!
- Laugh. When everything is serious, we feel stuck, discouraged and sometimes overwhelmed. Everyone thinks I'm totally ridiculous for enjoying laughter yoga because it seems forced, but look at some YouTube videos on it and give it a try! It will trigger a laughter response with great physical benefits! And, if you are up for it, tell jokes as a family, do Madlibs, dress up for charades, have a goofy talent show. The possibilities are endless when you are laughing WITH people! No laughing AT people, though!!
- Stay hydrated. This is an important physical strategy. It helps to keep you healthy, and in making your body feel good, it makes your mind feel good, too!
- Recognize what you CAN control in your world. Basically, you cannot change or control what's going on in the country and world, but you can control how you deal with it. Do your best to keep your body strong and your mind focused and positive. If you need support, please let me know. Choose healthy meal options, support local restaurants, follow CDC directions for creating the healthiest situation possible.
- Help others. Early on, we talked about writing notes to people in nursing homes, rehab facilities, or those who are homebound. I've tried to make it appoint to reach out to a few people per week, usually by text, just to stay in touch. It's very lonely and scary for the elderly right now, and some are tempted to go out and about in public just to be near people, which of course is exactly what they shouldn't do. If you can help one person stay home and stay safe while still feeling remembered, you will be doing a great thing!
- Think about how to make the upcoming holidays fun and meaningful, even though they will be different. How can you connect distant family over your Seder or Easter Dinner? How can an egg hunt become more interactive with those who may not be able to be with us? Give it some thought! See what you can come up with!
I hope that you all have a relaxing and fun weekend! Please reach out if you have questions or if you need some support. I'm happy to help.
March 26, 2020
Happy Friday Junior, Everyone!
We're almost to the weekend, and even though, for many of us, the week may seem to run into the weekend without much change, there is a difference! I know when we do our residential summer program, that even when kids forget the day of the week, they act differently on Saturday and Sunday, even if they've forgotten that those days are the weekend. We always remind them so they can stay on track, but it's interesting to note how people act differently on a weekend than a weekday. They're more relaxed and open to different activities. So, even though your days may seem to run together, celebrate when the weekend arrives! I would recommend having some special activities that are unique to the weekend. Just as during non-coronavirus times the weekend was reserved for special activities, keep that going now! Maybe the hike you take on Saturday and Sunday is a different one than the ones you take Monday through Friday. Maybe you cook a special type of meal on the weekend. Maybe Saturday is a special movie night or the longer board games are reserved for the weekends. Give the weekend a little respect of its own and see what you can do with it! We need to make sure that we don't get stuck in ruts as our travels are limited and most people are home together. Be creative!
And, this doesn't just apply to weekends. My son's birthday is Tuesday. We can't celebrate it as we normally would, and I can't get to the store to pick out the gift with him. He has to be measured for it and I can't do that reliably online. So I've got to figure out how to sell an I-O-U without making his birthday seem like another loss due to coronavirus. I've got some ideas, and he's going to have a really fun day, but it's essential that I put the effort into making the other aspects of the day really special. I'm excited to create something a little different this year - I'll keep you posted on how it goes! Easter and Passover will also look different this year. How can you adjust your holiday plans so that you are still appreciating the significance of the holidays while celebrating them with less people than might typically be a part of them? I'm browsing Pinterest, candy websites, home magazines, etc, to come up with ideas that I can adapt for the holiday.
One of our parents belongs to a yoga studio and one of the facilitators, Amy Thompson, is a social worker who conducts yoga sessions. The following screenshot was forwarded to me, with Amy's permission. It is a quick "yoga escape" that can be done in less than five minutes. It's a chance for you to take a few minutes to yourself, separate from those around you, to collect your thoughts and tune into YOU. I really like it - I hope that you do, too!
Have a wonderful day, and take good care.
March 25, 2020
Good morning, Everyone!
For someone who is not a huge fan of people spending a lot of time on line, I'm eating crow as I become more and more aware of how our only way of staying connected is electronically. I'm learning a lot about different platforms that help people connect as I'm working to design activities that will bolster social interaction. Right now, I'm working out details to have our team provide some game show experiences via one of the platforms. I love program design, and this is one area where I've had to be flexible myself in entertaining different modes of communication!
How are you doing? Typically, if years of experience and research prove me right, yesterday may have been a little bit of a funk day as we entered the Tuesday of the first week of a new reality. Last week was our "we're all on a break and adjusting" week. This week, everyone is realizing that we have responsibilities and routines that are now becoming consistent, and we are embracing some and resisting others!
In this changing time, I'd like to encourage each of you to take on a hobby, task, project, etc, that you may have always wanted to do but that you've never embraced due to time restrictions. I got really into flower gardening last year, and this year I plan to expand my flower beds and redesign some of them. I've never been home this much before, even though I've always wanted to have that opportunity. Granted, work takes up most of the day, but being at home brings a new eye to things, and allows for more direct focus on what's right in front of us! What might your individual or family projects entail? I'd love to assemble a brainstorm collage to share in this blog in some capacity! I'm so appreciative of some of the pictures and ideas some of you have shared to document your family interactions and activities.
In the next couple of weeks, as alluded to above, my goal is to provide an online platform that will offer various social opportunities for everyone connected to the practice as well as to others in the general community. Currently, we're thinking of hosting a few game shows that will allow for active participation. We're also considering some craft groups or other interest gatherings. Please share any ideas you might have - the sky's the limit for creativity! My team will do their best to create opportunities where they exist.
I wanted to share a couple of posts that were sent my way by one of our dedicated parents. I like the way that they concretely (and positively) encourage a shift in perspective. I know all too well how some people are feeling right now, so I hope that these provide a bit of insight that might allow for some positive perspective taking right now:
I hope that you all have a wonderful day!
March 24, 2020
Happy Tuesday, Everyone!
For those of you who have school-aged children, if yo're reading this, you survived your first day of distance learning! I know it was hard. Keep a few things in mind: no one expects you to be your children's teacher, you should not feel guilty for needing time to yourself to do your own job from home, and it's nobod's fault. When we feel out of control, we seek to find something on which to pin the blame. There isn't anything this time around. We have to accept that we're all doing the best we can. Teachers are home with their own kids dealing with distance learning just as parents in other fields are also in the same boat. There is a huge learning curve here, and it's going to take a little while to even things out. Just remember: do the best you can, ask and expect that from those around you, and forgive when things fall short. I promise, in the not too distant future, you'll have a routine, but for now, it's a bit uncomfortable and unpredictable.
Do you see a change in yourself, or those around you, compared to this time last week? A lot has changed in the world in a short time. The theme that I keep hearing from family members is that while last week was more of a honeymoon phase, this week, everyone seems to be negotiating. Negotiating for later bedtimes, less chores, less snow, etc. We're human, and after the honeymoon ends, we start pushing limits. This does not only apply to children!! It is fair game for everyone. We're in new territory, and everyone is trying to figure out where they stand and how much control they can hold in this currently uncontrollable world. Surrender. It's hard to do, but if you can surrender to the fact that things might be uncertain for a little while, and then focus on "setting and enforcing" boundaries in relationships, things will feel better.
Eric sent over another physical education game that I think can be a lot of fun! As a family, create a deck of cards. On each card, name and illustrate an activity that involves exercise. For example: sledding, playing leap frog, shooting hoops or playing HORSE, jumping rope, playing four square, hiking, biking, building and running an obstacle course, etc. Once you have a stack of cards written and illustrated, shuffle the deck. Each day, draw two cards and do those activities! This way, everyone gets regular exercise, and no one gets bored with doing the same thing over and over again!
An indoor activity that I strongly recommend is coloring. This can be done on a simple level with basic coloring pages downloaded from kids' crafts sites, or there are intricate mandalas and sophisticated coloring pages that can also be downloaded. If you work on these individually, but as a family group, conversation tends to flow comfortably and not feel forced, and the mindful quality of the activity soothes and comforts. This is a great anxiety management activity.
I hope that you have a wonderful day, and that you begin to feel more order to your daily life as we adjust to the current situation.
March 23, 2020
Good morning, Everyone!
Can you believe we're forecasted for snow today?! I just spent part of the weekend raking out my flower beds and doing tick checks because those nasty little buggers are out again. Well, maybe the snow will be a rude awakening for them!
So, for most of your kids, distance learning begins today! It will be interesting, to say the least, as we figure this all out, but I'm hoping everyone will keep a few things in mind:
- Teachers and parents are BOTH anxious about how this will work. It is essential that everyone realize that this is not going to be a seamless transition and that there will be bumps to work out along the way. The hard part is that we don't know what those bumps will be until they appear, as we are navigating uncharted waters.
- If you feel there are some areas of significant concern in your child's distance learning experience, I would recommend waiting a couple of days to see if things even out, and if they don't, send a pleasant update to the teacher/case manager, etc. identifying your concern. Be careful to not cast blame, as this is a challenge for everyone, and teachers will only know how things are working after the initial transition. We're in a time of great adjustment, and it's frustrating to feel so powerless, but always remember that we're in this boat together, so be careful to consider the challenges that everyone is facing when providing feedback.
- If your district did not outline specific hours for schooling, set your own. Most districts gave an overview of how much time should be spent on academics per day. Students will struggle if left to budget their own time, so identify specific hours for doing work and be sure to schedule in breaks as well! Also, identify areas on the home that are "educationally comfortable and appropriate" so that your child doesn't get stuck in one setting too long but also so that they don't wander constantly.
- Encourage your children to stay connected to their teachers, whether it be through Google classroom or whatever platform might be used, so that they know where to go for questions, etc. You are your homeschool principal in that you are setting parameters, but you are not expected to teach your children, so if they don't understand something, make sure that they realize that they can access their teachers!
- If your child doesn't have a lot of work, or finishes early, it's ok to encourage them to explore enrichment opportunities, whether they be hands on or research-based. Do allow yourself and your child to have some fun with the learning process!
And, for those who are looking for more than guidance on distance learning, the social piece is looming! I wish it were as easy to get that component up and running, but know that it is in the works on our end! We are exploring ways to use Zoom to keep children, tweens, teens and adults connected socially. I'm really thinking outside of my own "limit electronics" box in doing this because the reality is that if we do not link social to electronics, there will be no socializing in a socially distant environment! A few of you have asked for guidance in the social connectedness department, and please know that in the next few days I will have a lot more to offer. Currently, there are some ambitious individuals online who are forming D&D groups, Pokemon groups, etc. But I also want to provide direct contact for individuals who already know each other and who want to stay connected. More details will be forthcoming.
I hope that you all have a pleasant and productive day! Let's hope the snow is just a dusting. My grandmother used to call spring snow "poor man's fertilizer." We certainly are short on precipitation this winter, so if one last snow supports the greening of spring, bring it on!
March 20, 2020
A lot has changed in a week - think back to a week ago when students were just hearing that they would be on a break from school. A week later, we have college graduations postponed or cancelled, schools announcing distance learning platforms, and the reality of social distancing hitting home. As the week has gone on, I've seen people (especially high school students) become much more overwhelmed with the impact of social distancing.
I get it. It goes against our nature as human beings to isolate. And it's imperative that we continue to stay connected. The hard part is that human beings are also creatures of habit who don't like change! I think the hardest thing I've had to do this past week is firmly explain and insist to people that while social distancing is hugely inconvenient and potentially boring, it is an absolutely essential measure to ensure safety. The other day, I was communicating with a family in China and they informed me of what social distancing looks like for them. To say the least, it makes American social distancing look like a party. And that is really hard to relay to my clients, especially to adolescents, without my seeming like a dictator. But, first and foremost, we do need to keep ourselves separate so that we can, in the end, come back together sooner.
In the meantime, think about how you and your family might do things a bit differently! What kind of creative meals can you now take the time to prepare outside on the grill? As it gets warmer, camp out in your back yard, order some black lights and glow sticks and play a game of black light bingo or black light cards! Or maybe even break out that ancient twister mat and change up the rules to make it more of a dance party! The possibilities are endless, but being creatures of habit, it's a little challenging for us to realize that we can step outside the box. Guess what? This is the time to do it!
I've reached out to the educational community to offer collaboration in designing some ways to keep our kids socially connected. How might you work to keep people connected? Could you and your family write notes to people in retirement communities or nursing homes? Could you form a D&D group online and invite people to learn to play? Could you challenge friends to a board game over Zoom? The answer to all of these questions is YES!! I know social distancing is overwhelming sometimes, but please respect it and look to new ways to connect that utilize creativity and interaction. It can be done!
I have so enjoyed hearing from many of you regarding your responses to my daily posts. My goal is for all of us to realize that we have each other, and that together, great things can be done despite limitations on direct interaction. I have the pleasure of working with such amazing families!
The blog will not be posted on the weekend - I'm going to make it a Monday through Friday endeavor. But I am reachable by email, and I look forward to hearing your ideas and responses and addressing them in Monday's post.
Have a wonderful weekend,
March 19, 2020
It's the first day of Spring!!! My daffodils started blooming over the past weekend, and even though it's really soggy out there this morning, at least it's not snow! I'm watching the raindrops fall into the birdbath that I have in the flower garden outside of my window and the vision is so soothing. In focusing on the circles that form in the shallow pool of the birdbath as the raindrops hit, I'm taken away from the bombardment of headlines and news stories about COVID-19 and brought to a more peaceful escape where there is anticipation for a new season that will bring birdsongs, flowers, green leaves and the smell of fresh air. Two very different realities, but they coexist. In taking the time to allow my mind to focus on serenity, I know that I'll be better able to face whatever else is going on in the world today.
I just welcomed you into a mindful moment. Mindfulness involves focusing on the immediate moment in front of us, tuning into the sensory experience and appreciating it for its sights, sounds, smells, tastes (if you breathe deep enough, you can taste fresh air) and textures. In escaping for a moment or two into a mindful moment, you can lower your blood pressure, relieve stress, gain perspective, and prioritize.
Sometimes, people are turned off to mindfulness because they think that they have to deep breathe, strike a yoga pose, go through complete muscle relaxation, and experience an imaginary happy place. Don't get me wrong - I love guided imagery and I love leading people through the experience. However, it's not for everyone, and we need to find ways to help EVERYONE experience mindful moments. There are a ton of apps and youtube videos that you can access for guided imagery, body scans, and mindfulness. The key is to finding one that makes you comfortable. I'll never forget how, years ago, I ordered a CD that had the perfect relaxation script. I was so excited to get it. But, when I listened to it, it had been recorded by a man with a twangy, high pitched, Southern drawl, and I couldn't get into it. The voice of the facilitator is critical, so don't feel that it's you if you can't get into a certain mindfulness video that someone else might love. Be picky. There are a ton of apps/videos out there, and it's fun to explore them! They are available for people of ALL ages, from infancy to elderly. Take a few minutes as a family to check out some mindfulness apps or videos.
When doing mindfulness, it's a good idea to do a short period in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening (sometimes to get to sleep). The more familiar your body and mind are with the routine, the more relaxed you will feel. This is especially helpful with kids who are feeling anxious - it helps them to develop stronger self-regulation skills so that they experience better self-control and fewer outbursts. And, adults who are currently struggling to establish some sense of order and routine in their lives as the situation changes from day to day will greatly benefit from the stability that mindfulness provides.
Please send me your favorite mindfulness apps/videos after you and your family explore and discover your favorites! I'm always looking for good recommendations.
March 18, 2020
Good morning, Everyone!
I thought today that I would focus on homeschooling. Not the traditional type of homeschooling, but the kind that has quickly become your childre's new way of learning. For some, it is distance learning that is just being implemented. For others, it's a break from school with the understanding that "more details will follow" as you try to figure out how to convince your children that no, this isn't a vacation and yes, there will be work to do! And, not to overlook the obvious: for every parent, whether it is welcome or not, you are now the principal of your home school. You will, of course, have assignments and guidance from your school district, but in reality, it is up to you to make this work at home. No easy feat, but one that must take priority.
As I said on Monday, the most important thing is that you establish a structure on which your children will depend. In our district, packets came home on Friday, and I outlined for you on Monday how my son and I have structured his time. On Monday, his district will begin distance learning, and while we have no idea what that really looks like, for now we know that the structure that was put in place on this past Monday will definitely remain in place as teachers provide more active assignments.
I know that it is overwhelming to parents to implement structure and education - for some kids, especially those who usually have special education support, it may be difficult to navigate the curriculum. Obviously, special education services will be in place once districts start distance learning, but they won't be face to face. You may need to ask questions. Initially, for both regular education and special education situations, teachers will need a bit of time to gauge how long assignments might take, what is enough, what is too much, how to integrate specials and support services. My recommendation is to take things in, don't stress by what might seem to be a large amount of responsibility falling on you, and after a few days, provide feedback to faculty if you are seeing your child struggle. IEP's and 504's can be adjusted as needed, and whether we are talking regular education or special education, within a couple of weeks, everyone will have a much better sense of what works and what does not work. It's such a huge transition for everyone - go easy, observe, don't pressure yourself or your child (except to maintain structure) and after a week (aside from extreme cases that require more immediate communication), if you or your child are struggling with the workload or demands, then give the feedback. Remember that this is totally new for everyone involved.
In the event that distance learning is something that your child completes in a relatively short period of time each day (bear in mind that I have no idea what this will look like at this point, so I'm just putting this out there!), consider adding some enrichment programming. I mentioned on Monday that my son has a subscription to online piano lessons. There are hundreds of topics that you might explore with your child, not all online, either. Be creative, have fun, and don't become overwhelmed. Yes, you are your child's principal at this point, but there are trained educators supporting you.
In the event that you are interested in a couple of additional resources, please see the links below. The first was provided by a homeschooling mom who wanted to pass along some support regarding a homeschooling association that is establishing a supportive Facebook page for parents who do not normally homeschool but who are now in the role to do so. It allows for current homeschooling parents to provide information/support to parents who are suddenly in the role of homeschooling their children. The second link is to The Great Courses - a great resource for enrichment learning.
Remember, this is a unique time for all of us, and each day brings new information, worries, realities and experiences. Please feel free to reach out with questions or topics that you would like to see addressed in this blog. The more connected we all remain, the stronger we can be both as individuals and as communities.
March 17, 2020
Good morning and Happy St. Patrick's Day!
So what do you think? How did day one go yesterday? I found that I had to make a couple of adjustments to the schedule as the day progressed. For example, my older son's internship was put on hold as the Yard Goats sent everyone home until the season is reinstated. This meant that I needed to modify the location of my other son's work time so that he wouldn't be too distracted by his brother. So, we had to address each person having their own work space free of interruption from others. It is a good lesson in boundary awareness! I also found that my younger son did better switching up the order of some of his assignments. At the end of the day, all was completed on time, but I found myself practicing the mantra I've used for years at our sleep away camp: structure with flexibility!
Routines can be challenging to establish because it takes a couple of weeks to cement a habit. And what we're all doing now, essentially, is training ourselves to new routines. Don't get frustrated if things don't go exactly to plan - be deliberate in returning to your proposed structure when you find people straying, and even though that can feel frustrating and challenging right now, in a few days, it will be second nature and you will be glad for it.
It's ok to be creative! Yesterday, my son proposed that he would be able to have one "theme" day during the week which would not be quite so academically structured but that would allow him to take a break from books and explore a topic of interest to him. For example, he could explore an element of sports that is interesting to him, then practice the sport in the yard, and then watch a match being played (obviously not live!). Don't be afraid to let flexibility be creative! Be very mindful of maintaining the routine, but allow for some out of the box thinking when it comes to how things are done!!
I am so appreciative of some of the resources people are sharing with me, and I am going to include all of them in this blog. I will space them out so that we focus on certain themes per day, but THANK YOU!!
For today, I wanted to address physical fitness. Fresh air and exercise are essential to maintaining good health. Eric Chase, my co-director from Summer Retreat who has his masters in adaptive PE, shared the following resource with me: Captain Pete's Home Activity Visual Packet. It was designed specifically for families at home during the Coronavirus crisis. Have fun with it and absolutely make physical fitness a requirement in your family every day! The stronger our bodies and lungs are, the better! And, right now, anxiety is very high for everyone. We'll be doing some mindfulness work in the coming days, but first and foremost, exercise lowers anxiety levels. When someone is really anxious, they may not always be able to process their anxiety until some of that extra energy is let go. Exercise is the first step!
The activity packet will be posted here as well, but I'm also going to email it to you separately in case there are any issues accessing it from the blog.
I wish you all a wonderful day and look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions. Remember - use my email@example.com email to reach out!
Cap'n Pete's Home Activity Visual Packet
Monday, March 16, 2020
Today begins a new experience for all of us. We're facing a lot of unknowns, and we need to remember that even though we're not physically connected, this space will be used to include responses to your questions and comments so that we can all work together. Each day, I will be writing a post that I hope will be helpful to you and your families. While I'll begin today's post with some strategies for managing immediate anxiety and establishing structure (which might seem rather boring), over the next few days and weeks, please anticipate that I will be sharing fun ideas from my experience and from our retreat staff leaders that will provide creative ideas for activities, mindfulness, etc. If you have responses, questions, or topics that you would like to see addressed in this blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past few days, I've received numerous calls from people who are anxious about the Coronavirus outbreak or who have children who are anxious about it. I wish I had answers for all of the questions, and if I did, there wouldn't be nearly so much anxiety. However, there aren't any clear answers. What we all need to do right now, to manage our anxiety and to manage the situation, is to focus on the things that we can do. Anxiety spins when people are at a loss - they seek to control anything to feel less fearful. Channel your need to feel less anxious by focusing on short term goals that very deliberately address the current issue. Disinfect your house. Establish a routine to help your children feel safe and to help everyone in your family focus less on worry. Set up a three day game plan that will help you accomplish a task that you haven't been able to get to for a while. Try not to spend excessive time online searching for statistics that you can't change. Look for information, obtain it, and then return to your daily routine, focusing on yourself and the ones that you love.
If you have children at home, set up some ground rules and a daily routine. Some may have lots of school work, and some may be on a two week hiatus. Don't let them be plugged into electronics all day. In our house, I sat everyone down yesterday and we discussed things that we haven't had time to do that we think should be done, we outlined tasks for each family member to keep track of on a daily basis, and we went over some house rules. My kids don't call me "the Motherlord" for nothing!! In our house, we discussed the following:
- Each person will take over their own laundry
- Certain chores, which we can't always get to on as regimented routine, were scheduled for certain individuals: vacuuming, dusting, mopping, etc.
- Bedtimes were established as well as the fact that a daily routine was put in place
- Keeping rooms clean on a daily basis
- Operating the house in a way that makes it fun and bright and airy (and healthy) by making sure all blinds are always raised, windows open when the sun is out and the temperature is warm enough, etc.
- Finishing all "chores" before fun time can happen
Additionally, for the adolescent in our house who is still in school, it was important to set up a daily schedule as I will still be working from home (and perhaps soon everyone else in the house will be working from home, too) and all kids need the structure of a routine so that they don't get bored, waste brain cells, etc. So, for my eighth grader, the following daily routine was presented:
- Wake up when you are rested
- School work from 10-2
- Outside time (essential) for at least one hour (my son will go out for hours on end, so my focus will be more on getting him in than getting him out)
- Phone check in once per hour for two minutes only to make sure to issue responses to any friends who are reaching out (keep up some social connections)
- Free electronics time for an hour
- Help to plan, prepare and serve dinner with me to other family members
- Family game time every night (we're going through the basement and pulling out all of the games we've never played, haven't played in a while, etc. - I highly recommend this - it's a blast!!)
- Family TV time for one hour
Regarding the four hours that I've set aside for academics each day, I am only requiring that two of those hours be spent keeping up with his eighth grade curriculum. The other two hours will be spent on enrichment study: online piano lessons, nature exploration, independent study. Depending upon your child's age, you may need to be more regimented, etc.
It is hard for working parents to suddenly have to work from home or to not have any work. We will be discussing this in a future post, but the one thing I want to suggest is that as difficult as this adjustment may be for parents, recognize that it is confusing for your child and that if you are frustrated in front of them, they could blame themselves instead of the situation for your frustration. This is a bumpy adjustment for everyone - as adults, we need to put on brave faces and weather this for a little while before it becomes more familiar.
Tomorrow's post will have some fun ideas for keeping everyone physically fit and engaged in positive attitude building! Please feel free to email me any questions or thoughts that you might have at email@example.com.
Take good care,