June 16, 2020
Three months ago to the day I started this blog. We had just entered lockdown and nothing was certain. A lot has changed since then, and a lot has stayed the same. We have adjusted to a new way of life and we have certainly focused on different priorities. And, we are still just as uncertain as we were three months ago, only in different ways!
But it does feel as though people are more comfortable in their situations. I do get fearful when I hear people say "I'm over this," because that's where things can become dangerous if people get careless. But, I am hopeful that people seeing the recent spike in cases where reopenings have demonstrated careless practices might make people realize that we do have the power to control elements of the virus by being safe and following guidelines.
We're looking at the beginning of summer vacation! And yes, it's going to be different this year, but think about things you've never had time to do as a family and do them! Cover your driveway in chalk drawings, create escape rooms and obstacle courses! Learn gardening and enjoy farm to table meals! I feel like we need to give ourselves permission to be creative and to look beyond what we know from previous summers in order to launch into this one because we are creatures of habit who don't like change. But you all are creative individuals - take some appropriate creative risks, look around, and try new things! Go for hikes or go fishing. Create a parent camp where you align yourselves with two other families who have been safe and have the kids go to one house each day so that everyone gets a break and a new experience.
Make sure that you put away all school supplies this week! Home has functioned as school for long enough - time to take a break and send a clear message that for summer vacation, it's all about time off! That doesn't mean that you shouldn't provide a solid structure for the family, and kids definitely need their time structured, but it's ok to not have that structure be academic. I would recommend limiting screen time each day - allow their eyes and brains to have a break from the stimulation of technology. Establish consistent bedtimes and wake up times (and it's ok if they're not school time hours, everyone stays up later and sleeps in a bit during the summer). Routines feel safe and comfortable, even though kids balk at them. Be sure to set them up from the get-go!
I will be posting blogs sporadically during the summer, and as we find out what the return to school will look like, I will begin posting more consistently so that we can be sure to address concerns and questions that you might have. I hope that that you will reach out to me in the coming weeks if you have questions or ideas that you would like to see addressed in this blog. I have enjoyed my early morning writing and appreciate your accompanying me on this endeavor!
Have a wonderful day!
June 15, 2020
Tomorrow will mark three months that I have been writing this blog! We began on the first Monday that schools were not in session, and I think, for now, that I will take a break from writing the daily blog on our district's last day of school: tomorrow, June 16, 2020. I have enjoyed blogging every weekday, but this summer is looking to be a busy one with the regular practice combined with five weeks of virtual camp. I think, for the immediate future, that I will blog every so often to check in and to keep you updated, but not on a daily basis. If there are topics that you would like to see covered in the blog, please let me know and I will certainly make entries in response!
It's pretty interesting to look back over the entries of the last few months. In many ways, while we have answers to many of the things that were unknown or perplexing to us three months ago, we have so many new unknowns still! I think we're learning how to live in world of uncertainty, some days better than others, but overall, we've had to accept that we don't have a lot of control in our world and maybe that is where we've all had to do the most growing. Have you noticed areas where you've learned to let go, or where you've become a little less focused on everything going according to a specific plan? We've had to do away with many of our plans, haven't we?! I've learned to try to put a little less pressure on myself to have answers to certain questions and that the best laid plans are only best case scenarios - in the past three months, sometimes we've had to resort to "good enough plans" and that's ok!
As we look to summer, I'm excited by my veggie and flower gardens and I'm proud of the work we've been able to do around the house. Professionally, I feel that I've stayed connected to my clients and had the privilege of accompanying many on journeys that I never would have wished for any of us to take, but that showed us all our humanity and the necessity of working together for everyone's benefit. In many ways, the work of the past three months is the hardest work I've ever done as a therapist, and while there have been many painful moments and hard questions without answers, I've felt to honored to have been a part of so many journeys on such a different level. My hope is that summer allows us all to work together to slowly and safely venture out so that we can begin to create a "new world" for ourselves and for our children. Things will not look the same as they did before, but after what everyone has experienced in the last three months, a new adventure shouldn't seem too daunting!
Please let me know if there are any specifics that you would like me to cover in tomorrow's blog! I would love to have your reflections.
Have a wonderful day!
June 12, 2020
I'm looking out over the trees this morning and seeing the clouds slowly blowing away - it looks like a beautiful day is beginning!
I'm trying to keep track of the end of school year activities. It's funny - every year, there's a lot to show up for, follow through on, etc, and this year, we don't have to go anywhere, but it's harder to keep it all straight! Details seem to be lagging a bit, and the end of year hype isn't as present. Some kids don't even know when their last day is. In our district, the last day of graded assignments was Tuesday, but then Wednesday was a presentation and then yesterday was a district wide assessment. Technically, the last day is next Tuesday, and it looks like there are some special google meets scheduled, but it's funny how things seem to just be ending abruptly, in a drawn out sort of way!
So - first order of business in beginning summer vacation is cleaning out the academic presence in kids' lives. And then, the second and very important order of business is to decide what your summer is going to look like. You don't have to keep to a rigid routine, but definitely provide your family with a sense of structure. Wake up should be by a certain time, bedtime should be in a certain range. There should be some responsibilities built into each person's day, and screen time should be limited!
We are walking a very fine line between safety and the need to socialize. I feel that it is important to provide direct social experiences for everyone in the family, provided the people you are exposing them to are respectful of safety guidelines. Kids are really in need of in person contact, and we are seeing the impact that isolation has had upon their emotional well-being. That being said, be smart. Choose outdoor locations for social opportunities. If you are looking at camps, review their adherence to state guidelines. In no way am I saying to not send kids to camp - I think parents need to weigh the risk against the benefits. In many cases, some kids desperately need the structure and socialization of camp and that outweighs the risk of possibly contracting illness. In other cases, where people live in social neighborhoods, allowing kids to play with neighbors might suffice. In any case, I do endorse in person contact as long as people have been safe. We need to care for the mental and physical health of our children.
Another idea which can provide everyone with a much needed respite is for parents whose families have remained isolated to form small pods of social respite opportunities. For example, if four friends who are parents have been careful for the past three months (and remain safe now), they might take one day per week each to supervise everyone's children so that the other parents have time to themselves to work, catch up, etc. This provides social interaction and stimulation for the kids and reduces the pressure on parents to do it all. Planning for one day of "friendship camp" per family per week would make for a fun summer for kids and a nice respite for parents. Just one idea that I've always felt could bring people together while also building social skills for kids!
I hope that you all have a wonderful day!
June 11, 2020
I had an experience yesterday morning that really upset me more than I realized. On the surface, it might seem petty, but I guess because I've been so connected to this theme for so long, I didn't realize until last night how deeply it had affected me. Petty or not, it struck a chord.
My son's town baseball coach reached out yesterday to see if my son would be interested playing the abbreviated season that they were starting to implement. In our family, we had thought long and hard about this, and after many discussions, evaluations, etc, we felt that the proposed CDC guidelines were really not going to be met appropriately in this league, and based upon the suffering that I have seen in the past three months, we opted out of the program for this year. When I got my son’s coach's text yesterday morning, asking if he were interested in playing, I responded that while he loves baseball and it has been a very difficult decision in our family, we felt strongly that now is not the best time to resume and that we were going to sit this season out, hoping for a return to soccer in the fall. The response I received? "Understood. He will be missed He will be missed for sure. Anything we can do to convince you/him otherwise?? That's about as hard of sell as I am going to do - promise."
I appreciate the compliment towards my son. And I appreciate that this is "as hard a sell" as he's going to do, but where does anyone get off implying that the decision was so flighty that it could be changed? This wasn't a spontaneous decision. I had forced myself to consider all the options, to play devil's advocate, I had called other programs to compare, etc. This was a difficult decision that wasn't arrived at lightly. It was not a statement that could be "sold" on an alternative. I appreciate the coach is in sales for a living, but he should have stopped with "he will be missed for sure."
I know there was no malintent, and the guy just wants to reunite the team, but it sat badly with me. It made me feel as though I was back in middle school where it's "bad" to be the one person with a different opinion. Where you feel ashamed for having the sense to speak your truth but nobody wants to hear it, and they try to embarrass you in your assertion by trying to "convince" you that your perspective is skewed. I'm terrified that the majority of our town, state, country feel the way this coach feels - we do need to open up, and we do need to get back to life before quarantine, but we must be safe and cautious. Look at the rising numbers - I don't want to be an alarmist, but if we do not exercise a degree of caution and common sense, we will see a resurgence.
I responded politely to the coach, saying that after what I have experienced in my role for the past three months, that I'm not comfortable with my son playing a shortened but intense season. And I left it at that. His response, "completely understand" after what he'd said previously clearly indicated that he does not understand at all, only that business decorum has taught him that when someone plays that medical trauma card, you back off. I know this team, and I know that there will be private texts commenting on how our decision will impact the team. It will, but not in the sense that they are referencing. They'll be thinking that they're missing out on my son's pitching and hitting skill and what that will look like in final stats. I'm going to be looking at it as that for now, I've protected one of my own from what I feel could be a dangerous situation, and how his absence might allow him to build greater strength and immunity while also raising awareness to his teammates and their parents that this is a time to be careful. Don't get me wrong - this was truly a very difficult decision because I want him to be out there having fun with his friends; but the lack of clarity in the guidelines, the emphasis on social versus safety (and we know I've always emphasized the need for social interaction), and the focus on convincing versus accepting just left me with a bad feeling.
I try very hard to wear a thick skin, as in my field, I hear things every day that can be personally hurtful. And sometimes, a raw nerve is struck as was the case yesterday. But I don't regret our family's decision, and while I am scared that so many are so impatient and eager to move past COVID-19, I intend to resume my personal efforts towards taking appropriate risks, building social interactions and learning how to reintegrate (safely) into society. I just won't be badgered into how I do it!
Have a wonderful day!
June 10, 2020
For those of you who life in remote areas as I do, beware - momma and cub bears are out! On Monday, my sister was out walking her dog in West Hartford and was charged by a mother bear with two cubs. The bear wasn't stopping and while it's funny to think of someone running full speed to get away from a bear, the situation is dangerous. Fortunately for her, a public works employee saw the situation and drove his truck between her and the bear so she and her dog could jump in. Yesterday, when my son and I were out walking, we saw a bear as well - exiting our neighbor's garage where it had been looking for loot. People laugh at me for getting a bear barrel (a garbage barrel with a lock that bears can't undo), but I'm thinking I did the right thing. The bears were here before we were, and we need to be respectful of them. However, we also need to be thoughtful and take precautions so that we can peacefully coexist!
How's everyone doing on the coexisting front these days? I'm beginning to get lots of feedback that people are "done" with lockdown and ready to be past this. Please keep in mind, folks, that there is a difference between need and want. We may want to resume lives as we knew them, but we need to be considerate of how diligent we have been for the past few months and be respectful of not undoing the good that we have done. Certainly, venture out appropriately, but be mindful that we still need to be safe.
And that brings me back to my coexisting question! I get it - people are getting sick of sharing space with a select group of people. And it is hard - especially when things are starting to open up and it's tempting to run away from the dens we've all been hibernating in for the last few months! Are you feeling like the momma bear who charged my sister? Or the one I saw who just wanted what he wanted, regardless of how it would make others feel? I've been talking a lot to people lately about perspective-taking, and how important it is to consider different points of view. Everyone is facing degrees of challenge and stress, but how much time are we putting into considering others' points of view? I know everyone is tired of being patient, but in the next few months, there will need to be a greater focus on where people are coming from regarding their point of view. We have COVID-19 to deal with, social justice issues and an upcoming election. Soooo many opportunities to witness and explore and tolerate different perspectives and points of view. And the only way to do it is to realize that everyone will have their own viewpoint and that it's not about being right or wrong; rather, it's about understanding others whether or not we agree with them.
So, let's make a good effort at exploring tolerance in our lives and focusing a bit more on the perspectives that we need to allow for and explore. Granted, our worlds have been very small for the past few months, but as we gradually emerge from the den, let’s be less like the raging momma bear or greedy bear and consider that we all have perspectives worth exploring.
Have a wonderful day!
June 9, 2020
It looks like summer weather has finally arrived, further pushing my theme that the school year is ending! I know it doesn't feel like it - kids keep telling me during sessions that it doesn't really feel like the end of the school year. One boy argued with me that it's only the beginning of May. Time has passed, we've been in survival mode, and all of a sudden, we're into a new season and time of year!
Yesterday, I advised straightening up the house to mirror how your children straighten up at school at the end of the school year by cleaning lockers, packing things up, etc. This is really important, so please make sure that by the last day of school, your home looks "school free" so that your family can enter summer vacation mode!
And, research is showing how clutter creates stress and anxiety. Here is a link to an article that might help you to break down the steps of organizing your home so that you don't feel overwhelmed with the process. It's easy to feel bombarded by chaos and multiple steps, so see if this is helpful to you:
I will start sharing some suggestions for summer activities in this space in the near future. I know from multiple conversations how fearful parents are right now of facing summer vacation with their children at home. Yes, some camps are open, but many parents are expressing worry of exposing their children to the general public too soon after being so careful for so long. There is a fear that we've come so far, we don't want it to be for nothing. And I agree. It's very hard to see our world looking so different, and to fear that we're not doing enough to keep our kids engaged, but our primary goal right now needs to be keeping our kids healthy. And we have come so far, so please know that in the coming days I will be sharing ideas with you to keep your families engaged and happy!
As an aside, if you are interested in virtual programming for your children, our virtual summer retreat is running from 6/22-7/24. We are in the very last stage of registration as supplies are on order and we do have a cap on enrollment, but if you are interested, we can wait until Friday to finalize our numbers. I am so excited by what we have to offer! Virtual doesn't mean staring at a screen for three hours per day. We have mini golf, escape rooms, game shows, etc. all ready to go! And, all supplies are provided ahead of time so no one needs to head to the store with a supply list. Please let me know if you are interested.
I hope that you all have a wonderful day and enjoy this beautiful weather - I do believe that my tomato plants are finally happy!!
June 8, 2020
We're down to home stretch on the school year! It's hard to believe that things are wrapping up, and I think what makes it most challenging is that kids haven't had the opportunity to experience the rituals that come with the end of the school year. Even under very basic circumstances, at the youngest grades, there are certain routines and rituals that allow students, teachers and parents to wind things down and wrap them up. And this year, those rituals aren't happening. It felt so strange to drive by my son's school and pick up a black bag with his locker contents. God bless the custodians who went through all of those lockers - I hope they didn't find any old food in them! But even the simple act of cleaning out a locker is a ritual, and without it, something is missing.
I'm going to propose something that is likely to annoy a lot of students, but it is, in my opinion, an essential ritual to ending a school year. Move locker clean out to home! For the past three months, various parts of your homes have doubled as classrooms, study rooms, etc. And that is wonderful - out of necessity, you developed these adjustments, but now it's time to close down the academic function of those rooms and return them to their normal purposes. Everyone needs a break from school at home, and your children need to own the clean out portion of this. So... set aside a day this week (or next if academics are not finishing this week) and bit by bit, just as teachers have your children do in school, have them pack things up, put them away, and get ready for summer!
And, while you're at it, think about what you need to do to prepare yourself and your home for summer. We've all been locked down. Many aspects of our homes have been dramatically improved upon as we have had to spend more time looking at our walls and lawns. But, we've also adjusted our world at home to function as a fortress. And we had to. And we still have to be careful. However, what can you change up to let yourself know that you can peek out a bit? I'm going to adjust my office space so that it feels less like a space that was set up to cope with a national crisis and more like a space that is mine to work in comfortably for a longer period of time. Truth be told, I like telehealth medicine. I find it more personal in how it allows me to see people in their own element. I like that I can have a more accurate sense of what their worlds look like and how connected they are with their pets. We've all had to adjust, and we are actually only now at the point where we can poke our heads up and really look around at what's going on in our personal worlds. We had to hunker down quickly in March and we took off from there. Now it's time to take it all in and make some small adjustments. And, cleaning out the crisis-driven accommodations and establishing a greater sense of sound adjustments is part of that plan!
I hope that you all have a wonderful day!
June 5, 2020
I think I'm going to be a bit sentimental in my reflection today. Last night, as my eighth grader was recording a speech for his virtual promotion ceremony, and his older brother was helping him with all of the microphones and video, I was touched by how supportive the boys are of each other. And my older one, who will have his in person college graduation ceremony in August, or December, depending upon where things are at that point, is happy enough knowing he has been officially graduated from his college already, and is turning his focus on his younger brother.
And part of that isn't quite right because I think we need to spend a little more time remembering the journey that the older one traveled for the past eighteen years, since it's ending could be construed as anticlimactic on first view.
His preschool experience began on a beautiful sunny September day in 2001. He was scheduled to begin the afternoon program, which meant we would leave the house around 12:15pm. But that morning, planes flew into the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. As I watched the news coverage that morning, all I could think was, "how can I send this little boy out into such a hurtful, unpredictable and frightening world?" And that afternoon, because the preschool director refused to cancel the first day, telling parents that life needs to go on despite tragedy, I drove him out into that scary world, definitely more terrified myself than he was, and thus began our journey together into his educational experience.
Over the years, I've often thought about that start. At times when we hashed out verbal tug of wars over whether he'd spent enough time on a project, or whether I'd spent more time nagging than he'd spent working, I wanted to be convinced that it was because of his rocky start. Of course, I knew better. And I learned so much from him. I learned to back off, to comment but not nag, to realize that I had already been through school; this was his journey and ultimately, his success or struggle. But those weren't easy lessons for me to learn and I was convinced that he was going to make them as challenging for me to learn as he possibly could. And they took all of his K-12 years for me to learn. All I wanted was to make his life enjoyable and as low-stress as possible. But guiding him "my way" created tons of stress and frustration! The day he graduated high school with honors, after telling me that he couldn't wait to get out of school, he refused to get in the car to go to his ceremony. He told me he wasn't ready to leave. I remember telling him that after thirteen years of K-12, I was ready for him to graduate and to get in the car! He did.
College began with the agreement that I would no longer have any role in guiding him in his academic management. He was on his own, to do everything entirely on his own. He couldn't wait to tackle it without me and only had to remind me every so often of our agreement. He made Dean's List every semester. He won scholarships and leadership awards. He overcame his fear of prestigiously decorated professors and learned that he could "hang out with them" during office hours and increase his understanding of so many things in the business world. He was awarded an internship for which only six out of three hundred applicants were selected. He became confident and proud. And I burst with pride in him. He never left me out of his world, and always processed what he was doing, decisions he was making, goals he was setting. But his academics were his own - my input related more to reaching goals that he had set (not me) and trusting his instinct because it hadn't failed him yet. He did it all on his own because he knew that he could do it.
How ironic is it that the little boy who started preschool on the day of a national tragedy finished college in lockdown due to COVID-19? Halfway through his second semester, the college sent everyone home and his internship suspended everyone until further notice. Home he came, not discouraged, but saying that maybe this was a chance for him to catch up on some of the life skills he wanted to master before venturing out into the world. And, maybe, he said, this was a chance to just spend a little more time enjoying our family. Did I mention that he is an old soul, and that sentimentality is one of his gifts?
Well, I think he was right. Our time together in the past three months is time that I will cherish forever. And he was also right not to be discouraged. His internship called him back a month ago. His college advisor called two weeks ago to let him know that the college was officially graduating him, Magna Cum Laude. He's so excited. And I'm so proud.
Maybe entering the world as a preschooler on 9/11 and graduating college in the midst of a pandemic looks like a journey wrought with trauma. And yet, maybe it's more of a story of learning how to weather storms and to always be prepared for things to be challenging, so that one can better meet and overcome obstacles. That's what I truly believe his journey has taught him, and I'm so proud of the lessons that he has learned and the maturity he's gained as he's grown. I know that if he leaves the nest tomorrow, he is more than ready to take on whatever the world throws his way. The road was not an easy one that was clearly paved, but it was one that has allowed him to chart his own course, to determine his goals, and to succeed with pride in himself.
God speed, Bryce. I love you!
June 4, 2020
It's very early and I'm sitting in my family room watching the world from the big window. I love how the world comes to life at different times of the day. The young couple down the street walk their baby in his stroller every morning - it's 6:45 right now. And then, the middle aged neighbor at the top of the street catches up to them and they finish walking the cul-de-sac together. They're an unlikely social crew, and yet, in sharing similar circumstances and terrain, they have formed a connection. The neighborhood I live in is very small with lots of land between houses, so while the people have always been nice, connections are not solid. Until the lockdown. It amazes me how we have become such a tight community. Everybody talks to everyone (from a distance), and more and more, people are out and about getting fresh air and tending to their lawns and walking around. It feels like when I was a kid and neighbors were more connected to each other.
It's funny how social scenes evolve over time. I remember reading once about how in the 1950's, everyone had a front porch that they sat on and when neighbors walked by, people would talk from those porches and say hello. In the '60's, the breezeway became popular in architecture and while people still "saw" their neighbors who were walking by, the screen and glass walls prevented easy conversation. The '70's saw the rec room become a fad. Suddenly, people were spending their down time in their basements playing billiards, ping pong, etc. There was a clear disconnect from the people who were walking in the street - they were no longer visible and that casual passer by conversation ceased. The '80's brought in video games and more indoor hobbies. By the '90's, people no longer sent their kids out to play from morning until night in the neighborhood. Fear of the unknown was too high. And over time, people have retreated from the casual social interactions that used to unite neighbors.
I've decided we're going to host movie nights on the front lawn this summer in an attempt to bring back neighborhood connecting! The inflatable screen that I ordered for my son's middle school promotion ceremony arrived yesterday. The goal was to broadcast the virtual event for family on the front lawn, so that we could all participate yet socially distance. And then the love of my life and I were thinking that because of the size of the front lawn, and the size of the screen, and the fact that as a very small neighborhood, we know that everyone has been home for the last three months, that we could host some "walk up" movie nights outside that would allow for neighborhood connections while still maintaining more than enough social distancing. I'm kind of excited about this!
How are you staying connected with the people around you? It's so hard to be out of physical contact with those with whom we've spent so much time over the years. And we still need to be so careful. But how can we gently bridge gaps while still being safe? The main consideration has to be that those we hope to interact with have also been isolating. But if they have, and you have, it's safe to consider socially distant (I am so, so sick of that term) gatherings of small numbers. Safe, small gatherings. One step at a time.
I am interested to hear your thoughts on how you're staying connected. Please be careful not to jump back into full socializing in the next few months as things gradually open, but it’s ok to consider safe interactions and to start rebuilding that social scene. We're social beings, after all.
I hope that you have a wonderful day!
June 3, 2020
Today feels like June weather. The sun is out, when I wandered out with the dog first thing this morning the air felt warm, and as I'm watching our flag blow gently in the wind it feels like summer. We've all been through a lot in the last few months, and the change of a season is powerful.
We've seen so much in such a short time. Do you sometimes feel as though your head is spinning trying to process the current world? I do. And you know what's funny? I find myself going back to the yoga and meditation exercises that we referenced our first week of lock down. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And yet, they are different in so many ways. I feel as though we have all changed in the last few months. We've come to see some things from a very different perspective. I was talking to a school administrator yesterday about how much work will need to be done to help people readjust when things "return" to whatever they're returning to in the fall or later. And we both said at the same time, "the things that used to be such big deals three months ago are so insignificant now." They are. If nothing else, the lock down forced us to really hone in on what matters and to realize how much of the stress in our lives can be self-induced. When we're faced with life or death, suddenly that presentation isn't going to be such a game changer. Or maybe we can be ten minutes late to that show and the world won't end. I was amazed a couple of weeks ago when the members of one of my younger groups said, "it's so nice not having to rush off to activities every single day after school. I miss some of them, but our family has dinner together now and we've never been able to do that before." All of her group mates agreed.
What do you see as having changed in your perspective in the last three months? More importantly, what changes do you want to make a permanent part of your life going forward? I need to do some soul searching for my answer. I know there are things that I will be changing up, and I have a general idea of which areas of my life I'm going to look to, but I also realize that change can be gradual and gentle when chosen, so no one needs to rock their world!
I hope that you take a few moments to reflect on how your world is different than it was, and what aspects of that are changes that you want to keep. Change is different, but it's not bad, and can often be absolutely wonderful.
Have a great day!
June 2, 2020
I've been thinking a lot about the state of our world over the past few days. This morning, I was on the phone at 6:20 with a young adult protester in New York City who was feeling totally overwhelmed by the chaos they were experiencing. After three months in lock down, they are struggling with the sights they are seeing as they join the protests, feeling horrible for those who are targeted, and wondering where there is some balance in the world.
I wish I could provide them with a concrete answer, but I can't. I know from previous research and activities that I've done with groups over the years that prejudice is learned by age six, and that to teach a sense of equity and equality takes tremendous effort and modeling. And it needs to be done. Just because prejudice can be learned early, doesn't mean that it has to be, and it doesn't mean that ideals can't be changed. It just means that society needs to take responsibility for providing children with age appropriate and consistent guidance. The only way to overcome prejudice and injustice in the grand scheme of things is to start with the young and provide safe and appropriate guidance through the various stages of development.
I came across a post this morning that I think is pretty interesting. It is an exercise done by a second grade teacher to teach children the difference between equality and equity. I like that it doesn't apply solely to race; rather, it pertains to abilities, socioeconomic status, race, etc. Kids are quick to recognize differential treatment and there is often a justified reason for it when we are talking about academic abilities. However, if we take this concept and apply it to the issues of society as a whole, we could really make some inroads in teaching kids the value of differences, and the different approaches that are required (even if they may sometimes seem to provide certain perks to certain people) to help balance things. Please take a look at the following:
What do you think? In my work, I like to believe that I offer my clients the tools to better understand such differences, and the work that needs to be done to better balance our society. However, we all need a reboot once in a while to keep things focused and fresh, so at this moment, I am committing to focusing a little more intently on helping kids to understand equality and equity, not in a preachy manner, but in a mindful manner. We all need to think about it to keep things moving forward and to reset when things slip. We owe it to our children and to our world.
Have a wonderful day!
June 1, 2020
Good morning, Everyone, I hope that you are doing well today.
The last few days have been extremely challenging. In addition to the anxiety over things starting to open up, the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests have added to the emotional instability of things right now. As parents, it's challenging to move from one unknown (the lack of answers and control over COVID-19) to the all too familiar known of racial injustice. The terror generated by riots and looting add to the current COVID-19 anxiety, and I know that this is a very stressful time for all. It is very important, however, that we recognize where we do have control and where we do not. We do not have control over the unknown of COVID-19. As I've emphasized in the past, we can control our response by limiting social contact, wearing masks, disinfecting, etc. However, all that we can control is ourselves.
In the case of racial injustice, while we cannot control violence in others, we can control how we address, define and handle such issues within our families, and hopefully have some effect on our communities. From the events of the past few days, I can share with you that most kids have a strong sense of what is going on in our country right now related to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. They are scared and worried. Some are very angry and determined to make an impact. I think it's imperative to stress values over violence, and to give all kids a history lesson in the struggle that black Americans have had in the United States. Additionally, they need to know that you don't have all of the answers but that you support certain ideals. The other night, as we were watching the news, I used the current report as an opportunity to share the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr, and to explain how protest is different from violence. There's no need to burn and destroy, but there is a definite need (in my opinion) to protest the racial injustice in our country. I explained to my sons how it's sometimes hard to draw a line between protesting and violence when anger and grief are so elevated, and I emphasized how, in our family, we need to support those who are mistreated or minimized due to the color of their skin. I fully acknowledged that I disapprove of the current violence associated with the protests, but I also emphasized that the majority of protesters are not violent, and they are simply looking to make a long overdue change that had showed signs of progress in the past but has slipped in recent years.
I have an article from USA Today which addresses explaining the George Floyd situation to kids and teens. I think it does a pretty good job of guiding parents in owning that we don't have all of the answers, and how to address that. It also acknowledges different perspectives, and addresses fears that kids may now have of law enforcement. I hope that you find it helpful.
In our world today, where we are limited in what we can do regarding planning the future due to the COVID-19 situation, please think of the things that we CAN do to build a stronger, more inclusive and collaborative community. It pains me to see the history of the civil rights struggle in our society and to feel (at least this is how I feel) that for all the progress that has been made, it's all too easy to lose all of that ground when feelings of hate are allowed to flourish. As parents, we have an obligation to our children and to society to decide how insulated and blind we might want to be to the injustice around us, or to take measures that not only force us to face uncomfortable facts, but to decide to share those facts with our children in a way that empowers them to make a positive difference in our world.
I know that I am supposed to be very limited in the political and personal opinions that I share due to my professional position. However, I am in this professional position because I believe in helping individuals become their best selves. This means recognizing and appreciating the best in every single person I meet, and remaining unbiased in my views of them, regardless of their race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, etc. I hope that someday, we can look around our country and appreciate each person for who they are, regardless of the features that might distinguish them.
I hope that you have a reflective day.
May 29, 2020
It's Friday!! It's been a short week, but wow has it been busy. You can always feel the "end of the school year energy" in kids starting in mid-May, and this year, even though many have not actively remembered how close they are to the end of the school year, their internal clocks haven't forgotten. Top that off with distance learning fatigue, and it's been hard to keep kids motivated, on track, and positive in the last week. Don't despair, and don't worry if things are slipping a bit. The hardest part right now is learning to ride the wave in an ocean where we don't quite know from which way the wind is blowing. Trust your instinct, pick your battles, and remember at the end of the day that the most important thing is your relationships. Schoolwork is very important and kids need to know expectations; however, teachers are not going to leave them behind and your role as a parent and your relationship to your children comes first. Don't fight battles that others can help you diffuse. Ask for help if you need it, and pat yourself on the back for the great job you've done to date!
As promised, I have a video to show you that Nurse Wanda sent my way! It's about how to properly wear masks. I realize there are some people who feel very strongly against wearing masks, but until those people can say that they have witnessed the pain and suffering in others that I have witnessed in the past few months due to COVID-19, I really don't want to hear it. That might be one of the strongest statements that you've ever heard me say, but I do mean it. Last week, someone argued with me that the mask prevents them from getting proper oxygen flow and that their exhaled carbon dioxide gets trapped in the mask, causing them to be more at risk for the virus. Enough. That is scientifically disproven, and the reality we need to face is that the reason many people in Connecticut have not been directly impacted by COVID-19 is because we have done such a great job isolating and focusing on restricting transmission. Don't stop now! So, please do wear a mask when in public. If not for yourself, for anyone you may come in contact with who might then come in contact with someone vulnerable.
Additionally, it's highly probable that kids will need to wear masks when they return to school (whenever that may be). Many kids are not comfortable with masks, so the sooner we can help them adjust, the better. This is a process, and not one that should be made scary for them, so if you show them Nurse Wanda's video and gently practice together once in a while (and always if going out in public), your child will not experience as much fear or anxiety over wearing a mask. Normalize it. That's what Nurse Wanda's video does, and that's why I think it is such a great springboard for today's blog!
So, without further ado, here is Nurse Wanda's video. Please feel free to share it.
I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!!
May 28, 2020
I've got to hold off on Nurse Wanda's video for one more day because I'm writing this very early in the morning and haven't had a chance to connect with my tech expert yet, and I can't wake him at this hour! Stay tuned - I'm looking forward to sharing the video with you!
My heart burst with joy and broke at the same time yesterday. One thing I've noticed in my children as well as all of your children is a disconnect in direct communication with peers. Yes, texting, snap chatting, Instagramming, etc is happening. But, I'm not hearing anybody TALK!! And, in all honesty, while I talk all day in session, I'm realizing that my friends and I aren't doing a great job of scheduling time to casually chat with each other. Just the other day, a dear friend and I managed to schedule in 40 minutes to talk between our respective appointments, and I became immediately aware of what I've been missing. It was always a task to see friends, and I often would schedule follow up breakfast or dinner get togethers with friends before leaving the table to make sure I made the time for this essential connecting, but now that we haven't gone out for a while, it's dawning on me how we need to work to stay connected.
That being said, back to my first sentence of my previous paragraph! So yesterday, my younger son was on an optional google meet with one of his "clubs." He doesn't even like the club and I know he mutes himself and blocks his video because his sole purpose is to just "see and hear" other kids. He is very present for any other interactions, but this one particular club is a commitment he's made to himself to stay connected in theory. Out of the blue, one of his friends started texting him, asking how to join a meet because a teacher had requested a 1:1 with this other young man. In our district, meets aren't happening very often, and I know my son seeks them out, but some kids have not had any experience on Google Meet. Realizing that texting was going to be too confusing, my son PICKED UP THE PHONE AND CALLED HIS FRIEND!!! I was in session, but I could see (and hear because growing adolescent boys get quite loud once their voices start to change) my son walking around the back yard chatting up a storm with his friend. For an hour. It was the FIRST real verbal conversation he'd had with a peer in a long time. When I came out of session an hour later, I was greeted by a huge smile and chatter about what a great conversation they'd had and how much he now realized the reason for why I've been encouraging him to talk to his friends for the past three months. We talked about how people miss each other and how texting and playing Words with Friends goes just so far. My heart was so happy for his realization, and so sad for all the missed time and disconnection that all of our kids are experiencing right now.
My point today is to encourage everyone to establish a verbal connection with friends. Even two conversations a week is a huge step forward from where we are now. Conversations don't have to be long or deep; rather, we need to start a process of reconnecting so that regardless of what the future brings in terms of physical social interaction, we are nurturing our need for socialization. Human companionship is one of our basic needs as people. And while social media keeps people connected, it does not usually nurture. Conversations nurture. Take the risk to encourage yourself and your family members to engage in just a couple of conversations per week with people outside of your family. I see it in my groups - even people who usually felt annoyed by certain personalities now crave the interaction and forgive the things that used to bother them. We really are social beings, and right now we're feeling disconnected. Try to use conversation as a means of reconnecting!
Have a wonderful day!
May 27, 2020
Tomorrow, I'm hoping to share a new video with you from Nurse Wanda. It's a fabulous video about mask-wearing, and it takes so much of the fear away because she has had students model and present for the video. I just need to check with my tech expert on how to best share it with you, but it's coming!
I love holiday weeks because here we are, the second day of the week, and it's already Wednesday! Time flies!! Only two more days until Friday! I'm laughing at myself this morning. This morning the love of my life and I were talking about stress and then comparing the stress of a few months ago to the stress of today. Totally different. Definitely, the stress that we have now is more urgent, "real" and directly related to life and death. Not that our stress from a few months ago was not authentic or legitimate; rather, it was different and I think that we often allow ourselves to become worked up over things that aren't as critical as some of the concerns we're now facing. And you know what else I'm seeing which is so wonderful? People are more tolerant of each other right now. In the past, if we made mistakes or missed deadlines, I think that people were much less forgiving and far more critical. Now, I see a more accepting and flexible approach in people. I know for me, that allows me to spend more of my work time focusing and getting things done as opposed to stressing and "spinning," thereby resulting in lower productivity.
I'm thinking that we need to pay a little more attention to building our concept of our strengths while we are in this current situation. As there is a little more leeway to make mistakes and correct ourselves in a more tolerant environment, this is the perfect time to work on identifying and nurturing our strengths. Please take a look at the following worksheet:
Stop the eye rolling and think for a minute. You're not bragging or being arrogant if you are taking the time to identify your strengths. Rather, you are building yourself into a confident, dependable and productive individual. 'Not to mention, you are also nurturing yourself in a way that will allow you to better handle stress which will result in higher motivation, better relationships, and increased happiness. So... put away the concern that you are focusing too much on yourself and take ten minutes to really process your way through this exercise! It will do good things for you - I promise!!
Have a wonderful day!
May 26, 2020
I hope that you all enjoyed a long Memorial Day weekend! In our district, we have an extra day off, so while I'm back to the office today, my son is enjoying another day of rest! That officially begins the end of the school year, in my opinion!
Wasn't the news depressing this weekend? I can pretty much narrow it down to two topics: COVID-19 and politics. I don't like how easy it is to be sucked into absorbing all of the details of the articles - I made a point of leaving my phone in a different room this weekend so I wouldn't be so drawn to the news.
But I did find something fun in one of my alerts this weekend! Apple News published an article on a hundred things to do with families and as couples this summer. I was thrilled to read it because it acknowledged the fact that we really shouldn't be "back to normal" this summer with our activities, and it provided some new and creative ideas for activities! Some of them we've talked about here in the past, but many of the published ideas were genuinely NEW and creative thoughts! I was pretty excited to scroll through, so I'm hoping that you'll find it helpful as well! Here's the link:
I've been thinking of how to make my eighth grader's virtual promotion ceremony a little special. He's going to be giving a speech, and I know he misses that it won't be in front of his classmates and family. I'm thinking of hooking my projector up to my laptop and projecting the ceremony on the garage door while family members sit at appropriate social distance in the driveway. I haven't shared my idea yet because I want to see how everything pans out with the school details, but I think that could be fun! It would certainly be something special!
My older son is still scheduled to have his college graduation in person in late August. I guess we'll keep our fingers crossed that he gets to cross the stage then! If not, they'll have his ceremony in December.
We have so many milestones at this time of year, as we wrap up the academic year and launch into summer. Everything is new this year, but we're up for it! In working together and helping each other, we can make this "challenging time" one that provides us with opportunities for making unique memories.
Have a wonderful day!
May 22, 2020
Are you ready for the long weekend? Not that we're going anywhere or hosting any large gatherings or picnics, but there is something special about how Memorial Day rushes in the summer season! I laughed so hard the other day - my younger son and I went for a walk between my sessions and he said, while smiling, "Wow, things look so wonderful and alive. It's going to be such a beautiful summer after such a drab spring. Mom, this sucks!" Of course, he was referring to the restrictions COVID-19 has placed upon us.
He's not wrong - the world as he has known it has changed, and even though he meant his line as a joke, it does suck that my son who is extremely social and sports-oriented won't be playing soccer or baseball or picnicking with friends. But, we had a heart to heart about what this summer really will look like, and how we have the power to make it more creative and somewhat interactive. I think, for him, the hardest part is that none of his teachers have held one google meet with classmates. They've all done 1:1 check ins at some point, but today is actually the first time he is going to see some of his classmates in an academic setting. He's starving for that direct interaction. I'm so thankful to the teachers who have realized what is lacking. They have had to work so hard to make distance learning function, and kudos to those who are going above and beyond to keep the kids connected.
I think a large part of the resistance that we're seeing to distance learning at this point is stemming from kids' "rebelling" against the lack of socialization they're experiencing. Let's face it - one of the highlights of going to school is connecting with peers, and when that piece is absent, it's hard for many kids to feel motivated about school. So now, for some, learning has taken on an association with social isolation, and they resent it. Kids are amazing in how they reason through things; unfortunately, right now, my amazement at their thought processes is misplaced because my thinking energy really needs to be placed on how to help them make this better. Fortunately, we only have three more weeks of school and then a summer to figure out how to help them adjust to distance learning should it resume in the fall. I was on a ppt call yesterday, and god bless the teacher who interrupted the discussion to say, "Can I just say this is so frustrating? I feel like I am boring my students to tears with distance learning? I am trying so hard to learn online games, etc, and sometimes they fly and sometimes they flop. Our kids deserve more interaction and fun in learning - this summer my mission is to figure out how to do this." Most teachers fall in this camp - and perhaps, over the summer, if you come across any fun ways of imparting knowledge, gently share those ideas with your school principal. We're all in this together.
So, this weekend, as we remember those who have died serving our country, let us think, in much more humble terms, about how we can serve each other on our home front, caring for our children and parents and each other. We're in a different type of war right now, but we can win. We just need to stick together and cheer for each other.
Have a wonderful weekend!
May 21, 2020
Well, I'm officially the parent of a college graduate! Last night, my son's advisor called him to say that while he's welcome to stay at his internship through its duration, the college feels he has more than fulfilled his required hours and that he is officially graduated. There were no shortcuts, and he worked his heart out adjusting to the hours as dictated by the pandemic, all the while completing additional case studies and interviews. The result? Graduation Magna Cum Laude! What a journey it has been for him, and I'm so proud of him!
And now what? That's the question being asked by all of this year's college graduates. In my son's situation, he had contracted with his internship site until September, so he has that obligation for the next few months. And hopefully after that, they will either hire him or place him somewhere in the field. Nothing is certain, but at least he has a starting point. But everything for this year's new grads is uncertain. They all have the same reason for not working - can you imagine what all of those resume reviews will look like in a year's time? Graduated May 2020, no immediate post grad experience due to COVID-19. It's not their fault. It is reality. And the world will forgive them for it - it's just quite a concept to wrap our heads around, isn't it? What is their working world going to look like?
We have so many unknowns and that's one of the key stressors facing people right now. Two months ago, I worried about where I was going to get fresh veggies when the frozen ones in the freezer ran out and I realized that there weren't any more frozen ones to be found. And things worked out. The whole country was in a paper goods frenzy and guess what? We survived. It's working out (slower than the veggie situation, but working out nonetheless)! Our kids had to resign themselves to distance learning and sometimes they were happy with it and sometimes they bucked the system. And again, it's all working out. We can focus on the bumps and road blocks, or we can remain hopeful. We shouldn't be unrealistically cheerful, but hope is a good thing and it will get us through.
Did you see that photograph that was taken last month in NYC? The one of the rainbow stretching across the city? Here it is if you missed it:
Talk about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! But what a message of hope at a time when things were seeming so dark. Don't get me wrong - there is still a lot of despair and suffering, and we are not through this yet. Please, continue to be safe and do what you're supposed to do - when we lighten our responsibilities too soon, that's when we open ourselves up for backsliding. But look at how, in the midst of despair, a brilliant rainbow and sunshine that made the city glow, could be so inspiring.
What inspires you? Now is the time to take inventory of that! I'm sending that message to all recent grads - don't feel defeated or short changed. What can you do during this time to further your credentials, to explore new ideas and avenues that you didn't have time to think about before now? Who are you really, and what traits in yourself do you want to nurture and help to flourish?
I have a worksheet for you! It's geared towards anyone, so you can pick and choose the categories you explore. Any and/or all of them are fair game! This gives you a chance to do a little self-reflection, self-appreciation and self-inspiration. Please do not make it an exercise in identifying shortcomings! Rather, use this tool to help yourself springboard to greatness (or at least in a positive, forward-moving direction)! Take a look:
Please let me know your thoughts on this! I'm eager to hear about the direction that you want to pursue for your goals right now!
Have a great day!
May 20, 2020
I'm so pleased to hear from so many parents who are interested in our parent support group for students up to 8th grade. We will begin our programming this week and I look forward to working with everyone!
There is a lot of anticipation for summer! Kids are counting the days until school gets out - and we can't forget that this time of year brings a general disengagement from academic motivation. I just realized this morning that every year, on May 1, my motivated son always hits a wall about school. It usually lasts about two weeks, and then all of a sudden, he surges with energy and plows through the rest of the school year. Wouldn't you know it: the last two weeks, he's been doing his work, but with no enthusiasm. Today, he was up at 6:30 to say good morning and have a good day, and then he went back to bed, but the fact that he was up early tells me his body and mind are back in gear, ready to tackle the end of the year!
Our body clocks are amazing. I'm always caught off guard with how subtle yet present our subconscious sense of time can be. Emotionally, we tune into things without always realizing it (hence why we sometimes have bizarre dreams about topics we didn't think we were thinking about). We process so much in a given moment - we need to credit our brains with all they sort out for us! I found an article on dreamwork (not dream interpretation, but dreamwork) which helps to explain how we can sort out our dreams to interpret how we are feeling and what subconscious ideas we might be processing. This article is strictly meant to be informative, but I thought you might find it interesting:
I had a rather intriguing dream last night, and this morning, as I was going over it in my head (I have taken courses in dreamwork and dream interpretation), I was intrigued to uncover the base thought, which I realize had been on my mind yesterday, but I didn't have time to process it out. My brain made me start the processing in my dreams!
It's important to pay attention to our body clocks and subconscious right now. I've been concerned about kids disengaging from their distance learning, and that is a very real issue right now. But we also can't forget the impact of the general desire to be done with school that hits at this time of year. Combined, they're a tough issue right now, but if we break it into those two parts, maybe we can find a way to be understanding about where kids are rhythm-wise, while also creating a structure of expectations that keeps them on track for the remainder of the year. You have had a daunting spring, parents, and you have risen to the occasion. Don't give up - you're almost there!!
For those who are worried about summer programming, please look at our offerings. For those who are financially struggling right now, we will work with you. We all need to stick together during these difficult times.
Have a wonderful day!
May 19, 2020
Well, it looks like the beautiful weather is back with us today. Yeah!!
I've been thinking a lot about how this time is possibly affecting us in the long term. Yesterday I wrote about how kids seem to be testing limits, losing interest, and withdrawing. I see adults facing some of the same struggles right now, in the sense that they aren't looking as much outside the box as possible to consider opportunities to engage. I think everyone has done a wonderful job of turtling up and being safe. And I think, in all honesty, that families have had a chance to "reboot" and bring themselves closer together. It makes me laugh to hear kids telling me that they like that their after school schedules aren't so busy anymore. In one of my group, the kids were imitating their parents driving them to so many different activities that sometimes they forgot where to go on what day! It's true. We have certainly slowed down.
So how do we keep our kids and ourselves engaged now that the warm weather is coming and school is out at least until fall? I went golfing the other day. It was a very strange feeling to venture off the property to play a sport that is currently on the approved list. At first I felt like I was breaking rules, but it felt so good to get out. Foot golf is an option for those who like soccer but who don't play golf. For those who run, running cross-country or on tracks that are open is an option. As families, design obstacle courses! And have you ever seen people's lawns and gardens looking so well-tended? There's something to be said for being at home and getting outside!
It is scary to venture out after we've been so limited, and please realize that by no means am I encouraging you to venture very far just yet. This is still a dangerous time, and we need to practice social distancing and continue to keep ourselves safe. The time will come to venture out full force, but we're not there yet. Truthfully, the thought of summer camps frightens me. This year, we're going to lay low. In our own program, we are doing five weeks of virtual camp. I am so excited when I observe the creativity of my staff - they can’t wait! It is possible to make virtual very real; let me know if you are interested in learning more!
I'm going to put up some extra bird houses this year as I'm realizing how much I absolutely love the songs of birds all day long. We have some beautiful gold finches, and I just saw a hummingbird the other day! The hawk and woodpeckers need to leave the little ones alone, but observing all of them is such a melodic experience - I love their songs!!
Have a wonderful day!
May 18, 2020
I hope that you enjoyed a relaxing weekend! The weather certainly cooperated. Mother Nature is certainly greening up - finally, dare I say it? Might spring be here?!
Last week, I finished the week by speaking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs and how in order to build the self-esteem piece of oneself, it is necessary to feel a sense of purpose, and that this comes with having responsibility. Last week, I heard from so many parents and teachers about how kids were skipping their online meets and falling behind in their work. I heard from kids how they want a break and don't feel that school should be requiring work of them. Oh boy! We need to do some fancy footwork here to redefine some of these expectations!
To begin with, it is imperative that students know that they are not on vacation and that teachers are not dumping work on them. Rather, we are coping with a pandemic, and teachers were forced to put a programming format together without much prep time. Things are starting to evolve to be more interactive, but a lot of kids defined the first couple of weeks of "optional" interaction as law and are now holding parents and teachers hostage over it by declaring that they don’t have to do the work. I wish districts were grading as they normally do - it's a proven incentive for kids to work and it clarifies expectations. Yes, things are different, but if teachers are available for 1:1 support as needed (and most appear to be), then there really isn't a reason for why kids shouldn't be expected to meet more than basic standards. That's my two cents, but we have to find a way to keep kids upholding their responsibilities!
I do recommend that parents interface with teachers on a consistent (not persistent, but consistent) basis so that teachers are supported and kids are equally supported. If a child misses a meet, teachers should feel free to send parents a note. I know that this is stressful for parents because in our society, we believe that if a teacher reaches out about our child, we must be doing something wrong. We need to redefine that behavior. Teachers and parents need to be partners in educating kids at this point, and parents need to realize that if teachers reach out, it is not in criticism but in collaboration. The reality is that we are in unchartered waters, and kids, being kids, are going to test limits. They will test limits with everyone. So, it's imperative that parents and teachers see each other as partners, not critics, and work together to hold students accountable for their work and other responsibilities. This will lead to happier and more well-adjusted students at the end of the day.
People are adaptable and resilient, even though they do not like, and usually resist, change of any kind! What motivates kids to adapt is having clearly defined and realistic expectations. Of course, we need to be sensitive to how disconnected our kids currently feel from their social worlds, but that cannot be an excuse for letting them disconnect by choice from their academic responsibilities. Please, if you are struggling, reach out to me. I'm wondering if some parents would feel better having a support meeting to brainstorm ideas to clarify how to navigate things right now? I'm open to offering such a meeting - I just need to hear from you that you want it! Together, we can support each other and make this new world of ours a little less intimidating!
Have a wonderful day!
May 15, 2020
Today begins a new approach to things (how funny that I'm choosing Friday instead of Monday for a fresh start)! For the past week, I've watched as our kids and families have accepted the reality of not returning to school for this year, and I've seen the anxiety over what that means regarding socialization.
I'm upping the ante. Beginning next week, there will be at least one game night per week offered through the practice for kids and families, and people can invite friends. There will not be a charge for the programming, and there will be prizes offered for winners. We need to jump start things - I'm hearing about more and more kids wanting to turn off their video feeds while online with school or peers, and the "shrinking violet" scene is not a good one. We need to build confidence in video appearances, encourage fun and interaction, and engage in some enthusiasm! Please feel free to share the upcoming invitations with family friends. Again, there will not be a charge for these interactive virtual game nights - this is my give back.
I was reviewing Maslow's hierarchy of needs yesterday as I was working with a few clients. It is one of the basic tenets of psychology, and focuses on how we must meet our basic needs before we can reach higher levels, the pinnacle being self-actualization or potential. Most of us are very lucky and have our basic needs (food, shelter, basic companionship, clothing) met. Additionally, the second level, safety and security, is pretty stable for all of us. The third level focuses on the warm fuzzies: personal and intimate relationships, love, etc. This is where we may see a little bit of a lack of needs being met right now. Spouses may have challenges experiencing date nights, kids might have trouble recognizing the different relationships in a home and want to be a part of everything, thereby intruding into parents' time. Some families may be experiencing frustration at various members, which results in wearing down the warm fuzzies. The reality is that we all have needs, and we need to have them met. Everyone in the family needs to recognize that each person’s needs are different, and that consideration must be given to everyone's individual needs.
This leads to the next level up: self-esteem. We all need purpose, and in my opinion, this is where things are lacking right now. Don't be afraid to push your kids to take on some new responsibilities. This is a novel time - kids are not feeling the same pressure from school that they used to, and it's ok to raise expectations at home. This, in turn, allows for a greater sense of accomplishment in people, and therefore meets everyone's needs and results in raised self-esteem for those who are finding new purpose. Be kind, be clear, and expect the best. People will rise to the occasion when expected to do so. Maybe there will be some back and forth, but at the end of the day, the reward of feeling purposeful, needed, and productive will win out!
The final level of the hierarchy is reaching potential or self-actualization. In completing the previous levels, the final level can be obtained. Go for it! Expect the best of yourself and your family members! Work on each level and always remember that "work" doesn't have to be drudgery, but a consistent effort to self-improve. This reduces anxiety, depression, and isolation. We owe it to ourselves to be our best selves. Life needs to go on and be rewarding - it may look different right now, but different is not bad. It's just... different!
Have a wonderful weekend!
May 14, 2020
My tomatoes are not happy with me. They are angrily wilting in this cold weather, even though I snuggle them in with sheets every night. Oh well - hopefully Mother Nature will be merciful and look at her calendar and realize that it's too late for frost!
I'm looking out at my front lawn this morning and seeing the sign that my son's college sent to him, announcing his graduation. It was a really nice gesture that they sent out at the end of last week. It's bittersweet, because I just realized yesterday that this Sunday would have been his graduation ceremony. Back in February, we sent out the announcements for his ceremony and recognition that he had achieved Magna Cum Laude. He is so proud of that distinction, and so am I. And nothing will take that away, it's just hard to see someone who worked so hard have to wait to be recognized. It's just a ceremony, we tell ourselves. But when I think of the journey he has taken in his life to date, and the obstacles he had to meet and overcome along the way, I am so proud of him and I want others to know that. Of course, that's why ceremonies and rituals are so important to us. They allow us to share our joy and pride over accomplishments. And they recognize achievement in the face of challenge.
What rituals are important to you and your family? Many of our routines and activities, from visits to local restaurants to date nights have been shelved. We've had our rituals pulled out from under us, and as creatures of habit who like rituals, this generates our anxiety. We want to know, we want to count on things to be a certain way, and we don't like to deviate from that too much. Well, it looks like we've gotten a reboot, doesn't it?!
I've found an article from a marketing website surrounding the establishment of productivity rituals. I liked it's silly introduction about how Ben Franklin wrote for an hour each morning in the nude because it "woke him up," and how Beethoven counted out a certain amount of coffee beans each morning for the brew that started his day. They're both good "hooks" to pull in a reader! But, more importantly, the short summary lists the five steps to creating rituals towards productivity. I think it's a very quick but accurate read. Let me know what you think! We're at a time right now where we need to be careful to not slip into habits of distractibility and ineffectiveness.
What did you think? I hope that you found it helpful. Please let me know your thoughts on the article above - it's something that I intend to share with my older groups so that they can take a more accurate reading of their emotional pulses and determine how effective they are in navigating through their current situation.
Have a wonderful day!
May 13, 2020
Two months ago today, schools closed for the year. Quite a Friday the 13th! Since then, we've ridden quite a few emotional roller coasters, and we're not done yet. Today poses a little bit of a professional dilemma for me. On one hand, I am seeing a much less stressed youth population in the current environment. On the other hand, I see a lot more emotional isolation, and whereas a month ago I was mentioning it, I now feel that we're at a juncture where we need to do more to help our kids stay socially connected.
In the last few days, there's been quite an increase in clinical acuity. I mentioned yesterday that people are starting to be more visibly avoidant. And this takes effort to overcome, but it can most certainly be done! I'm concerned because I'm seeing some people, especially adolescents, retreating from the connections they have, worried about how to stay connected and rather than "creating" ways to do so, they are surrendering to a lack of engagement which can lead to depressive symptoms.
It's time to break out the creativity!! Think outside of the box! For the high school seniors who are rightfully feeling as though they're missing milestones, don't withdraw. Join the birthday parades that are happening, lead your teams to do chalk drawings on shut-ins' driveways, create goofy senior videos! MAKE MEMORIES! Just because they are not the typical high school senior memories does not mean that they aren't things that you won't enjoy looking back on. Think of what it will sound like ten years from now to say how during the pandemic, you and your friends found ways to make your senior year memorable!
And the same goes for all students. And adults! We need to add some spunk to our daily lives to keep our social savvy. As our virtual camp is coming together for the summer, we are really excited about some of the outrageously creative activities that we can put together. It's a strange feeling to step outside of our program design comfort zones, but it is so liberating! The other day, I ordered a giant mystery wheel (similar to wheel of fortune but not quite so big!) and I'm thinking of all the different games we can create. There's no need for me to wait until our summer program to use it - we'll use it in our groups and in the free social clubs that we're offering. It seems as though people are bored with the idea of karaoke, as our offering for the older students didn't take off this week, but we will be scheduling a Bingo Night and a Wheel of Fortune Night, complete with prizes, in the next week!
Please let me know if you or your family need some ideas for creative social activities. It's hard to find the energy to think even more than we've had to lately with all of the new responsibilities to this way of life, but it's important. If we can provide our youth with opportunities for social engagement that go beyond X-Box and the phone apps that have now become boring to them, we can prevent them from sinking into a rut of boredom and possible depression.
Remember that you and your family are not alone and that there are resources for support. I'm happy to be one of them and to provide any ideas that might be helpful.
Have a wonderful day!
May 12, 2020
Ok, the forecast going forward looks a million times better than what we've seen to date! I transplanted my tomatoes on Sunday, and the poor things saw rain, hail and cold temperatures yesterday! I covered them last night, just as the hail was pummeling down. They look slightly defeated this morning, but they're going to be ok!
I think we all need to look at that concept of feeling defeated. As I've said in the past, each week of lockdown has presented its own unique theme. And midway through last week, that theme became avoidance. So many kids are skipping their classroom google meets, I've had to chase a few people down for not appearing on time for sessions, and across the board, there seems to be a sense of avoidance of responsibility. By no means does this mean that people don't care; rather, they are allowing the pattern of bad weather, social distancing, and wallowing, to a degree, to interfere with their performance and sink them into a funk. Resist!! Rather than avoid or feel despondent, let's look at the upside of things. I'm not saying we have to be Pollyannas, but we do need to consider some of the positives that are coming out of our current situation. I'm realizing that the farms around me are incredible resources. My younger son realized that instead of playing roller hockey in the basement, that his roller blades work really well OUTSIDE! Family dinners are times to reflect, share and joke around without the pressure of rushing off to events. Not that we don't miss the practices and sports events, but it's nice to be allowed the time to enjoy each other's company over dinner.
I was talking to my girls' group yesterday and one of the members expressed that while she really misses her friends, it's very nice to not have to rush around to so many activities after school. It kind of makes me wonder if we really are too overscheduled. We all know that we're a very scheduled society, but how much is too much? I, for one, despite feeling fatigue from work, feel more comfortable with the down time that has become our evenings. It's relaxing to go for walks, to take care of the yard, and to have lengthy chats with my family members.
Part of me wonders if our resistance to overscheduling might be part of what's driving the current avoidance theme. And people need to find a happy medium because we MUST have schedules and routines to function. Kids do need to keep their google meets appointments, even if they are inconvenient. This will play a huge role in helping them transition back to the routine of school once they do return. We need to accept that scheduled events are important to our well-being, and in the future, maybe we need to do a close examination of whether or not we are overscheduling ourselves and our children, but for now, we need to keep on track with routines because otherwise we will sink into a funk. Misery loves company, and while there is plenty to be content with in our daily lives, it's too easy for people to jump on the bandwagon of being frustrated with the current state of events and become turtles. I have a short exercise that I thought might help to brighten view points! I hope you think so, too!
I hope that you find the above examples and activities inspiring and energizing. I especially like the cards exercise.
Have a wonderful day!
May 11, 2020
I hope that all moms enjoyed a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday! Wasn't the weather beautiful? I got all of my flower gardens tilled and planted all of my flower seeds. This year, I'm going to try to grow from seeds instead of seedlings. I'll keep you posted on my progress! I also transplanted my vegetable seedlings from their indoor pots to the garden. They're covered right now to stay warm, but thankfully the weather by day is supposed to be warming up this week! It was different to not be able to have a larger family gathering yesterday, but it was also a chance to really cherish what I have in my children.
I found an article online the other day that talks about how this year, mothers are given the gift of time with their children. At first, I did a double take because, let's face it, recently we've had so much time with our children! But this article focused on something else - the time we have now is with our older children, who would otherwise be flying away from the nest. We have a little more time to hold on to them and enjoy them before they venture out. I thought about this a lot when I read it. My older son should be graduating from college next weekend. He had an internship that began in January and that promised to set him up for his first job out of school. He was getting ready to relocate when his internship contract ended in September. Everything was put on hold on March 17th. The internship was suspended, school went online and graduation was postponed (but not cancelled), and everybody moved home. What does that mean for his future?
Sometimes, I think the world slows everything down for a purpose. In the last two months, my older son has learned a lot more about helping to manage and care for a home. He's learned to cook and clean. We've had a wonderful opportunity to talk a lot about his future plans and process his fears and excitement about his future. I wouldn't have had this chance if he hadn't had to come home. For that I am grateful. And there are signs that he is still moving forward: his college sent him a graduation yard sign last week so that he could announce his status. Graduation is tentatively set for August, but at least he knows he's not forgotten by the school that he loves. The internship site called him last week and asked him to work remotely. They don't want him to miss out on what their organization might provide for his future. The job market is unclear, but oh well. That's part of any generation's experience at some point! At least he can be perusing job postings, and he's being allowed the time to really explore options instead of applying impulsively.
Yes, this is a challenging time, but there are things to be appreciated as we navigate through it. That article about mothers being allowed some special time with their older children is so accurate. I hope that you enjoy it and find it applicable. And, for those who have younger children right now, realize that someday they will be older, and there is so much to enjoy at each stage of their development.
Have a wonderful day!
May 8, 2020
It's FRIDAY!!!! I know that the days technically run together sometimes, but there is something wonderful about Fridays. It's such a beautiful morning - I'm not sure I'm feeling good about the weather forecast for tomorrow, especially since my seedlings are ready to be moved outside to my new garden, but as always, we'll take things one step at a time and roll with whatever comes our way, right?!
Don’t forget that Sunday is Mother's Day!! I'm sitting here this morning thinking about how to best honor my mother and the mother of the love of my life. One of them will likely be over the moon if we can set up an extended family zoom meeting. That's always a fun adventure! As an intergenerational group, I have to comment on how far we've come with technology in two months! Those first zoom sessions were all about, "what button do I push?" "how come I can hear you but you can't hear me?" "turn the camera around - we're not seeing you!" Now, everyone signs on and off we go! What an improvement!!
And what about the other mother - do we do a zoom session there? Take shifts and bring over treats while practicing social distancing? Send over dinner delivery? It's such a tough call. I'm happy to mix up how the boys and I celebrate the day, but for the older generation, the change is especially difficult. They feel left out or forgotten, even though that's so far from the truth. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them!!
I've come across a couple of additional resources and ideas. Please send more and I'll put up a post tomorrow with any additional suggestions! For now, some thoughts:
Make a picture slideshow and share it, record silly and / or sincere greetings from scattered family members and assemble into one recording for Mom. Or, use those videos on a virtual scavenger hunt where she is told to go to different locations and then click to watch another greeting. There are lots of things to consider - take some risks and have fun with it!!
I hope that all mothers enjoy a love-filled Mother's Day!
May 7, 2020
Aside from the chill in the air, it's beautiful outside today! I am NOT going to whine about the cold, because a week ago we were so bogged down with rain that I was convinced I was going to start growing moss on my feet. I'll take sunshine however I can get it!!
This morning, I'm wondering about some of the positives that we have not necessarily considered in light of the current situation. Remember a year ago, when schools were all evaluating the benefits of starting later for older kids and earlier for younger ones? Many districts tabled the discussions, deciding that it would be too much adjusting to deal with the effects of a schedule change - sports might run later, homework might be completed later, and transportation had potential to prove challenging. How insignificant those worries seem now! But, we are getting a chance to see the potential benefits of such a time change. Last night, my son was asked to speak to our town's board of ed regarding distance learning. He and three other students gave their perspectives. While all of them expressed missing the direct contact with peers and teachers, all of them also explained how working a little closer to their own body clock's dictation felt better all around. The chairwoman actually paused and said, "I'm thinking to the discussions we had last year about later school start. It's really interesting to hear how, left to your own decisions, you are choosing to get all of your work done, but you are doing it on your own time with what sounds like better results." In a way, hasn’t the lockdown just allowed for a research study into student learning as it applies to body rhythms? Just a very interesting concept, I thought!
What are some of the other potential positives that have come out of the last seven weeks, and what will likely be our reality for a number of additional weeks? I love how people are thinking less restrictively and more "outside of the box." We have to, and it's only by being flexible that we can successfully adapt to our current and future situations. I do think that it really helped people to hear that the governor has decided that schools will remain closed this year because it allowed everyone to accept the reality and work with it. The concept was taken out of limbo and made concrete. We crave this concreteness!
Today, please take some time to think about where else positives may be emerging from this stressful time. I'd love to hear your ideas - I promise I won't make you try to see everything through rose colored glasses, but we are making gains in various areas that we may not realize, and I think that’s worth recognizing.
Have a wonderful day!
May 6, 2020
Hello Everyone, welcome to Wednesday!
How did you feel about yesterday's announcement that schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year? And how did your children react? Overall, I sense that this isn't something that people didn't anticipate; however, what is interesting to me is that now that there is something concrete established, there is a greater sense of stability. The people who I have spoken with in the last 20 hours seem more grateful to have something definitive in place as opposed to wondering exactly what will happen with schools.
And that sheds light on how we feel about uncertainty in general. Realizing how much we are craving answers, even in the case where students and parents may be disappointed, reinforces how these uncertain times cause us more anxiety. Any definitive answers are better than the absence of definition. We like to know!
Life right now isn't predictable and neat. We have to be flexible and roll with things as they come, and things aren't on our terms. No, we are not control freaks, despite how this might sound. We just thrive in consistency. And these are inconsistent times. I have an example for you! There was bear on my front lawn on Monday. While not the biggest bear we've ever had here, it is certainly the fattest!! The bear was so big it couldn't walk straight - it waddled!! And this is very bizarre, because here we are in May, when bears are just resurfacing after a sluggish winter. Usually, they are thinner and hungry. This bear was huge! Not even the animals are following consistent routines right now! This bear must have been chowing away all winter long!!
So how can you try to create some constants in an unpredictable, uncontrollable world? We've delved into this in previous posts: consider what you CAN do. You can eat healthy, exercise, practice social distancing, remotely help others, and continue your regular routines as best as you can. To help, I'm providing the following link to a worksheet that focuses on family mindfulness. It includes suggestions for things you might do as a family that help you to focus on the here and now, and to realize what you CAN do in this current situation.
I hope that you find it helpful!
I wish you a wonderful day, full of springtime joy.
May 5, 2020
Happy Cinco de Mayo!! I love May - everyone seems to have turned the spring showers corner into the May flower world. The front lawn needs to be cut every few days, the flowers are blooming, we celebrate May Fourth (May the Fourth be with you), May fifth, Mother's Day, Memorial Day. And yes, our social world looks different this year, but May is when the natural world bursts out and says hello!
I'd love to hear how you and your family are welcoming Springtime. I have vegetable seedlings growing on my balcony upstairs because the window up there faces south and the plants have lots of sunshine and warmth. I finished setting up my raised beds this past weekend and tilled in the manure and compost to make sure that the soil is welcoming to the new seedlings that are just about ready to be transplanted. We have a number of flower gardens on the property, and one of them is a special memorial garden. I planted new hydrangea plants in there the other day. They arrived by UPS after taking two weeks to transport - they were pretty dry and tired when they arrived, but I kept them inside for a few days, watered them and got them back up to snuff and then transplanted them. They look pretty content so far. I hope it doesn't get too cold at night!
Springtime, once the sun becomes a more regular participant, is a very reviving time of year. The anxiety and blahs of winter are easier to overcome and it's more realistic to set personal goals. This year, we are all blossoming in a new way. We are adapting to and accepting (some more willingly than others) that we have a new way of life. And things will evolve over time. I tend to be conservative on the health front, worried that things will open too soon and too fast, but I also appreciate that there are certain things that can be done safely. I have felt validated in the past few days as parents have supported my decision to move our summer programming to a virtual format. It's amazing what validation can do - I didn't realize how stressed I was feeling about my decision until I felt the relief when others supported it.
What are some areas where you need validation in order to grow? Sometimes, in my field, we focus on fixing the immediate crisis, but we really need to look at the overall lifestyle and wellbeing of everyone. I have found a worksheet that is cute and to the point, that I'd like to share with you today. Please take some time to look it over, and then please share your ideas, pictures, sketches that can add to it!
I hope that you all enjoy a beautiful sunny day today!
May 4, 2020
Did you enjoy the absolutely spectacular weather this past weekend?! It was truly what our bodies and minds needed to get out of the funk that seemed to have hovered last week. By the end of last week, I could feel that my anxiety levels were higher, and it wasn't until I was in the midst of a sunny day that I was able to process why.
I did some sincere soul searching this weekend to target my anxiety, and I realized how great the fear of the unknown can be, and how it is uncomfortable to look beyond our insulated and isolated safe existence. And yet, this is what we now know so the unsurety has become our new constant. And I realized that in addition to my worries over what comes next, I hadn't gotten enough fresh air and exercise last week due to the icky weather.
Don't get me wrong - a large part of me misses life prior to lockdown, but I'm also extremely aware right now of ways in which life is a bit steadier and family-oriented. But isolation does have an impact on our emotions and sense of time. I am copying a link to an article I read this past weekend which drives home this point. In our current state, many people are losing track of time. This is to be expected. Our stress levels are higher, many people don't have the same routine (or any routine at all), and life has presented different activities to be involved in (homeschooling) that mix it all up. Don't worry - you're not losing it. I promise!
I do strongly recommend that to help cope with the unknown and mental discombobulation that you do your best to establish some basic routines. Get up by a certain time every day. Get dressed. Always shower, brush your teeth, and brush your hair. It sounds basic, but people tend to seek comfort right now, and many see their beds as a safe haven. They're not. Get up, get outside, get some fresh air and exercise! These will do far more for you than sleeping, and they will help you to stay focused, be more aware, and increase your cognitive functioning in general by lowering your stress, increasing your stamina, and keeping you healthy! I couldn't believe the difference in how I felt between Friday and yesterday. My body needs a lot of fresh air and exercise - last week was icky weather and it was very challenging work-wise. I didn't put enough focus into self-care, and by the end of the week, when I was feeling wound up, I had created my own anxious state.
Take good care of yourself and those around you! Even though it will be a bit cooler this week, get outside and enjoy the sunshine!! It's important!
Have a great day!
May 1, 2020
I want to share with you a song that has really resonated with me in the past few weeks. It's called, "Nothing More," and it was written by The Alternate Routes back in 2013 in response to the Sandy Hook shooting. The artists challenged people to impose their own video onto the lyrics, with the goal being to show how ordinary people are extraordinary. In the past few weeks, as I've reviewed the song, I see so much that can be applied in it to our situation today. The heroes who don't wear capes but who are amazing people among us, perhaps all of us; the sense of peace and internal struggle, and the line about the danger of hanging on to anger. Please read the lyrics, or listen and view the song on YouTube. It's not long.
The line that I'd like to focus on today is "And the darkness can come quick; the danger's in the anger and the hanging on to it." Anger is an emotion that I've seen in many people lately, for many reasons. But I am going to challenge this - anger is often a mask for emotions that are uncomfortable to identify. At this time in our lives, there are so many unknowns, so many views, so many messages. Confusion, frustration, powerlessness and lack of control are such uncomfortable feelings, and as humans, we often mask identifying them and dealing with them by hiding under a veil of anger. And anger is dangerous. It has little substance and it is harmful because when people allow anger to be their identified emotion or coping viewpoint, they overlook the real issues, restrict the ability to cope, and have the potential to rage at and harm themselves or those around them.
Our mental health needs are very different right now. Everyone has a degree of stress that never before existed. We are learning to cope with things that we don't have any experience facing, and that is scary and overwhelming. But it is imperative that we not allow ourselves to default to anger. It is hard work, but we need to identify the details that are upsetting us so that we can cope in functional and adaptive ways.
I am attaching a link to an "Anger Iceberg." This visual allows us to see how even though anger might be the visible emotion, there are usually other emotions under the surface that are masked by the anger. Today, I'd like you and your family members to look at the iceberg and to take your emotional pulses. What is driving feelings of frustration and rage, or irritation and annoyance? Be honest with yourself and allow yourself to be vulnerable. That is really scary for people to do right now because we are so vulnerable to everything. But, if we accept our vulnerability for what it is, and process it accordingly, the result doesn't need to be anger and it could be a very productive opportunity to recognize where we need additional support or strategies. Please reach out if you need strategies. This is a challenging time - we're all in this together.
I hope that you find the above link helpful. If you would like more information or resources on managing anger, please let me know. I have additional resources that I am happy to post.
Have a wonderful, sunny (finally!) weekend!
April 30, 2020
We're getting near the time of year when people start to think about the summer vacations they have planned, or they start to frantically plan those vacation getaways. This year is a bit different, isn't it? Are we going to be able to go on those vacations? It's so confusing because logically, from the standpoint of science and health, the answer is clearly "NO." But to hear of things starting to open again, and to hear some of the mixed messages regarding what that might look like, raises people's hopes that of course they'll be able to travel. It’s too early to know, but I think we're all better planning for less travel in the near future.
That being said, I live with a teen who loves to plan cyber trips. He began his virtual travel hobby a couple of years ago in an enrichment class at school and has used his learning to provide the most detailed elements to creative writing, social studies, etc. It's so amazing to see kids pursue learning when they are interested in a topic. And, while distance learning has its drawbacks and has become a bit "stuck in a rut" with the rote elements of the daily grind, I still see this time as a wonderful opportunity to explore topics that we might not otherwise have time to pursue.
Because of the resident travel bug, and because of my own previous vacation planning from past years, I get emails all the time from Home Away or Vacation Rental By Owner. Yesterday, I received some great links for planning "staycations," "virtual vacations," and additional information for virtual family travel games. I thought I'd share the links with you as a variation on the isolation theme! I'd love to hear what you and your families might plan or implement in regards to some of the activities listed. We could do some amazing things if we pooled our experiences - shall we try? I'd love for each family to create their own virtual vacations and play some of the games and then let me know what you create. We can then share some ideas and have some fun with it!!
Here are the links:
Please explore the site further (or add some additional sites that I can share!) to see what you can come up with!
I hope that you have a wonderful day fantasizing about travel. Keep it local and keep it safe for now, but it's ok to dream!
April 29, 2020
Every week of isolation seems to have had it's own theme. In the beginning, it was a positive, can-do leap into action and acceptance approach. Then came the harsh reality of what that all meant, then came the adjusting to distance learning and working from home. After that, people moved on to frustration with the lack of control and anxiety heightened. A week of acceptance brought a reprieve, and then an urgent desire to break out, emerged. That's where we are right now. You have no idea how many people have demanded of me, this week alone, to give them a time frame for when this will be over and when they'll be able to go back to their former lifestyles. I wish I had that crystal ball that so many think I possess!!
I get it. I'm the feelings doctor, so I will see and hear the raw expression of emotions. And usually, I'm flattered that people feel comfortable sharing their raw emotion with me. But, when I take a very direct, no-nonsense approach to responding, it's not because I don't care, and I think that people realize that. It's because I don't have the answers that they're seeking, and I realize that their quest is much more a reaction to anxiety. Rather than obtaining the answers to WHEN this will end, I think it's more important to look at what might be causing the urgency that seems to be driving this week.
Well, let's break it down. To begin with, we have very mixed messages from both our country's leadership as well as the media. And I'm not being political here - it's a simple fact, regardless of what anyone's "side" might be. Mixed messages are stressful and overwhelming and they breed self-doubt. Self-doubt leads to anxiety and a sense of lack of control. And we've talked many times in this space about how a sense of lack of control makes people desperate to control something. So, in the absence of definition, people are seeking to define on their own. In this case, they are trying to define reopening dates, etc.
Stop. That's the wrong way to go about it. What will happen is false hopes will be built, careless mistakes will be made, and we will be forced to remain in isolation for a longer period of time. We can't "will" isolation away. That makes no sense. And yet, when we're anxious, we don't always think rationally. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is based on the concept of redirecting and challenging irrational thoughts, which are the direct result of anxious thinking. Irrational thoughts are faulty lines of thinking that can cause us to heighten our anxiety to a spin level rather than allowing for us to rationally process through the fact that our lack of control in a situation makes us feel powerless.
I thought it might be helpful to share a few worksheets today. They are from a site called "Therapistaid.com." They're simple worksheets that present cognitive behavioral therapy concepts in a straightforward manner. Please try them out and have your family members try them as well! They aren't very complex, but they do provide a very concrete means of understanding how we might interrupt irrational thoughts during this very stressful time. I have others I will introduce in time, but I thought that these specific worksheets might provide us with a launchpad to develop an understanding of the language of anxiety and some of the basic strategies for reframing it in our minds. I hope that you find this helpful - please let me know!
Please know, in this challenging time, that you are not alone and that your feelings are not invalid. In many ways, I see the weekly "emotional themes" paralleling the stages of grief. And in a way, we are grieving. Our lives have been interrupted and changed, to a degree, forever. It's only normal to have a reaction to this! But, do try to focus on the positives that are emerging as well. If you and your family are healthy and safe, it's worth it. If your able to make up for time that you previously felt was passing you by, or if you've been able to strengthen relationships with the ones that you love by having the chance to spend some quality time with them, then staying home has been worth it. There are so many challenges to face, but don't lose sight of the positives. My son's principal talks about keeping a journal of gratitude. Not to force rose colored glasses on everyone, but I do find it helpful to identify the things that I appreciate in each day. It makes it easier to face some of the harsh news I hear from the front lines, or the pain that I’ve had to see people endure. Life is a journey, and it's never really a straight or even path. But we have each other to lend support to and to accept support from as we travel that path.
Have a wonderful day.
April 28, 2020
I am thinking about how adults have come to build social interaction for themselves in the last six weeks. I've heard of Zoom coffee breaks and happy hours, drive-by birthday shout outs, and virtual dating. It's pretty amazing to see how people have found ways to stay connected!
Kids are a bit different. Yes, they always used social media before COVID-19, but I'm seeing a lot of kids feeling isolated recently. While they are "staying in touch" with friends, there doesn't seem to be as much of an investment in those interactions, and, as a result, I am seeing a greater degree of frustration and loneliness in kids. They aren't recognizing it for what it is; however, this past weekend was definitely an "aha moment" from a clinical standpoint. I heard from more families whose children, who had previously seemed "fine," were suddenly melting down or losing patience with family members.
It makes sense. ENGAGING social interactions are a necessary developmental tool for individuals of all ages, but especially for those who are ages 8-25. Texting really doesn't do it, and posts on Instagram and Twitter are not interactive. Young people NEED interaction. I'm amazed at how thirsty our social skills groups participants are for social interaction. They love to talk, play games, and be dynamic. And maybe DYNAMIC is the perfect word to describe healthy, ideal relationships. The more dynamic a relationship, the more interactive, emotionally stimulating and creative it is.
In the practice, we are now focusing on building opportunities for dynamic social interactions. We will be hosting a family Zoom karaoke night. My goal is to have a different social family/young person event every week. The kids need it! Not that they haven't received tons of undivided attention from parents while they've been home, but they need the interaction with the community. In thinking about this summer, and how COVID-19 might entirely alter our programming plans, my team and I have already made strides in planning a virtual retreat that will entertain and program young people for at least five weeks this summer. We need to look at how to best keep things dynamic for our younger generation for the sake of their emotional development.
In the coming days, try to encourage your sons and daughters to have conversations with their peers. Maybe FaceTime, or Zoom, or GoogleMeets. I've found some great interactive games like "I Spy" and scavenger hunts that can be played over these platforms. Help your kids to do more than just post or text and guide them in setting up games with their peers. It's actually a challenge for them to get it started, so help them out and have fun with it!!
Have a wonderful day!
April 27, 2020
I just realized in looking at the calendar that my last hair appointment was scheduled for a month ago today, and given that I wasn't able to go due to isolation, my last legitimate trim was nine weeks ago! Wow. Thank goodness for YouTube "how to trim your own bangs" videos! I tried letting them go for a couple of weeks, but I couldn't take it. I'm not sure that they're cut totally straight, but I only snipped a tiny bit figuring that "Salon Jackie" is open anytime and I don't really need an appointment, so I don't need to wait five weeks between trims! Less is more...
The first week of isolation, there were no paper goods to be found. A couple of weeks later, cleaning supplies were hard to come by. In the last few weeks, grooming supplies are sold out. It's fascinating to watch the sequencing of product urgency of the human brain! How our priorities shift! Does it make you wonder how much we take for granted without even realizing it? I was just thinking of my last conversation with my stylist and of the things that seemed so critical that day. They mean nothing now.
What are your top priorities right now? Of course, health and safety are up there, but are you approaching things from a different perspective than pre-isolation? I am. And by no means am I implying that anyone is fickle or selfish; rather, it's just that when we don't have certain things, we realize that maybe we can manage things differently (not that we don't need things, but maybe we can handle ourselves and whether or not we have certain things with greater flexibility). I'm really surprised at how perspectives are changing and how people are able to exercise greater flexibility in our current situation.
I saw the most moving piece on CBS Sunday Morning this past Sunday about a chef in Anaheim, CA who has lost so much of his own income and business but who is feeding thousands of people per week at no cost to them because he truly believes that charity is more important than business success. Bless him. In our practice, we always try to pay attention to need, but this situation with the chef was truly motivating. I thought about what I have that I can use to brighten things up for people right now. My team and I have been working really hard on ideas, and to start, this week we are going to offer a free karaoke night via Zoom to the families in the practice. It will be a fun social experience!
What other activities do you think would be fun for us all to try on Zoom? The team and I have great things planned for the summer - details coming this week!!
Have a wonderful day!
April 24, 2020
Yesterday, I hosted our first social skills group since March 8th. It was online, and I was a bit nervous about how it would go, as not only has it been a while since we've connected, but also I'm used to running our groups in a very interactive manner, so I didn't want to compromise on that. When the session was over, I wanted to cry because I was so moved by the experience. Granted, it was a smaller version of the groups we normally run because professionally, I think that's important right now, but the members were so happy to see each other! They listened, they shared, they laughed and they all felt united. It was very powerful.
I am working to set up the rest of our groups in a similar format. Young groups will need more guidelines and structure to "share the airwaves," and older groups will need more nudging to carry their connections outside of group, but we are moving forward. In the next week or so, my hope is to have groups fully running, so stay tuned! For those who are reading this blog and whose children are not yet enrolled in groups, please feel free to reach out if you are interested.
Today, Eric and I begin working on a virtual summer program. Not that we won't have our retreat, but with so many unknowns right now, we have to be prepared. I have some ideas I'm so excited about - I'm hoping to have details for you by next week!
I just read a warm/fuzzy article which also did a very nice job of raising awareness of how our necessary precautions can impact communication and force us to resort to more creative communication measures. A deaf cashier at a Trader Joes cannot read his customer's lips when they wear masks, and he was dismayed because he couldn't help them. Please read this article and see how he and his employers and his customers worked together to resolve the issue!!
How much effort are we putting into recognizing and relieving the struggles of people with various challenges that are exacerbated during the COVID-19 situation? I wonder if there are areas where we can maybe give a little more creativity to providing options to people who might be struggling but passing under the radar. I'm so lucky to work with so many creative and compassionate people - please, in the next few days, take a look around your world to see if there are any opportunities for you to use your creative gifts to help others.
What are your plans for the weekend? Tomorrow looks to be the better of the two days - please get some fresh air! I have to believe that with May right around the corner that things will warm up soon! I hope!! Enjoy balancing some personal time with family time, and stay safe and healthy.
Have a wonderful day!
April 23, 2020
Happy Thursday, Everyone!
Today I'm thinking about our planet and our role in taking care of it. Yesterday, as I'm sure you know, was Earth Day. And it's definitely a day to think about our resources, efforts, etc. It fascinates me to see pictures of the earth and various cities during the COVID-19 shut down. I can't believe how smoggy things are on a typical basis, and how clear they look right now. Years ago, when I had a client in Singapore, I was floored when they would tell me that the air quality was so poor on certain days that residents were instructed to not go outside. That's a totally unfathomable concept to me. And yet, it's real.
So today, as I'm peering out my window in to the morning sun (yeah, sun!) and looking at the start to my gardens, I'm thinking about how we take care of ourselves, those who are important to us, and to our world. Right now, our role in air pollution has been relatively reduced for us because we’re all at home and few of us are driving around. I can't believe how long half a tank of gas lasts in my SUV right now! So the negative impact of humans on the environment has been reduced, and we can do more to create a positive impact on the environment. But also, what about how we care for ourselves?
I've spoken at length about self-care in this blog in regards to mindfulness, exercise, etc. I haven't spent a whole lot of time talking about how we nourish our bodies, though, and it is an important topic. At a time when grocery shopping is frustrating and even frozen veggies can be hard to find, what do we do? Thankfully, farms will soon be producing, and some already are providing fresh veggies (albeit they are shipped in, but still). When people get anxious and depressed, they are prone to either overeat (especially carbs) or skip meals. Neither is healthy. However, now is a good time to focus on mindfully eating. Apps such as "My Plate" or "My Fitness Pal" allow for counting of calories and logging of food intake. And I don't mean to use these apps restrictively; rather, they should be used mindfully so that you have a concept of what fuel you’re putting into your body, and what junk food you may need to pay a little more attention to avoiding.
And while we're at it, let's address beverage consumption. A colleague in the healthcare field went on a run last week. It was recycling day in his neighborhood, and he took video of every recycling bin on his run. EVERY SINGLE ONE was filled with wine and beer bottles. And that says a lot for how we manage stress and the unknown. Believe me, in no way am I opposed to adults of legal age having a few drinks; however, I do think it's important that as with food, people keep track of their alcohol consumption. It is very easy in our current isolative environment to tap into the wine cellar or liquor cabinet as a daily "reward" for tolerating the deprivation of being in isolation. But habits form quickly, and I do encourage you to monitor your motives and volume. Again, in no way am I saying adults of legal ages cannot drink; but in this time of instability, everyone needs to be careful to sidestep bad habits that can, in some cases, result in addiction.
And on another beverage front, STAY HYDRATED! I'm guilty of forgetting to drink enough fluid every day. Usually, when I am in the middle of a session and suddenly become aware that my mouth is dried out, I'll realize that I haven't had anything to drink in hours. I'm trying to remember to always have a glass of water or iced tea with me, but for me, this is a conscious effort! I need to make it more of a priority, so that's my goal this week.
Please feel free to reach out with your own observations, questions, topics - I'd love to hear them so that I can best develop discussions for future posts!
Have a wonderful day.
April 22, 2020
Look! The sun is out! Better get outside and absorb as much of it as you can today. I think we're all feeling the effects of too little sun - as fascinating as it was to witness rain, snow, wind, thunder and lightning all in the same minute yesterday, it's enough already. Time for some light!! I'm growing seeds so that I can plant the seedlings in my new raised garden bed. I planted the seeds Saturday and they've been in front of a big window. They're already sprouting. I'm hopeful. But the worrybug in me can only keep thinking, "what if it's not enough warmth or light?" I think, given Mother Nature's history, I need to surrender and trust that things will grow with or without my micromanaging! Probably, they'll grow better if I just leave them to Mother Nature!
Do you sense that you're sometimes prone to want to manage everything? Weeks ago, I talked in this blog about how we're in anxious, unknown territory, and we're likely to feel powerless and without a sense of control. In the absence of control, anxiety escalates. So let's take our emotional pulse today. Look back over the past month. We actually know a lot more details about our situation now than we did then. Knowledge is power. We may not be able to change the situation, but we can pick and choose how we manage ourselves better. I've learned that there are ways to get food besides waiting for Instacart or going to the grocery store. In fact, I may never go back to the grocery stores for some of the items I'm now able to buy from farmers. And I've learned that people will help each other in many situations. We can choose to do this. We can turtle up and mope, or we can actively look for subtle and not so subtle ways in which we can positively impact those around us.
My sister is a nurse and she received a letter asking her to volunteer on the front lines. That's very different from the telehealth services that I can volunteer. She could get sick whereas I'm protected by technology. I asked her how she will answer that request. She was very straightforward in her response, "if the need becomes great enough, I will do it. I would want someone to care for my family if they were sick, so I will help someone else's."
Her case is an extreme choice. And she has the power to make her decision as to how to handle it. What choices might you make that could help you to feel more empowered right now? Some of my clients who are high school seniors are asking school administrators to give them a role in planning graduation (whatever that might look like). Other people are furthering campaigns to recognize the efforts of essential workers. In looking at my son, the college senior, I see someone who is not letting the suspension of his dream internship hold him back - he's looking for jobs and proposing alternatives to his advisors. He's not waiting to be told what to do or settling for academic work to take the place of experience.
I see so many people taking productive control in areas where they may have previously been more laissez-faire. This is 100% due to the fact that they feel more empowered by knowledge and understanding, and thus they are wanting to take action where before having such empowerment, they felt paralyzed. Don't be a victim of the current situation. Use this time to propel yourself forward in areas where you previously hesitated. You can explore new topics, experiences, etc. while still being safe and following protocol. Above all else, be safe, but don't be a turtle. Look to ways where you can expand your impact on the world in a positive manner. We can do more remotely than we realize - put on your thinking caps and be creative!
I hope that you have a wonderful day!
April 21, 2020
I'm interested to hear what types of music you may be listening to recently. Last night, as we were talking about how to avoid getting "stuck in a rut" with evening family activities, I reflected upon what activities have made me feel the most fulfilled. As a family, we've been catching up on episodes of NCIS, and that is always fun for us, but at the same time, I'm not feeling that it really nourishes me emotionally. A couple of weeks ago, I learned that Adam Ezra, a musician whose music I first became aware of when I saw him as an opening act at the Infinity Theater in Norfolk, CT last year, was doing a daily evening life stream of his work called "The Gathering." I tuned in and felt connected. And then, the next night, out of habit, I went back to NCIS. Last night, as we were talking about how we need to mix it up again, in my thoughts I immediately went back to the role that music can play in our lives. I'm not a great musician by any means but I do play guitar. One of my sons also plays guitar and the other is learning piano. The love of my life and I sometimes sing goofy songs with the boys. That is the extent of our musical ability, but it is fun and it brings things to life.
And so, last night as we were thinking of how to mix things up, I immediately said that I'd like to find more concerts to watch. Sometimes, I love sitting on the couch and listening to old vinyl records (I bought a new turntable last year to play our vinyl collection) and allowing my thoughts to drift back to other times when I've heard those songs play. So I want to do more of that. And, I'd like us to create and enjoy music as a family. It may not be professional by any means, but the thought of creating something interactive and expressive feels purposeful right now, and the positive energy that comes from music not only lifts spirits but also increases physical strength.
I'm finding that my craving for certain types of music has also changed. I'm seeking more sentimental artists and themes, and even looking to more alternative artists. I find that I'm becoming much more in tune with themes and lyrics. As someone who spent her undergrad years analyzing a lot of poetry, I've always been drawn to music lyrics, but right now, there is more of an urgency in my seeking out certain themes. Obviously, the experiences of our current world and the situations that are brought before me every day are driving that urgency. And I embrace it because it helps me to stay in touch with taking my emotional pulse on my reactions and feelings of what is going on in my own life as well as in the lives of my clients.
Music is unifying and healing. I'm hoping that you will take some time to explore it and engage in it, whether you play music, listen to it, or compose it. Take a risk to explore this element in your life and see what it might do for you. Mirela Panaitisor is a very accomplished musician who opened her own music studio in the last few years. The New Old School of Music provides music lessons as well as musical programming for people of all abilities, and Mirela offers some specialized programs as well. During the COVID-19 situation, Mirela is posting some musical activities/resources on her Facebook page. Please feel free to check it out for ideas to use with young children and families:
Please let me know how you incorporate music into your current situation! And, if you have not yet explored an opportunity for music in your life, maybe take a step towards doing so. If you let me know your interests or questions, I'm happy to provide a follow up post!
Have a wonderful day!
April 20, 2020
I want to encourage everyone to give a loud shout out to our frontline workers. Nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, delivery folks, those in the transportation industry, warehouse workers, bankers, etc. are all working so hard to help keep the world healthy, healing, and running. THANK YOU!
On my street, as on many others, people are posting red hearts to show their appreciation and thanks. I will have to take some pictures, but our neighborhood has become quite creative. People have made heart signs with stems that look like flowers and that stand independently on their lawns. Others have posted signs on mailbox posts or on trees. Yesterday, there was an appreciation parade, which was kind of unique considering we live in the middle of nowhere and yet a bunch of vehicles with red pompoms assembled and paraded, honking horns the whole time. Children are using chalk on driveways to express their appreciation.
From calls I received over the weekend, I know that some families are feeling the stress of having been together for a month now. And, the news coverage of people resisting stay at home orders only exacerbates these feelings. I know that it's hard to see pictures of crowded beaches while you've had to cancel vacation plans, etc, but please know that the story from the front lines is so much different from what you're seeing in protesters' pictures. People are very sick and suffering, and we need to do all we can to keep our families safe and healthy. Please continue to stay home, and remember that tonight the governor's recommendation that all people wear masks in public goes into effect. I'd love to see pictures of you in your homemade or colorful face masks!! Miss Sue is in Virginia with her family during the COVID-19 situation, and she’s been sewing masks like a mad woman! Usually, she sews bibs and baby blankets for the homeless shelters. She's modified her patterns and has been making masks for front line workers for over a month now.
So... how to help ease some of the tension of spending so much time with family. That sounds horrible, but I know the concerns are out there, so let's just tackle it! First of all, get people outside. I was laughing yesterday when my 14 year-old took out his indoor practice putting green and put it on the lawn and then practiced his chipping from across the yard. It was definitely a way to change things up! Look for ways to modify activities so that you're not stuck in ruts doing the same old things. Look to Pinterest for new ideas and variations on activities - I mentioned last week that I’m becoming a big fan of their "Today" post which identifies fresh ideas every day. Check it out! Another thing to keep in mind: it's ok to let people know that you need some personal space. And I don't mean time to veg out on electronics, because that can breed isolation and poor attitudes. But it's ok to have time to yourself to just think, read, etc. Sometimes, scheduling a specific time to be with others to do specific activities also helps because then it doesn't feel as though you are always "on." Remember to be kind and to realize that everyone is probably feeling the same way, so be mindful to resist snarky remarks or criticism that might not be warranted. Appreciate what you have, set boundaries, and be creative. Those three elements will help everyone to get along more comfortably.
I hope that you have a productive and positive week! Please let me know your thoughts on topics you feel you would benefit from seeing addressed in this space.
April 17, 2020
Happy Friday, Everyone!
Mother Nature is having fun, isn't she? All week I've heard talk of snow tomorrow, and then to wake up this morning to the forecast that we might get a couple of inches accumulation was a little bit shocking! I'm getting my seedlings started for my vegetable garden and my raised beds are waiting for the topsoil delivery to set them up - now SNOW?! You know what, though? With all of the change we've had to adjust to, and the now familiar sense that so much is unknown and subject to change, I guess that coping with a little snow in the middle of April is not a big deal!
Clinically, this time has been a study in human adaptation for me. The first week we were all home, everyone was gung ho that this was all good - we could set routines and adapt quickly. The second week, people realized that routines take a month to establish, and that human nature balks at change. The third week, kids were resisting school and missing their social connections and tantrums were common. Week four brought a little more of a hum to routines and general acceptance. This week, with schools on "vacation" and routines suspended, I've seen a greater inclination towards introversion. People who normally go the distance to reach out to others are turtling up a bit. There is less initiative-taking.
Next week needs to be a week when we all get back on routine (which actually won't be as hard as people think since those routines were fairly familiar by the end of last week) and an effort needs to be made to reach out and connect to others. In the practice, this will mean the reconvening of groups. They will look and be different from our in person groups, obviously, but I'm kind of excited to launch a new experience! I think I'm going to divide the existing groups into smaller ones, not to separate people but because even on a zoom meeting that could include everyone, it would be a lot to ensure that everyone gets attention and that focus is maintained. I'll be grouping members by interest and established relationships. And, 1.25 hours is a long time to focus on a meeting, so we'll likely go for 45 minutes instead of the regular duration. I'm going to ask people to be patient with me as these are unchartered waters and I'm navigating using my clinical instinct and certainly not experience. We're all in this together, though, and I expect we will create something amazing!
This weekend, take inventory of where you and your family members are from an emotional perspective. What needs are not being met and where do you need a little more support and guidance? Let me know. No one has to feel alone in this, and it's by working together and recognizing that we are a community that we will not only make it through this situation, but also realize that we have the potential to gain so many new skills and experiences.
Have a wonderful weekend!
April 16, 2020
Today is Friday Junior! When I let the dog out at 5:45 this morning, she ran to the edge of the yard (it's fenced in) and wouldn't stop barking her "I'm protecting my family" bark. I looked, and in the faint light I saw a giant bear just on the other side of the fence. As I listened beyond the barking of the dog, the only other sound I could hear was the crunching of the frozen leaves (there was snow up here this morning) as the bear slowly meandered away from the fence, back into the woods. Just a few minutes ago (an hour later), I looked out the front door and saw the bear across the street on my neighbor's front step. He's a bold one! Up here, all of the neighbors have an understanding that the bears were here before we were. When we see one, there's a phone chain to make sure that everyone is aware, but we never harass the bears - we just wait inside until they are gone. After all, we invaded their turf - and it seems they've become content in sharing it with us. It's a dance of mutual respect (except when they dump my trash and spread it everywhere, hence my bear lock trash barrel order which should be here in the next couple of weeks)!
I was speaking to a middle schooler last week about how our world has changed in the last month, and how he feels about that. His perspective really impressed me. He wasn't focused on the anxiety over COVID-19; rather, he wanted to talk about how we're now much more cognizant of how we need to be more aware of conserving our supplies, not buying impulsively, and sharing. For every point we discussed, he kept coming back to, "and if everyone just takes what they need, there should be enough for everyone. How come some people are stockpiling and their neighbors are left with empty shelves?" He has a good point, doesn't he? In our anxiety, we are so fearful that there won't be enough for later that we aren't thinking about the present. We're trying to control things in a world where we have no control. And in doing so, instead of building security, we're exacerbating our own worries and causing others to come up short. My young friend is on to something. Similar to how my neighbors and I have learned to share with the bears around us, as a society, we need to learn to access supplies in moderation so that there is enough for everyone to use.
I recently discovered that one of the farms in our area is getting shipments of fresh produce and meats and providing curbside pick-up. Where I live, grocery stores are not exactly right down the street, but over the years, I've always combined trips into town (that sounds so old fashioned!) with dropping the kids at school, etc., so I've always frequented the Stop and Shop or Big Y. Right now, with school out, and with store supplies low, it's not really worth the trip to town. So I've had to look elsewhere. And my eyes have been opened! We're trying new things, experimenting with new recipes that stretch ingredients much further, and realizing that slowly, we're learning the steps to a simple yet complex dance that balances meeting our needs with living modestly and appreciating the very simple yet amazing things that result from getting back to basics.
Today, take a look around your immediate world. Where can you trim back on indulgence for the better of nature and your neighbors? How can you help yourself while also being sensitive to the needs of those around you? And, how can the decisions you make about purchases help you to be more present and mindful of your impact on the immediate (and larger) world around you? Certainly, I'm not one to preach about being frugal, but one aspect of mindfulness is to consider one's needs versus wants, and to modify accordingly. It's a perspective worth exploring - please let me know your thoughts and ideas about it!
Have a wonderful day.
April 15, 2020
Happy Wednesday, Everyone!
Time to do an emotional self-check! We're half way through the week, a week that is seeing a lot of emotionally charged news and that is generating a good deal of frustration in people. There's a discrepancy between what people want to hear and what they need to hear, and it can be very conflicting. The bottom line from the healthcare front: stay the course, keep isolating and social distancing, and in the end, if numbers stay lower, we've won. And those numbers are likely to spike this week, so please, be safe and do what's right. I know this is very hard, especially for our adolescents, but please take it from someone who is seeing things from the healthcare perspective - this is real and we need to be as responsive as possible. In a world where right now, we can't control very much, the ability to control ourselves is a huge gift. By choosing to self-isolate, to social distance, to work out to build your immunity and to practice mindfulness to relieve your stress, you are gaining control. Make the most of it!
A few people have asked for additional mindfulness apps. I'd like to recommend the following:
1. Welzen: this app provides meditations, music and other aspects of mindfulness. I highly recommend it!
2. Smiling Mind: this app is used by a lot of therapists in their work with clients.
3. Youtube: Campfire night sounds in the great outdoors with owls and cicadas: Jake recommends this one because it doesn't have any "fake cricket" noises in the background and is really helpful for sleep! https://youtu.be/E77jmtut1Zc
As I'm sitting here writing this very early on Wednesday morning, the sound of chirping birds is so soothing. Sometimes, we can make our own mindfulness recordings and/or situations. I was watching my son make a sound map the other day. It was part of a science assignment, but it was so cool. He essentially had to plant himself in different situations and for ten minutes in each spot, he had to note the different sounds that surrounded him. When he was done with his three trials, he had to illustrate the different sounds in his science notebook. The experience was so relaxing while at the same time being informative. He was very aware of how the exercise paralleled other mindfulness activities he's done in the past, and was eager to select three very different "environments" to obtain his sound maps. I highly recommend this as a family activity. I often do this in our summer program because we are so surrounded by nature and we don't want to miss the resources that are already around us. I recommend trying this activity as a family! It can be so enlightening!
I hope that you have a relaxing day!
April 14, 2020
Isn't it amazing to have such a dramatic storm one day, and such beautiful weather the next? Where I live, when we lose power, we lose all cell service and all access to the outside world. Yesterday, we lost power at 11:25 am and it didn't return until 10:30pm! And you know what, it was an adventure. I felt badly that I couldn't meet for sessions, but once I knew that my scheduled clients understood why I wasn't available, the boys and I took a look around and took stock in what we had: we had food, we were warm, we had some daylight, we ran outside and put buckets under the downspouts and within minutes they were filled with water so we could flush toilets (because we're on a well where I live)! That's all we needed to be set for the day. Board games came out, electronics were a non-issue, and the adventure began!
It's so funny, because for the past four weeks, everyone has been focusing on isolation, and yesterday reminded me that isolation can be so much more isolating than what we've had to tolerate thus far. It's just a reminder that we need to always focus on the positive, even when we don't think there is much that is positive, because things can always be worse. And, truthfully, the boys and I wound up having a wonderful day yesterday, so even in the "worse than usual isolation," if we look at the upside, a "negative situation" can become quite positive. Maybe we just needed a day to totally turtle up and appreciate each other for who we are. I'll take it!
Have you looked at Pinterest lately? If you haven't, please take a few moments to do so - each day, Pinterest is posting a daily update with family, individual, etc. activities. It's really nice to see new ideas being circulated and to get some refreshing ideas on relative topics. For example, today's categories include: supporting sustainable brands, International Moment of Laughter Day, kid-approved baking recipes, haircuts at home (I can't wait to see what we all look like when this isolation is over!), rock painting, and family workouts. I love that there is something for everyone in the variety of topics presented.
Many of you know that I'm a fan of laughter yoga. And most people laugh at me for it! I have yet to have a social skills group buy into the concept and fully join me in the exercise. I'm not sure if it embarrasses people or if they think they'll look as ridiculous as I do, but it feels so good to laugh! Laughter releases anxiety, and forces us to breathe deep and take a new perspective on everything. For more information on International Moment of Laughter Day, please see the following link:
Could we all make it a goal today to laugh? And to help others to laugh? It will literally be a breath of fresh air in the midst of the daily worry that we are all experiencing, and it will allow everyone to have some fun! Please try it and let me know how it goes!!
April 13, 2020
Well, it's a rainy, windy, dark Monday. But, after yesterday's beautiful weather, that's ok! It's funny, even though we're all home every day, I see the weekends very differently than how I see the weekdays. Part of what keeps me on track is working from home and having to maintain appointments. When the weekend comes, I see it as I have always seen it in the past - a respite. And, even though our days are rather running into each other because of the repetition of every day pretty much mirroring the previous one, it is important to define a separation. Keep calendars, note special events, identify basic schedules so that you don't get lost in time. With this week being April vacation for a lot of your children, schedule certain activities for the family on certain days so that everyone has a platform from which to launch!
We're approaching the peak of COVID-19 in Connecticut. For those of you who are listening to the news and who are not essential workers, it's easy to become sold on the idea that after this week, we will have made it past the danger and all is on the mend. We're not yet there, folks. Of course, I don't want to be cynical, but from the viewpoint of those of us in the healthcare profession, now is the dangerous time. Please do not lighten up your practices of social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and gloves, etc. By no means do I want to be an alarmist, but I've noticed how people are searching for any sign that they can lighten up preventative measures because they're scared and just want a reprieve. It will come, I promise, but not until we stay the course. Do not lighten your preventative practices now. We've worked too hard and come too far.
To remind us of safe practices, Nurse Wanda, who is our camp nurse as well as a school nurse, has made some videos to share. I'm going to turn the remaining portion of today's blog over to Nurse Wanda - thank you Wanda!
Have a wonderful day, and please stay safe and healthy.
April 10, 2020
I woke up this morning to big snowflakes and a gentle dusting of snow in the yard! It's nearly all gone now, but that's quite a change from a few days ago! My grandmother always called snow "poor man's fertilizer." Considering my older son just put down the first step of the Scott's four step the other day, my lawn should be green and in hypergrowth in a matter of days! The world is greening up, the trees are budding, and even though we're in a period of anxiety and health issues, people are building connections and relationships in creative and helpful ways. The human spirit is strong!
I was so excited yesterday to hear back from so many of you regarding my survey of whether or not your sons/daughters would like us to run online groups. We will make it happen! For our older groups, I'll get something together in the next week. We'll see if we can do something a little different for our younger kiddos as the format could prove more challenging for their attention. But we will bring each group back asap in an online format.
For those of you who are celebrating Easter, how will you do it this year? I didn't get candy ordered in time for Easter baskets, so I'm going to bake bunny cupcakes and make homemade lollipops. On Sunday, I'll defrost a corned beef that's in the freezer and maybe we'll get some veggies from a farm store or curbside pickup. I haven't been to a grocery store in weeks. We're going to have family dinner via zoom so that the whole crew can "eat together" even though we won't be together! I'm actually very excited to have to be creative and it makes being together with the immediate family so much more meaningful.
I know that it is sometimes taxing to see the same people day in and day out, but aren't we lucky that we have those people? Yes, schools will be out for another six weeks. And yes, that imposes some very unique challenges on families. But what are some of the gains we're seeing? While I see kids more stressed with dynamic issues, it's amazing how the stress level has gone down with their being able to sleep in a little bit later in the morning. Routines are definitely critical, but are you seeing some growth in your children that might not have otherwise occurred? I'm seeing my older son, who was supposed to graduate from college next month but whose ceremony will now be in August, taking a much stronger role in home maintenance. He's getting ready to launch, and whether he realizes it or not (and I think he does), he's taking this time to chart his course. My younger son is much more engaged in taking responsibility around the house. From this time in their development, they will have gained skills that they might have otherwise sidestepped. Sometimes, when we least expect it, we benefit from a situation that is otherwise overwhelming and daunting.
I wish you all a very happy Holiday week and weekend! On Monday, Nurse Wanda will be joining us with some great homemade educational videos that you're going to love!
April 9, 2020
I'm laughing as I'm looking at the calendar this morning, because beginning tomorrow, our district is having a week of April vacation. I believe that most districts are. I get it. They don't want to take away from the kids, and the teachers likely need a chance to catch their breath after the whirlwind of moving everything online. But a part of me is calling out, "No! They are all just getting into the routine, don't interrupt it!!" As much as everyone wants to think that they had the routine down after the first week, it takes a good month to establish a working routine, and we're a little shy of that still.
So how do we best handle this?! Well... don't make your kids do work next week if they are "on break." That's not fair to anyone. But, do keep them structured. PJ's should be changed out of by noon. I know it's a comfort thing for people, but it’s important to have a sense of purpose to every day, and PJ's send the message that it's ok to be lazy all day long. Once in a while, that's fine, but on a daily basis, it should not be the case. It just doesn't motivate a sense of purpose. It's ok to have a family project in the works next week. While I'm going to hold sessions during next week, my boys are both free and they're going to be working on constructing my raised garden beds, because this year I want to do a vegetable garden the right way for our property (which grows rocks quite naturally)! A project that explores new interests is a great way to keep people structured while allowing them the freedom to deviate from the routine that has been established over the past couple of weeks.
Be adventurous! Create scavenger hunts, current event boards, original board games and puzzles. Find some creative recipes and try them out! It's ok to take risks and to not have huge success - the adventure is what matters! And, given that we cannot venture outside our homes or off our property (and please, please do practice social distancing!), your imaginations are going to have to spark the adventure. The Disney app has some ideas for Disney recipes to make at home, and what if you created your own Magic Kingdom? Maybe a bit far-fetched, but vacation weeks should have an element of magic to them!
If you like, we can use this forum as a brainstorming resource! Tell me some of your ideas for how to spend next week, and I'll share them and let's see if we can create a resource for everyone to enjoy the school vacation week!!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the mindfulness apps that I sent out yesterday. I have collected a couple more that I'm going to send your way tomorrow. Your feedback and contributions are always appreciated!
Have a wonderful day!
April 8, 2020
Did you see the pink supermoon last night? It was magnificent! I have a picture of my son on his bike at the top of our street (a hill) looking out to the moon as it rose above the trees. It was truly amazing.
Just as that moment "captured" a surreal experience, mindfulness, which is based on focusing in the moment and experiencing them from a total sensory immersion perspective, allows us to tune out the minutia and focus on the depth of a moment. As promised, I’ve collected a few examples of Apps and Youtube videos and exercises that will allow you and your family to experience guided mindful moments. Try them out. Be picky. What works for one person may not work for everyone. There have been times where the voice of the speaker totally turns me off, and others where the content of the script drives the experience. Take your time, explore and see what you think. Ideally, you will practice mindfulness three times per day: in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. But, any practice of mindfulness is better than no practice, so you can't lose!
1. Try observing a mindful meal. In this situation, no one speaks. Attention is paid to breathing, aroma, taste. The sense of touch is experienced through chewing. As you eat, think about the food in front of you. Where did it come from? What was its journey to your plate? Who were the farmers who harvested your vegetables - what might their lives be like? Chew each mouthful thoroughly, paying attention to the different flavors and textures. Appreciate each bite and its contribution to your body's health and strength.
2. Lie on the floor and take three cleansing breaths. Imagine that there is a star above you - it can be any size, color, distance. It has a bright shine to it, and that light shines down on you. Feel the warmth as it radiates on your forehead. Feel your head relax. Feel the starlight move to your shoulders, your chest, your torso, your upper legs, your lower legs and eventually your feet. At each segment of your body, feel your muscles relaxing under the glow from the starlight, and focus upon what your star might look like at each phase of shining upon you. Feel empowered and refreshed.
1. Headspace: This can get a bit pricey, but if you are dedicated to it, it can be worth it.
2. The mindfulness app - meditation for everyone: This one is free and allows you to select various scenarios, sounds, duration.
3. 3 Minute Mindfulness: Short and sweet for those who might struggle with maintaining focus and attention.
1. 10 minute body scan: This is one of my favorites! https://youtu.be/obYJRmgrqOU
2. Mountain rain and wind sounds. https://youtu.be/Qo4JIT8jMtI
3. Guided meditation for stress and relaxation. https://youtu.be/ijaDQLPUJ8E
I have not gone through this entire meditation; it is an example, and there are tons of other guided meditations on youtube. It’s important to find the one most comfortable for you.
I hope that this provides you with some samples to explore! Please let me know your thoughts on these and what works best for you.
Have a wonderful day!
April 7, 2020
Two sunny days in a row! Wow! It's definitely a nice change of pace. Doesn't look like the nice weather will last past today, but I guess we need the rain, too.
Some of you have been asking for more mindfulness apps/recommendations. I'm going to put a list together today and I will forward to you tomorrow. Please let me know what you prefer - are you looking for quick body scans, longer guided meditations, yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation? I will send them all to you, I'd just like to know that I'm meeting your needs the first time around.
With anxiety so high in our world right now, mindfulness is the strongest tool we can use to combat it. Without taking much time, it can center us and help us to prioritize. It can help us to not make mountains out of molehills. In a world of stress, it can help us to create a "happy place" where we can find a degree of peace.
One simple mindfulness exercise that I like to do is to take three deep breaths, and close my eyes. For a moment, I allow myself to go to a place where there is no stress. Sometimes, I imagine a light that I can focus upon, like a candle or a gentle glow. In focusing on that light, I allow myself to block out any intrusive thoughts or fears. If it's a sunny day, I do this exercise in front of a window where I can feel the warmth of the sun shining on me - it makes me feel safe. I focus upon the security and comfort of the light and for a moment, I surrender my worries and fears to the guidance of the light, a higher power, etc. Then, in the next moment, I think about the supports who I have and how, in relying on them if needed, and realizing that I'm lucky to have those supports, I try to put my worries and fears in perspective. It helps. Sometimes, we get so hyped up over a worry or fear, and we don't remember that we don't have to go it alone, and there are others who have much greater issues. Perspective. It's important.
As we look towards this week, which the media has already told us is going to be a challenging one, and truthfully, I have already seen in my work where it will be so, try to keep as positive a perspective on things as possible. Remember those who you love and who love you. Things are things - they are not the be all end all, and they can be replaced. Relationships matter and while they aren’t always permanent, good ones can be. Help your family members to recognize each others' strengths and to capitalize upon them. Be grateful for what you do have, even though I do understand how so many are stressed out by what they can't do or what they don't have. Keep perspective. Not to sound preachy, but at this time, we need to look beyond what limits us to recognize the positives. We're all in this together.
I hope that you have a wonderful day!
April 6, 2020
I hope that everyone enjoyed the weekend. I spent a lot of time outside working on the lawn. Fresh air makes such a difference in the quality of our sleep, in building our immunity, and in our overall existence. While being sure to practice social distancing, get as much fresh air as you can. This by no means suggests that you leave your property - there's always plenty to do around the house! And open those windows today - it's going to be 60 degrees and sunny!!
A few people have asked me why they are having more vivid dreams right now. There is a really interesting answer to this. Our subconscious holds our thoughts and emotions while we are awake. When we sleep, some of those thoughts come out in various ways - sometimes in a direct portrayal of themselves, but more often in vivid, inflated or sometimes disturbing storylines. Right now, with all of us living in a time of great uncertainty, our anxieties and fears are heightened. We are powerless to control the pandemic, and many people are struggling with the feeling that they can't control anything. Add into that extended screen time and social isolation and you have a recipe for extreme dreams. Our minds are so amazing and complex.
Do not blame the current situation or feel victimized by the current guidelines when you think about the causes of your dreams. Rather, explore how fascinatingly your mind works. Keep a dream journal, illustrate your dreams, talk about them to others. This will provide you with a greater sense of control. As someone who has studied the psychological meaning of dreams and who had to keep dream journals while studying the dream process, I can tell you that you will feel more empowered if you record your dreams and then think about what might be driving certain images, symbols, and interactions. You will be able to figure out the theme of your dreams if you examine them objectively enough - and I'm happy to bounce ideas around with you if that would be helpful! Embrace your mind's ability to release thoughts, ideas, and feelings that you might be struggling to process. This is a challenging time, and we don't have all the answers, so of course ideas are going to be unique and bizarre! If you are frightened by your dreams, or if there are recurring themes that cause you to feel stressed and fearful, please reach out - processing can make a huge impact on the theme of dreams.
I'm attaching a link to an article you might enjoy reading if you are interested in dream analysis. I think it does a nice job of identifying the basic steps, and it is a quick read. I especially appreciate the point that people shouldn't become hung up on specific images having certain "dream dictionary" meaning. Each dream is relative to the individual experience. There is no "cookie cutter" interpretation for dreams. Please let me know if you find this article helpful:
Our minds are truly incredible forces, and they can be used for so much positivity! I was browsing Pinterest yesterday and was so excited to see that they have a section devoted to activities that families can do together during isolation. Please look at it! I would love to hear some of your ideas, too, as I know that as a community, we could really put together an amazing brainstorm! Try to harness the creativity you have - we all have it! Some people appear more concrete in their thinking, but if you let your mind wander (as it may in dreams), you will find that everyone has a great deal of creativity to tap!
Have a wonderful Monday, stay safe, please, please, please practice social distancing and I look forward to writing to you again tomorrow.
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.
Cap'n Pete's Home Activity Visual Packet
I wish you all a wonderful day and look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions. Remember - use my firstname.lastname@example.org email to reach out!
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take good care,