5 Tips for COVID19/Quarantine Anxiety To Start Using Now

Jamie Frederick, LCPC

For many families, the COVID19 Pandemic has taken anxiety and stress levels to a new high. In addition, many of our go-to outlets for healthfully managing our stress are no longer available due to shelter-in-place restrictions. Homes have become our places for work, play, and school with little to no time to prepare for these changes. The good news is, there are simple things that both children and adults can do to help navigate these tough times. The five tips below can be implemented immediately and consistently across all members of the family to help offer a sense of calm in the chaos. 

  1. Focus on what you can control. When our minds wander to all the challenges facing us, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, lose hope, and feel helpless. By focusing on what you can control, you regain your power and peace of mind. For example, you can’t control how others choose to respond to the crisis but you can control steps you and your family can take to keep yourselves healthy. 
  2. Begin or continue to practice yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and gratitude. These practices are healthy and lower our stress, anxiety, and depression during times of normalcy. During difficult times, these practices become even more essential to our well being. If you don’t know where to start, YouTube has numerous yoga and relaxation videos for all ages and levels. There are many easy to use phone apps, many of which have a free version, available to teach basic meditation and relaxation techniques that all ages can do and benefit from. Finally, while it is appropriate to feel some added stress, anxiety, and fear when facing uncertainty, writing down or verbally expressing what simple things we are grateful for can help balance our emotions and focus our energy on what is important. You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to start a new family tradition around gratitude. Start today and see the benefits it can bring!
  3. Take things one day at a time. There is so much uncertainty right now; don’t add fuel to the anxiety fire by worrying about what will change tomorrow or next week. Focus on what you’d like to or need to accomplish today. Do the same for children. Also, remember to give everyone a fresh start each day, including yourself. It’s understandable to have bad days, irritability, and increased arguments with family members during this time. Each new day is an opportunity to make the most of your situation and a chance for both children and adults to find joy, be kind, and make better choices.
  4. Rely on your strengths. Look at what has worked in the past and apply it to this situation. What are ways that you and your family have successfully managed stress or anxiety in the past? Physical activity? Art? Talking with friends or extended family? Seeing a therapist? Implement what you know works. For example, maybe you can’t go to the gym to work out your frustrations and socialize/vent to friends, but you can do physical activity at home and use technology to stay connected. Your child can’t attend an art class, but now is a great time to use up supplies around the house and be creative. If seeing a therapist has been helpful for you or your family in the past to help process and cope with stressful situations, consider therapy again. Many counseling services offer teletherapy for all ages from the comfort and safety of your home, including STEPS for Kids
  5. Plan for structure and allow for flexibility. Most of us do our best when we have some kind of structure to follow, whether that’s our working hours, school hours, exercise time, family time, meal times, cleaning schedule, etc. it gives us a sense of consistency and a framework from which to build the rest of our day on. It can be helpful for all family members to have a general schedule and a daily to-do list. This provides a sense of normalcy and consistency, as well as a sense of accomplishment and control, in a chaotic time. However, keep in mind, these are unprecedented times we are living in. If your child was to complete school work in the morning and clean his room in the afternoon but wakes up eager to tackle his room. it may be wise to let him feel a bit more in control and enjoy a sense of empowerment by changing today’s schedule. If a child is having a hard day emotionally (or, if you are!), maybe a quiet day of snuggles, art, movies, and lots of reassurance is a healthier use of time.  

Whatever you do to relieve stress and anxiety, remember that you are not alone. Even though we are facing challenging times that keep us physically apart, we can be there for each other by using technology to connect and engage with others. If you are in crisis, help is available.  If you would like to know more about mental health services provided through STEPS for Kids, please contact us today.

This information provided by STEPS for Kids counselor, Jamie Frederick, LCPC. Jamie has over 9 years of experience as a counselor working with children from pre-school through high-school ages. She is passionate about supporting all children through a family-centered approach that focuses on the strengths of both the child and family while working on skill development vital for the child’s success. Jamie can help with adjustment issues, behavioral concerns, anxiety, emotional-regulation difficulty, social skills, and more. She is certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and trained in play based therapy. She is available to support children, teens and adults with a variety of conditions and concerns through individual, group, and family based treatment approaches. Her services are available via teletherapy remote treatment sessions during the COVID19 Shelter-In-Place order.

3 Easy Ways to Build Language Skills Every Day!

Taking time to sit and read with your child is highly recommended by all the current research. Reading to your child improves cognitive and language skills while also strengthening social, emotional and character development.

Children also learn from watching, listening and engaging with others throughout the day. Scheduling time to read and engage with your child is crucial, but don’t miss out on these easy ways to support your child’s learning and language skills during everyday activities. Research shows that simply talking and listening to your child is vital to development of language and cognitive skills.

Incorporating these strategies takes a bit of focused effort at first, but with time you’ll discover it’s easy to take advantage of these “teachable moments” and notice your child’s language improving as well as your relationship!   

  1. MEAL TIME: Have your child in the room with you while you are preparing meals so they can watch and participate in the activities. Use this time for conversation and focused language practice: . 
  • RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES: Depending on your child’s age and ability level, they can work on following directions when you ask them to get out certain items (for example: “get out your green cup”, “put the napkin on the table”) or you can give 2-step directions such as “get the green cup and put it on the table”.  If your child is younger, you can hand him/her the napkin and help them put it on the table while you are telling them the directions.  
  • VOCABULARY ACTIVITIES: While you are working in the kitchen and preparing meals, talk to your child as much as you can.  Explain what you are doing, label the items/foods/actions you are doing while you are doing them, talk about colors and sizes of things you are using, and work on sequencing by talking through the steps you are taking to prepare the meal.  
  • EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES: Ask your child questions while you are working in the kitchen.  You can ask him/her to label items, ask him/her to tell you where things go, given him/her an object and have him/her tell you about it (size, color, etc), or ask your child to tell you what you are doing as you do things (washing, cutting, cooking, etc). 

 

2.  BATH TIME: This is another great time to get some language and conversation going with your child.  As with the meal time ideas, you can work on vocabulary by labeling objects, actions and the steps to getting bathed (before, during and after).  You can ask questions to work on that expressive language at whatever stage your child is at (labeling, combining 2-3 words, producing sentences).  Receptive language can be addressed by asking your child to point to body parts, follow 1-2 step directions (ie., give me the blue toy, put the toy in the cup and give it to me, etc), or asking your child questions about what you are doing.  This is also a great time to sing songs and have your child help you by filling in the words/phrases he/she knows in the songs.  

3. MORNING AND NIGHTTIME ROUTINES: These routines are a great source of language and interactions for you and your child.  This is another time where you can work on vocabulary related to the routine, sequencing the steps you take to get ready, asking who/where/when questions about the routine and objects involved (“Where do you keep your toothbrush?”, “Who should brush their teeth first?”, “When do we put on our pajamas?”) or asking your child about their day.  Encourage expression by asking for specifics such as “Tell me something you had fun doing today” instead of asking “what did you do today?” Remember that listening to your child is as important as speaking to your child! 

Tammy Masciola, Speech Therapist

Sometimes as parents we get caught up in “getting through” the daily routines and all of the things we have to do that we forget that these are opportunities for quality time with our children.  We can make these times more enjoyable for ourselves as parents and help our children develop many skills as they participate in or watch the routines we go through during our day. Be creative, have fun and enjoy your time with your child as they learn and communicate with you! ~ Tammy Masciola, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Infant Massage: The Power of Touch

Every mother waits eagerly for that first moment after their child’s birth to hold the baby close.  For the infant, “being touched and caressed…is food…; food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins” ( Frederick Leboyer ).   Infant massage harnesses the power of touch to bring life-long benefits for both babies and parents.  Early sensory input, emotional and physical bonding are essential for the development of all infants.  Infant massage is a wellness technique that provides a loving touch right from the start.

What is Infant Massage?

Infant massage is a combination of stroking movements that provide massage to the baby’s muscles and positive behavioral reinforcers, including eye contact, vocalizations, facial expressions, and mutual interactions that enhance bonding between parent and child.  The techniques used are based on centuries old practices that have been used by parents in diverse cultures and times.   Parents learn the techniques through instruction provided by certified instructors and then use massage at home as part of a daily routine.   While Infant Massage is incorporated into therapy for children with special needs, it is an excellent tool for well babies and those at risk (ie: premature, immune compromised, etc) that all parents can learn

How important is touch for babies?

Child development research has long ago proven the importance of touch for health and wellness.  Psychologist Harry Harlow’s classic experiment with rhesus monkeys  was crucial in helping us understand just how important infant/mother contact was.  Later research has shown that touch is instrumental in influencing metabolic function, release of hormones and neurochemicals that are critical for growth and development.  Many experts agree on the importance of touch as related to parent/child bond, stimulation of cognitive, social and language development and how it influences growth.  For more information on research specifically related to infant massage, the Touch Research Institute provides a lengthy list.

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