April 2020 Counselor's Tips
Dear Hulstrom Families,
We know that this new remote learning experience, along with everything that is happening in our homes and communities, can be stressful and overwhelming at times. We want our Hulstrom students and parents to know that we are still here to meet the needs of our students, even though we are not physically at school. While we know online access and virtual support cannot replicate the services we provide while at school, we are ready to support students in this new way. We have already had the opportunity to “meet” with some students face-to-face, and can’t tell you how much we miss them all. We wanted to take an opportunity to share some tips for these times:
- Keep a Consistent Waking/Eating/Sleeping Routines - Now that your family has had a chance to see what it is like to work and learn from home you can really dig in to establishing new routines. These routines may look very different from your “normal” and that’s OK. Having a consistent waking time, meal times, and bed time are the first step in establishing consistent routines. Having routines and knowing what to expect helps our children (and us) feel safe and secure.
- Post a Schedule, But Remain Flexible - Once you have your wake/eat/sleep routine in hand, make a schedule that everyone can see. As a family, fill in the other things that need to happen during the week: when are grown-ups working, when will school work get done, when will chores happen, when is everyone free, when do we all get time to ourselves, etc. Decide what is important for your family and make it accessible to everyone. Again, these routines make us all feel safe and secure because we know what’s coming. However, don’t sweat it if something needs to move! Changes in plans and schedules are easier to take when we know why they are happening and sometimes our needs can change on a given day - that’s OK! Click here for some tips on creating a schedule from VeryWellFamily.
- Keep Hygiene a Habit - We have all seen the memes of changing from our daytime pajamas into our night time pajamas and, while this is funny, it can lead to days that run together, a lack of purpose, and general feelings of malaise and even depressive symptoms. As part of our daily routines and schedules, we should still plan on getting dressed, practicing good personal hygiene (showers, teeth brushing, etc.), and keeping our living spaces clean, too. Being dressed and ready for the day puts us all in the right frame of mind to tackle the tasks before us. You can keep things fun by having pajama days, dress-up days, and “normal” days.
- Focus on Fresh Air and Movement - Getting outside and moving our bodies can have an almost instantaneous effect on elevating our mood. The biggest mood elevations happen if we are able to get outside and/or moving for 30-60 minutes; but, once in the morning isn’t enough. The effects of fresh air and movement only last a few hours after we come back inside and sit down again. It is also a good idea to take short movement breaks every hour or so - get unplugged, and get outside if possible, in addition to taking at least one longer movement break. These breaks do not have to be a cardio workout! A stroll through the neighborhood with your dog or playing in the yard is enough to get you and your kids moving and boost everyone’s mood.
- Balance Togetherness and Personal Space - We know that we love our families and this is a time when we are spending much more time together than we usually do; there are positives and negatives to all this togetherness. We know that people, even small children, need time to themselves. Plan for this and recognize it. Is there a time of day when everyone needs their own space? Does everyone have somewhere they can go to get “away” when they are feeling overwhelmed? Do you need a code word or phrase to let eachother know that it’s time for a break? Plan fun and active things to do together, calm and reflective things to do together, and plan to be alone, too.
- Expect Conflicts and Give Grace - This is a stressful time for all of us, parents and kids. Often the reaction to that increased stress will be conflict with the people that are closest to us. We need to expect that this will happen - that we might get more irritated with each other, that we might lash out more than usual, that we might need to adjust to new attitudes from each other. Give yourself and your family the grace to work through these growing pains as well all try to find a new normal. Model grace, at home and when out and about, by slowing down, showing patience and kindness, and assuming positive intent from others. Let things go that maybe you would have pushed harder on in the past, take time to think about what’s really important for your family’s health and well-being, take time and space to take care of yourself and your mental wellbeing - do something that makes you calm and happy.
- Limit Media Exposure - We all have a desire to know what is going on “out there” but often news media can incessantly repeat negative stories and we can see negative headlines repeatedly on our social media newsfeeds. Too much news can contribute to feelings of stress and helplessness, for us and for our children. It is important to find a balance between being informed and being inundated - this is especially true for children. They may be playing or working on school work in the background, and you don’t think they are paying attention, but how many times have they come back later and known exactly what was going on? Limiting our own media exposure is good for ourselves and for our children. Find a quiet time, away from your kids, when you are able to keep yourself informed, then only share with kids what they need to know and what is age appropriate. Reassure kids about what is being done to help keep them and you all safe, healthy, and happy.
- Stay Connected and Reach Out For Support - No matter how many tips and tricks we try to follow, this is a new and challenging experience for us all. You may feel isolated and lonely, but your “village” is just a click away. Make virtual “dates” with your friends and distant family, help your kids connect virtually with their friends and loved ones that don’t live with you, encourage them to join in on their teachers’ live events, and reach out to school staff or community agencies whenever you need more support. One great resource is the Colorado Depression Center - they are offering weekly “Happy Hours” and Parent Support sessions with Mental Health Professionals through their website: click here ; you can attend live sessions or view their materials when they are posted. If you would like to reach a member of Hulstrom Mental Health Team, please use the links on the main Counseling page - even if you just want to say “hi” and see another human face that doesn’t live with you!
Our learning, connections, and supports will look very different over the next several weeks, and we will have to give each other the grace and space to make adjustments that help to keep us all safe, happy, and healthy. We look forward to continuing to support our Hulstrom families.