Stress-Reducing Strategies for Families to Cope With During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As efforts continue to focus on reducing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many families continue to struggle with the challenges of being home for prolonged periods. The past year has created immense stress for caretakers and their children as many continue to mourn previously established routines related to work, school, exercise, leisure, and tradition. As this disruption continues to impact the mental health of many children, parents, and grandparents, there are strategies in which families can take to minimize the overall stress experienced at home and increase family cohesion. 

Preventive Strategies

  • Bring attention to others in your family when they do something positive. Acknowledging a child when they appropriately cope with a difficult situation can increase the likelihood that they will respond similarly in the future. The same goes for a partner or parent. Acknowledging when a partner sets aside their stressors to actively listen to your stressors validates their efforts, leading to increased relationship satisfaction.
  • Set aside quality time with family members. Quality time does not have to cost money. Dig up an old board game with the kids, cook a new meal with a partner or parent. These acts demonstrate to others that your stressors do not have to dictate your entire day.
  • Prioritize the basics; eat, sleep, and exercise. Establishing a routine of healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and consistent exercise will help you feel prepared to manage life’s stressors and help you feel your best. Maintaining these routines can influence others around you to do the same.

Managing Conflict and Unruly Behaviors

  • Validate a child’s feelings when they experience an unpleasant emotion that led to inappropriate behavior. This is different than validating the inappropriate behavior that followed the emotion. Speak to your child’s feelings instead of combatting any defensiveness or stonewalling. This will create space for deescalating conversations and solution-focused approaches to resolving any issue at hand. This communication skill can also be applied to partners and other family members.
  • Actively ignore inappropriate behaviors from your child that are minor and do not present an imminent danger to themselves or others. Active ignoring works because you are managing how you offer what children often want; attention. By actively ignoring minor inappropriate behaviors, you are communicating to your child that you will not give them your attention because of something inappropriate they are doing. Instead, bring your attention back to your child when they begin to deescalate or do something positive.

Check-in with Yourself

Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Self-care is a vital process that can positively affect the relationships you have with others and distance yourself from toxic relationships that cause more harm than good. 

At home, it may be more difficult to switch from “work mode” or “school mode” to “home mode” because the place you do your remote work or learning may be the same place you eat or sleep. Be mindful not to carry stress related to a coworker onto a family member or vice versa. 

A ten-minute meditation as soon as you wake up and/or before bed can help you set a positive intention for the upcoming day. 

A list of brief activities you can do that please you can also help. Whether you commit to reading one chapter of a book per night, listening to a brief podcast episode before bed, or slowly pick up a new hobby, think of the long-term gains of bringing this level of mindfulness to your life.

When to Reach Out for Professional Help

If you struggle to implement the strategies above, it would be worth speaking with a professional. Our clinicians at Family First would be happy to work with you and/or your family to support you during these difficult times. We can work remotely via telehealth and accept some insurance plans. Give us a call at 516-804-1010 or email us at hello@familyfirstli.org

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