Caring for Yourself and Your Family During COVID-19

— Written By Christa Gibson
en Español / em Português

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We know that everyone is telling you to take care of yourself during these COVID-19 days. And we are sure that you are doing a great job! But we all have good days and bad days – and honestly sometimes we don’t even know we’re having a bad day until its over. With that in mind, we thought it was time to remind you of a few basic tips to make sure that you and your kiddos are maintaining your physical and emotional health. If you just need immediate support, scroll to the bottom for Contact Information for Immediate Mental Health Support where we’ve included contact info for mental health providers who are ready and willing to help you right now. 

Taking Care of Your Child’s Physical Health

Staying physically active is important for all of us- kids and adults alike. Similarly, PLAY is important for us all too, and research shows that it is especially important for children, helping them develop skills like emotional intelligence, creativity, and problem-solving. 

You may think it is impossible to social distance and enjoy the great outdoors, but several experts have shared tips on this. While play dates are a no-no these days, a Washington Post article shares that outdoor activities where there isn’t shared equipment or contact like bike riding, going for walks or runs are okay. Playground equipment should be avoided. When kids go out, be very clear with them about social distance maintenance, remind them to wash their hands and avoid touching their faces- just like we are all doing.

On the subject of hand washing- we’ve all heard it’s so important to keeping healthy. But do kids really know how to wash their hands effectively? This site has some great ideas of home learning activities all focused on teaching kids about clean hands!

Taking Care of Your Child’s Emotional & Mental Health

Experts, like our NC State Extension Colleague Kim Allen (great blog posthave shared many tips for helping children cope with stress and anxiety. These include:

  • Maintain daily routines and try to keep kids occupied. This doesn’t mean you need to plan elaborate schedules for each and every minute of the day. Try to plan a positive activity or two each day that you and your child can do together. Think cooking, starting a garden, painting a room- things that need to be done anyway but that that can be learning and bond-building times for you and your child. 
  • Help kids practice mindfulness and meditation. We found these free mindfulness classes for kids online on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 1 p.m.
  • Validate your child’s feelings. Be careful not to dismiss or ridicule your child’s feelings. Let your child know that it is common to feel anxious during such times. 
  • For teens who are dealing with anxiety, the New York Times offers several tips here. These include encouraging distraction, encouraging teens to help others rather than focusing on themselves, and helping teens normalize the anxiety they are feeling. 

Taking Care of Your Own Emotional & Mental Health

We really should have started with this- because making sure that the caretaker is healthy and safe is key to ensuring that the entire family thrives. A few suggestions for managing stress and anxiety include: 

  • Limit the amount of media you are consuming. Listening to news about COVID-19 constantly can be very stress inducing. Many experts are suggesting that folks listen to pandemic related news just once a day to maintain better equilibrium. 
  • As we mentioned above, physical activity is important for us adults too. We’re seeing more and more online exercise offerings such as yoga. Other great exercise videos are online at our local YMCA page. This article from the Chicago Tribune has further ideas for stay at home exercise programs.
  • Care for your body in other ways too. Get enough rest and take time for restorative activities such as meditation, reading, outdoor activities, and prayer.
  • Stay connected to social supports. Talk to people you trust about your worries and how you are feeling.

Mental Health Resources

  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has nice tips for taking care of yourself when you are taking care of others.
  • If you are looking for a more academic way to improve your mental health, Yale University is offering their very popular course ‘The Science of Wellbeing’, nicknamed ‘the happiness course’ for free through Coursera.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also has a great resource page that answers frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and mental health, such as ‘I’m having a lot of anxiety because of the coronavirus. Please help.’  

Contact Information for Immediate Mental Health Support

If you realize that you or your child need extra support, seeking help from a mental health provider is the right step to take- even from a distance.

NAMI offers telephone mental health support Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., EST at (800) 950-6264. NAMI text support is available by texting 919.999.6527 during normal business hours (M-F 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.). Should you need help outside of business hours, please text NAMI to 741-741 which has a crisis counselor available 24/7.

The Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7/365 crisis counseling and support for anyone in the U.S. experiencing distress or other behavioral health concerns related to any natural or human-caused disaster, including public health emergencies. Calls to 1-800-985-5990 and texts of “TalkWithUs” to 66746 are answered by a network of independently-operated crisis centers around the US, who provide psychological first aid, emotional support, crisis assessment and intervention, and referrals to local/state behavioral health services for follow-up care & support.