If you are like our family, you are spending a lot more time at home together. (A LOT). As we try to adjust to the new abnormal, here are some things that might help you keep things feeling somewhat normal.
Take Time for You
As I was writing notes for this post, I put this one at the end of the list. I made sure to put this first though, because it’s the MOST important. All that- “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and “put your oxygen mask on first” –stuff. It’s true. You might need to get creative. Here are some suggestions:
- Go for a walk outside ALONE. ( I will walk back and forth in my backyard if the kids are with me and no one can watch them). You will be amazed what even ten minutes can do for your body and mind.
- Take an extra long shower.
- Take a bath- drop in some relaxing essential oils if you have them.
- Enlist the help of someone in your quarantine crew if you don’t have a spouse at home- sometimes all you need is thirty minutes to reset your entire mood.
If you can’t find time to yourself during the day, take an hour in the evening after the kids are in bed, or get up a bit earlier before they wake up. I am NOT a morning person (not even a tiny little bit)- however I set my alarm for 5:30 am to make sure I get at least an hour of me time every morning. I still groan when the alarm goes off- but the only thing worse than waking up early to me- is NOT getting alone time.
Don’t Match Their Energy (unless it’s good)
Because when you do (And trust me, I’ve been there) it’s a recipe for disaster. You can not help regulate a child when you are dysregulated. Anger (frustration, yelling, anxiety etc.) doesn’t fix anger. Here’s how I do this- First, take a deep breath before responding. Sometimes I take two while I clench my hands tight. I respond with calm words, even if I want to scream. “I can’t understand when you scream like that, can you tell me what you need?” I ignore behaviors I don’t want to show up on repeat, and I praise positive attempts of things I want to see more of.
I also try to give choices if choices are allowed- it looks like you are frustrated. Do you want to go outside, or go sit in your room? (Do you want the red cup, or the blue one?) Whatever might help your child feel more in control of the situation or moment.
I DON’T present something as a choice if it isn’t though. IE- Do you want to go inside now? (If you need to go in right now.) That one needs to be phrased as a non-negotiable- “In two minutes, we will go inside.”
Remember- Parenting is Hard For Everyone
Recently I was lamenting about how frustrated I was that my 11 year old son protested every single thing I said, no matter how I phrased it, no matter how many visuals or outside supports I used. It felt like EVERYTHING was met with a NOOOO. Getting dressed- NOOOO. Brushing teeth- NOOOOOO. Putting pajamas on- NOOOOOO. Eating lunch- NOOOOO. Friends with typical kids around the same age said- SAME SISTER. It was a good reminder to respect the neurodiversity – but also respect the age! Maybe what they are doing is because it’s a typical type of behavior for a child that age. (Like protesting all requests, not wanting to shower/brush teeth/not cleaning up after themselves etc.)
Keep a Routine
We all had routines when times weren’t chaotic and they are even more important now. Kids need structure- even if they protest it. Especially our kids. I suggest set wake up and go to bed times, set meal times, outside or move your body times, quiet times, learning times, and whatever you need to occur during your day.
One great item to put on your schedule is quiet time. This can be anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, based on your child’s ability. Set your child up with a quiet activity like drawing, reading, building a puzzle, or playing with Legos, and then set the timer. Make it clear that they are to play alone until the timer goes off.
Remember, this is a skill, and usually requires a structured environment, reinforcement, and all the prompts to start. When Parker was first working on this skill he sat for something like – 3 minutes (tops!) I think. And needed numerous prompts to just sit at the table- forget about staying on a task. However, this is a task worth working on, and one that will be highly functional for you and your child’s whole life. This is where we are at now, but not where we started by any means.
Also: Extra points for you if you add exercise to your routine. Exercise has been shown to increase endorphins, which helps you stay happy and boosts your immune system.
Set Aside Some Time Each Day to Connect With Other Humans
This is more important than ever. My problem is- the less I’m with other people- the less I feel like talking and interacting with other people. But that makes me feel lonely and overwhelmed and disconnected so I try and make it a priority.
Schedule a zoom call with friends. You can chat, have Happy Hour, vent, cry and laugh.
Have something to look forward to each week. Almost anything you could do in person- you can do on zoom. Book club, Bible Study, Exercise Class, Coffee date, Mental Health Therapy.
Make hand written notes, cards or drawings for people in your life. Neighbors, family, Teachers, Therapists. As an extra bonus- you will make their day too.
It’s hard to really feel like “We’re all in this together”, when you are in your house alone. But sometimes it helps to know there’s someone out there that gets it too.
Someone in Your Village,
Chrissy (Momma of two boys with autism).