Tips for exceptional circumstances
We want to offer parents support in these exceptional conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We have created a materials package with tips on how staying at home could be a comfortable experience for everyone. We hope that these recommendations benefit you in the future as well.
1. Keep calm
Keep calm and remain serene. In a difficult situation, it is easy to panic and transfer your angst to other people. Also, being confined in the home can lead to stress and anxiety. Small children will not remember what caused the exceptional situation, but they’ll remember the atmosphere at home and their worrying parents.
Do as the authorities advise and explain their message to your children in an age-appropriate manner. Set an example of following the orders. Tell your children the situation is severe, but also make sure that the children feel safe from your explanation. Support your children’s feelings of safety by sharing with them that people have passed through bad times before.
- How could you spend your time together at home? Could you take on activities you never had time to do before? When you have nice activities at hand, there is less time to feel irritated.
- An adult is the best pacifier of a child’s stress. How can you calm your own mind and regulate your emotions? What makes you happy and relaxed?
- Accept the fluctuations of your own moods but don’t blame the child of your own tiredness or frustrations. Explore the ways your family can take a time-out if going gets tough at home.
2. Teach daily routines
When the normal pattern of daily life dissolves, it’s vital to create a structure for children to follow. If children cannot go to school, creating new routines at home is a priority. This makes learning and feeling comfortable together easier. Stabilizing the daily schedule reduces the inner chaos in a child’s mind. If the child lives in two homes, finding common rules in both of them is significant.
- Agree on when to do schoolwork and when the parent has an “office open”. You can have breaks at pre-scheduled times and share experiences on “How the business meetings have been running”.
- Build a daily plan where you mark the important tasks and the free time.
- Be flexible.
- Negotiating the screen time grows in importance. The adult sets an example here, too.
- If you have preschool-aged children at home, agree with the other adults on the shifts in supervising them or ask for help in babysitting. Otherwise, your remote working will hardly be smooth. If you are alone with your child, focus on the child.
3. Go back to basics
Countless small chores make a normal day. Now you may have a chance to work together on them. Share cooking breakfast with your child and show them how to fill up a dishwashing machine. Join forces on the tasks you normally don’t have time to do. Show your children how to make a bed, how to sort the waste and how to hang up the laundry. Surprisingly many people don’t know how to accomplish these tasks.
- Show you child how to sew on a button.
- Teach them how to make a polite phone call to a stranger.
- Give your child age-appropriate responsibilities that benefit all family members. They can water the plants or put the cushions in their place.
- An adolescent may shop for her grandparents.
4. Find your strengths
In every family, there are a lot of capabilities. Every family is unique and has strengths in a range of fields. Think together about what they are. What additional things could you share together? What would you like to do more together? What has brought you joy? How could you see the best in each other and avoid unnecessary arguing?
- Could the time be right to look at old photos, read aloud, sew or do woodwork, play, sing or tell jokes together?
- You could teach a new trick to your dog or paint the most beautiful decorative egg.
- You could find time to sit down to discuss topics with your family or find the time to be alone to relax and ponder.
5. Be compassionate
People are naturally compassionate and willing to help. Children want to do their share. It is the task of the parent to give examples of how to support each other. As we need to isolate, an emphasis on well-being should be examined. Now it is time to call others and virtually connect. Perhaps we currently have more time to listen to others and show kindness in issues unrelated to the time of crisis, as well? Concrete help is needed, too. Do you have capabilities you could share with others online, for example? Could you be a child’s remote teacher or a sports supervisor? Could you build a group chat that organizes meals for its members?
- Assist a senior citizen in using a video chat function on their device.
- Cheer up a person by sending them a traditional letter.
- Be available when needed.
- Ask for help for yourself, too. Even now, you don’t have to accomplish everything. Give those who seem to be in need of assistance also a chance to help. Finding meaning in life comes from noticing that you are needed. For example, ask your grandfather how to vent the heater.
- Show self-compassion towards yourself. Allow your home to be messier than usual due to it being in use all day long.
6. Build hope
A time of crisis may cause severe disappointments: the long-awaited trips, gatherings, parties, tournaments and even common get-togethers with friends may be cancelled. Thorough preparations may seem to have been in vain, and the rewards for working hard are not obtained. Parents’ optimism and encouragement to continue pushing forward can make all the difference. We can do this together! Perhaps we can take advantage of the waiting period and the quarantine times. Perhaps we will feel thankful for this particular time.
- Help your child imagine how will it feel when they go to school and see their friends and life is back to normal again.
- Think about how you can maintain your hopefulness and grit in the middle of the disastrous daily news.
- Tell your child that throughout history, there have been threats and dangers that we can do nothing about. We’re coping together now as well.
7. Get creative
During exceptional times, our ability to find new ways to manage daily life appear. Now it’s time to use our imagination. How do we perform sports routines at home? How can we bake if there is no yeast in the grocery store? How can we support our local cafeteria if we are not allowed to go there? Children’s imagination has no limits, take them along to find new ideas. On the other hand, children may be surprisingly cautious. Take your time to explain why many things are different now and why we all need to be mindful of the ways we act.
- Build a hut on the floor in your living room if you cannot drive to the countryside.
- Not all families are able to teach their children at home. Ask older siblings, grandparents or the parents of your child’s friends to help. Many people are more than happy to do it.
8. Reinforce positivity
A positive attitude toward life is needed now more than ever. We have to actively focus on the thoughts that bring us comfort and happiness. We have time to get close to our loved ones. In many ways, we now have the chance to do activities we always wanted to. Now there is an opportunity for family dinners and cosy lazy time together. Even though we cannot visit all our friends, we can contact them in many ways in order to feel close to them. During the crisis, some of us may realise what really matters in life.
- Make someone happy by complimenting them or giving positive feedback.
- Pay attention to encouraging communication. Talk about other topics besides the crisis.
- There is room for being funny, even if the situation is severe.
- Small children should not worry too much.
9. See the good in a child
Every child deserves to succeed. A child’s interactions have now changed dramatically since their schools and hobbies have largely closed their doors. It’s important that parents support children through this challenging time. The chances of a family to respond to the needs of their children and adolescents varies a lot. Nevertheless, every parent can encourage and give positive feedback when something good occurs. The events may be small and may feel insignificant. However, they shape the emotional atmosphere and help us cope through these tough circumstances. Grit is needed now, and plenty of encouragement to fuel it.
- Give positive feedback when you see something nice happen.
- Encourage other children in addition to your own.
- Talk nicely about people behind their backs and spread the good word.
- Ignore small mistakes.
- Listen to those facing hard times sensitively. In the worst moments, there are often no words.
10. Look for help
In exceptional, quickly changing circumstances, many families lack the ability to adapt. Uncertainty concerning the future is a serious threat to one’s well-being. This may show in a child’s increased feelings of insecurity due to long lonely hours and the alterations in their parents’ behaviour. The families that were already burdened have been hit harder than others. Neglect, substance abuse and an increased threat of violence are a reality in many homes. Children and adolescents spending too much time alone can be at a developmental risk and a real cause for concern.
- Call a friend who may need your help.
- Offer your assistance in becoming a supportive adult or a remote supervisor for a child who spends a lot of time alone.
- Don’t wait; look for help if the circumstances in your home get threatening.
See e.g. ensijaturvakotienliitto.fi/tietoa-liitosta/nain-me-autamme/apua-verkossa/