How to Beat the Winter Worries for the Whole Family

Family Life

Authors: Emma Fogel, MSW RSW, Carissa Simone, MD FAAP

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a source of stress and anxiety for people across the entire world.

One way we can contribute to a safer community is by social distancing and following the safety precautions that have been put in place by government officials and healthcare professionals.

However, with that comes lots of time being cooped up at home, and as our weather changes, a concern that we are all headed towards experiencing a season filled with winter blues.

We are coming together, as a pediatrician and pediatric social worker, to share some tips and strategies to redirect our worries so that the whole family can stay healthy this winter season, both physically and mentally!

The “FACE COVID” acronym is a great reminder of practical strategies we can use to respond to our emotions effectively.

F= Focus on what’s in your control
A= Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
C= Come back into your body
E= Engage in what you’re doing
C= Committed action
O= Opening Up
V= Values
I= Identify resources
D= Disinfect and distance

 

Let’s take a look at each tip one by one…

F = Focus on what’s in your control

Aside from social distancing, the future of the COVID-19 pandemic is largely out of our individual control. So why not focus your mind on things we can control like self-care. It is our goal that this article will give you the tools to do just that!

 

A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings

Sometimes the hardest part of tackling your worries and fears is acknowledging you are even having them.

It is a natural human response to try to conceal feelings that may be perceived as weak.

Take the time to think about how you are feeling.

Writing them down in a journal can be a helpful strategy, especially for older children and adolescents.

 

Encourage your child to keep a gratitude journal to promote positivity and self-confidence. Have them reflect on:

  1. Something they were grateful for that day
  2. Something they were proud of for that day
  3. Something that is in their control
  4. Something that they will let go of tomorrow

 

Here are some of our favorite journals:

 

C = Come back into your body

Tune in to your body and what it is telling you about your health.

Are you overly tired?

Are your muscles tense?

This is where exercise, meditation, and mindfulness can be useful.

Physical activity has both physical and psychological benefits.

Daily exercise can help people of all ages cope with stress by improving concentration, sleep, and energy level. You can still enjoy outdoor activities like ice-skating and sledding.

Be sure to dress your child in several layers to help keep them warm and dry and don’t forget a hat, boots, and gloves, or mittens!

There are lots of ways to exercise indoors as well.

 

For Children:

 

For Teens/Adults:

  • Spring Moves – an adolescent based exercise that is accompanied by playlists curated by DJs.
  • Melissa Wood Health – quick & easy, body-weight Pilates-informed videos that incorporate mindfulness exercises for physical, cognitive, and emotional health
  • The Sculpt Society – high energy, dance cardio workout videos to put the fun back into exercise.
  • Map My Walk – UnderArmour free app elapsed time that promotes goals by distance, pace, speed, elevation, etc. Your speed is determined by GPS.

 

E = Engage in what you’re doing

Sticking to a schedule with time set aside for work duties can help you be more present with your children during family activities.

Choose activities that can engage the whole family. Have the same designated screen time for both parents and children by creating a family media plan.

Some screen time activities can be done together like a virtual tour of the world, both education, and fun!

Try your best to put away all tech projects when doing activities that are screen-free like baking and arts & crafts.

Create a family media plan here!

 

Make an international passport with your kids and visit various virtual destinations together:

 

Arts & crafts activities:

 

C = Committed action

After reflecting on what needs your family may have, commit to what you will work to improve and set goals as a family.

For example, sleep deprivation affects many families and can weaken the body’s immune system, making you more vulnerable to contracting a virus.

 

Help the whole family get a better night’s sleep by:

  • Making dinner time earlier and limit late-night snacking before bed
  • Implementing a family wind-down routine and age-appropriate bedtimes
  • Turning off all screens at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime
  • Ensuring each family member has a sleep-friendly environment that is comforting
  • Talking about the importance of sleep as a family

 

O = Opening up

Connect with family and friends who are also home with their families staying warm and safe either via phone or video chat.

Share the feelings that you are having because chances are, you are not alone in feeling stressed or anxious during this time.

Talking about fears and worries with your children is important too.

 

Here are some psychoeducational books that you can read with your children to help facilitate conversation about anxiety:

 

V = Values

Let your family’s core values guide the activities you choose and the ways you communicate your feelings with one another.

Consider writing a family motto or mission statement that you can refer to on days where it seems difficult to keep everyone on the same page.

 

Examples of some common family values include:

  • Always try your best: Dedicate adequate time and effort toward school for children and work responsibilities for adults.
  • Be open-minded to new things: Try different activities while isolated home together that you haven’t tried before like a new recipe, new board game, or even try to learn a new instrument!
  • Treat everyone with respect: When a family conflict arises, give everyone a chance to share their opinion and come to a conclusion that is most fair for everyone. A helpful analogy can be to view the family unit (those living in the home together) as a team; the success of the team as a whole depends on communication, cooperation, and mutual respect. Parents can serve as the referees to facilitate fair gameplay!
  • Love one another: Show that you care for one another whether a family member succeeds or fails at a task. Demonstrate compassion to members of the community who are in need. Increased time at home may even be a great time to get a family pet that children can learn to love and care for as well!

 

I = Identify resources

Resources can come in many different shapes and forms including family, friends, healthcare professionals, psychological services, internet websites, podcasts, and books. Find out where you can get support and advice when you need it. Here are some recommended resources for parents:

 

Recommended literature:

 

Recommended Podcasts:

  • Ask Lisa: The Psychology of Parenting with Lisa Damour
  • Raising Good Humans with Dr. Aliza Pressman
  • Connected Parenting with Jennifer Kolari
  • Mindfulness Meditation Podcast
  • Unlocking Us with Brene Brown

 

D = Disinfect and distance

Lastly, as we are hearing, again and again, it is important to wash hands regularly, wear masks when out in public, and maintain social distancing to the best of our abilities. Have faith that we will eventually see improvement if everyone as a community can adhere to these safety measures. We hope this article helps your family build resilience throughout this winter season while snuggled up at home!

 

About the Authors:

Emma Fogel is a pediatric social worker in private practice in Toronto. She graduated with a Masters of Social Work from the University of Toronto.  She is a certified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with additional certifications in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and pediatric grief.  Emma believes that counselling can be an enormously helpful intervention and a powerful connector within families that can lead to happier, healthier kids and parents. Emma can be reached at www.emmafogeltherapy.com.

Dr. Carissa Simone is a general pediatrician currently practicing at Kidcrew Medical in Toronto, Ontario. She is originally from Tampa, FL, completed medical school at St. George’s University and her pediatric residency at the University of South Florida. Her interests include caring for children with complex medical needs and being the best advocate for her patients she can be!

 

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