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    How to Balance Self Care with Child Care

    Heather Phelps LCSW 03/27/2020
    After a difficult day at work, or home, or working from home, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a family depending on you. Below is a list of things you can do during this uncertain time to help connect to your child and still meet your own needs.
    When You’re Exhausted
    Do things that don’t require a lot of energy but continue to make your children feel important.
    • Snuggle on the couch and watch a movie/their favorite cartoon.
    • Take silly pictures using filters on your cell phone.
    • Give them blankets and other “supplies” to build a fort that you can lay in together. 
    • Instead of the normal bedtime routine, ask them to make up a bedtime story or read to you. If they can’t read, they can still make up a story using the pictures in a book.
    • Have them play with your hair or put makeup on you - kids love this. It takes minimal effort on your part. Make sure you take pictures when they are done.
    Feeling Down or Depressed
    Feelings of sadness and fear often present as irritability. Often, our loved ones unintentionally become the target. Be cautious of how you react. If you need a break from family life, take a 5-minute time-out for yourself. Remind yourself it’s not selfish, it’s responsible.
    • Do deep breathing exercises together.
      • Practice 4-7-8 breathing; inhale to 4, hold for 7, exhale to 8. Change the length to meet your needs.
    • Color pictures together. Suggestion: Create a mash up of two animals and see if they can guess which two animals you drew. Example: Draw an elephant crossed with a zebra to make a zelephant. For extra silliness create a name for the new animal and guess what sound it would make.
    • Look through photo albums or go through all of the pictures on your cell phone. You can also make a folder on your phone of favorite pictures and look at them when you are having a difficult time.
    • Ask them to teach you everything they know about _____; Pokémon, animals they know, dinosaurs, anything they get excited about. They will be happy to teach you and will feel important when you ask questions.
    • FaceTime, Zoom or video message someone you both care about.
      •  Tip: Be prepared and look up silly jokes to tell them.
    Feeling Anxious
    When feeling anxious, it’s common to have difficulty staying in the moment – especially if you’re experiencing racing thoughts. If this is happening, it’s even more important to practice mindfulness. Make yourself engage as much as possible with your family to help keep your attention.  
    • Interview your child and write down the answers. Ex. What’s your favorite movie? What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your favorite food?
      • Tip: See if they can guess your answer, too.
    • Practice yoga together.
      • Tip: A Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventure on YouTube is free, and they have themes like Pokémon, Frozen, Star Wars, Minecraft, Trolls, Harry Potter and more!
    • Have an impromptu dance party! Play music, sing and dance together. This is a great way to get excess, anxious energy out. If it’s close to bedtime end with a slow song and dance.
    • Go outside! This is especially good if the kids have been stuck in the house all day. Color with chalk, play with bubbles, play with a dog, hit a baseball or go for a walk.
      • Tip: Create an outside scavenger hunt. Ex. Find 3 things that are yellow. Point out 5 birds. What are 2 things that are squishy? Does that cloud resemble something else?
    • Practice grounding methods with your child to distract away from negative thoughts or memories. Help them to get in touch with the present. Example: What are 5 things we can see, 4 things we can hear, 3 things we can feel, 2 things we can smell, and 1 thing we can taste?
    Need to get things accomplished?
    Distraction is the name of the game! Just make sure you keep an eye on your kids and commit to having quality time at the end of the night.
    • They need a bath but laundry needs to be folded? How about doing both at the same time? Instead of rushing the bath and creating more stress for you both, why not bring the laundry basket into the bathroom. You can fold while they are playing in the bath! If you want to kick it up a notch, add lavender oil or glow sticks to the bath at the end.
    • Give them your phone (in a protective case) and have them take pictures of important things to them. If you have more than one child tell them to create a movie or play that you can watch at the end of the night.
    • Put away a special toy that they enjoy and take it out during times when you’re busy. This makes the toy special and more time-consuming for the child. Have them play at the table while you work on whatever you need. Make sure you praise them for their concentration and focus.
    • Give them a task to help! It would really help me if you ____; Line up all of your stuffed animals, find all of the red blocks and make me a house with a garage, organize the movies in the order you want us to watch them.
    • Give them art supplies and have them make a card for____; the elderly, a family member or anyone else who would benefit from their art. Mail the art and alert family members to be on the lookout for it.
    Extra Tips During COVID-19
    • Start a list of things you are going to do for fun when everything calms down. Future thinking is a good coping skill when things are daunting. Ex. What kind of vacation can we take? What restaurant do you want to eat at first? Who outside of our house do you look forward to hugging most? What teacher/daycare workers are you looking most forward to seeing?
    • Don’t underestimate the importance of being goofy, the power of good snuggles or a long hug. Praying together and/or sharing your hopes and dreams for the following day are a fantastic way to bond at the end the night.
    • Don’t be hard on yourself! This is a difficult situation for everyone, but it won’t last forever. Things will eventually get back to normal. Your kids won’t care that they ate chicken nuggets almost every night of the week or that they had more screen time than ever before. What they will remember is that you made them feel safe during a time of uncertainty - that no matter what, they knew they were loved.
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