I spent twelve years working at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, primarily in the childhood cancer clinic. That experience and the patients and families I was so fortunate to work with taught me many things. I saw first hand how children, parents and extended families can care for one another when life turns upside down in a moment’s notice through no fault of their own. I witnessed families have to deal with the worst medical outcomes possible and also grow together, even benefit, from the experience.
With that, I propose a couple quick tips for you to consider:
- Parents, take care of yourself during these times of stress and transition. This process will take many months. You can handle it, but you can really only take care of your children if you take care of yourself first.
- “Listen” to your children – both in their words and actions. Know that they have worries and concerns even more than anyone their age could fully express. Figure out ways you can all stay on the same page. Keep it brief, but frequent.
- When taking care of yourself, consider “Psychological First Aid.” In short, this could mean asking yourself: What do I need right now, today? Is it food, water, sleep? A call or FaceTime to family or friend? Start there. The basics matter for good physical and emotional health over time.
- This is temporary. I know, this could be a hard sell to yourself. Who would have thought two weeks ago that this might be lasting many months? While difficult, honestly grappling with yourself about how temporary this will be is essential. “Temporary” is the cure for hopelessness.
- Set a schedule. I wish I could give you one, but you need to devise one that fits your family and its needs. Start small, then tweak and add to it with its failures and successes. Even the smallest routines can help us feel more grounded and “normal” during these very “unnormal” times.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and focus on yourself and your family. Please check back as we will be posting similar content as this situation unfolds.
Matt Bitsko, Ph.D.
Founder and Director
Summit Emotional Health