Tips for Parents with Teens Sheltering in Place

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My daughter’s senior prom night a few years ago when things were normal.

I’ve been thinking about how graduating seniors are feeling — stuck at home with mom and dad. Normally, teens are seeking independence from their parents and are ready to fly from the nest — which usually means college. But with COVID-19, some universities aren’t opening in the fall or they are offering classes online only. There may be no end in sight for these teens that they will ever leave the nest. Top that off with missing milestones like graduation and prom, and I wonder how the kids are surviving? They have been away from their peers for a couple months already. I remember how important friends were to me at this age — friends were my world.

In the Los Angeles Times, I read an article called Teens are feeling lonely and anxious in isolation. Here’s how parents can help by Lisa Boone. It offered advice from several mental health experts with tips of how parents can make their kids feel less anxiety during these crazy days of shelter in place. I suggest you read the entire article here.

When my son was a senior in high school, we really had a rough year. He was desperately wanting to be an adult, live his own life, and I was hanging on to motherhood and wanting him to be the child I had loved and known for 18 years. Of course we clashed. I can’t imagine what that year would have been like for us to be stuck at home with each other day and night!

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My son at the podium giving his graduation speech.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As tens of millions of us continue to shelter in place, the most tractable of teens are feeling frustrated and anxious. They miss their former lives. They are uninterested in online classes and don’t want to follow quarantine guidelines anymore. And who can blame them?

Living in seclusion can produce quarantine fatigue, according to South Pasadena-based psychotherapist Noelle Wittliff, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with children, families and adolescents. “Many of the teens at my practice are hitting a wall,” Wittliff said. “They are over it. They want to go outside and connect with their friends. The online connection is just not cutting it.”

Normally adolescence, a developmental period marked by impulsivity and feelings of invincibility, is a time in which teenagers separate from their parents and bond with their peers. Now that families are confined at home, parents are in a peculiar position in which they have to balance the seriousness of the novel coronavirus with their teen’s desire for social interaction.

“Many of our teens are experiencing tremendous loss, and grief is an appropriate response to loss,” Wittliff said. “Depending on the age and school year of the teen, these losses can include proms, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year sports events, dances, parties, school activities, yearbook signings and simple proximity to beloved friends, teachers or significant others. The school shutdowns happened so abruptly that many of the teens that I work with did not have the opportunity to gather belongings from their lockers or classrooms, let alone say meaningful goodbyes to teachers and classmates.

“As parents, it’s important to hold space for all of these feelings and to recognize that teens don’t always communicate sadness in expected ways,” she said. “Sadness is often masked by frustration, irritability, anger or disconnection. These are protective reactions that mask vulnerability. The goal isn’t to take these defense strategies away but rather to be curious about what other feelings might be hiding underneath.”

For teens struggling with maintaining distance from their friends, Wittliff encourages parents to validate those feelings with empathy while reminding them this quarantine is temporary. Also, as a parent or guardian, manage your teenager’s expectations and don’t make promises that won’t come true.

Wittliff offers this advice: “Tell them, ‘I hear you and I know how hard this is. I know how much you miss your boyfriend or girlfriend and your friends but this is what is going on. The entire world is going through this. We are all taking precautions to stay safe.’”

Among the advice offered by experts in this article is to establish a routine — that you let your teen help develop. Try to have a fun activity every day plus get exercise outside. There’s many more tips in the article that are so helpful like practicing mindfulness, cooking, drawing, etc.

Although my daughter has left her teen years behind, she came home to shelter in place and work remotely rather than being in a tiny apartment with two other people.  For the 60 plus days she’s been here, I’ve learned to give her space. I no longer walk into her room unannounced like I would have when she was a five-year-old. I let her come to me instead. Also, we’re enjoying an outdoor activity each day. She plays tennis with me a few mornings a week or we walk or play smashball in the backyard pool. She also rides bikes with her dad in the evening. More than that and she’d probably be sick of us

Structure and predictability will help with the passing of time and give teens something to look forward to. “Every day and week that they get through sheltering in place brings them that much closer to getting back to their lives,” Wittliff said. “This is hard, but our kids are resilient. And they will get through it.”

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My son’s senior prom. They had a catered dinner in our back yard before the dance.

How are you helping your kids with COVID-19 fears and isolation from friends?

 

Day 50: Shelter in Place

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Someone is sporting some fancy toenails! 

It’s a milestone day. I seriously thought this was only going to last for 40 days and 40 nights. That seemed reasonable and I thought if Noah could last that long confined to an ark with a bunch of smelly animals, then we could do the same in our home, with one cat and a pug.

But here we are on day 50 and there’s really no end in sight. Except they may open the tennis and pickle ball courts. But I don’t play those sports. No word about the city pool or when my team will be back in the water. I hear that retail is opening up for curbside pick up. But when you’re not going anywhere — what does anyone really need?

On the bright side, we’re saving a ton of money on gasoline, dry cleaning and nail and hair appointments.

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Views of Mt. San Jacinto from my neighborhood walk.

I’m walking 10,000 steps a day.  Other highlights are riding bikes, kicking in our backyard pool and playing the occasional game of smashball in the water. I’m also reading, writing and watching music documentaries. That’s my week in a nutshell. It’s not a bad life. It’s just weird to walk with a face mask and feel like I’m taking my life in danger every time I go to the grocery store or post office.

Some days I’m motivated and have lots of ideas and make lists of what I want to accomplish. Other days, not so much.

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I found a pirate hiding in the bushes!

Any idea of how many days this shelter in place will last? Are things opening up in your area? What are you busy doing during these strange days?

Morning Motivation: Get out and walk!

Two years ago, I wrote this about my morning walks post knee surgery. It was a long struggle to get back to normal. Now, I’m hobbling around the park and neighborhood — again. This time the injury isn’t as dramatic as a ski accident, but instead is me stubbing my toes against the tub and furniture, repeatedly! A little clumsiness has made my normal activities a challenge. Is that pathetic or what? I desperately need my walks during this “shelter in place” so I haven’t stopped. I’m slower and gritting my teeth the entire way, but I’m doing it. It’s fun to look back on when I was really struggling and the milestones I accomplished.

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto from the park this morning.

MAY 2018

Today I reached a milestone. I walked around the park. I appreciate my morning walks more than ever. After my surgery, for weeks I couldn’t walk to the bathroom, around the block, let alone to the park. Waking up early to the brilliant blue sky and the beauty of the desert makes me feel hopeful. Each day I’m trying to get a little further and build on what I’ve done the day before. This weekend, I walked 1.2 miles, then 1.3 miles. Today, the complete walk around the park made it 1.6 miles.

What’s even more fun is having my daughter and Waffles walk with me. I look forward to spending that slice of time with her. Waffles meets other doggos along our walks each day and we stop and let him play. I only have a few weeks left of my daughter at home and we’ll make the most of it.

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A morning walk this weekend in Las Palmas.

I used to walk much more, and twice a day. But, I am just so happy to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous views and feel the slightest bit physical. I wish I had more energy, but if I compare myself to where I was a month or two ago, I’m absolutely dripping with energy today. When I go to the pool, it is so exhausting to swim. That probably means it’s really good for me. I will try to add more days of swimming to my week, along with daily walks and physical therapy.

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Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

What is your favorite way to start your day?

Day 46: Shelter in Place

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Morning views.

Where has the time gone? The days melt into each other, literally with temperatures above 100 degrees. We’re getting up earlier and earlier so we can beat the heat for our morning walks and bike rides.

It’s hard to remember what day of the week it is. I’m trying to stick to a routine as I’ve practiced for years based on Julia Cameron and her books beginning with The Artists’s Way. I think it helps to have a routine in the best of times, and with the oddness of staying home it’s more important.

A couple months ago, I received a few emails from two swim moms asking me for advice because their teen sons were burned out on swimming and wanted to quit. They were both so sad that their sons wanted to give up when they were so close to finishing their age group/ high school careers and could go on to swim in college. As a swim parent it’s easy to go all in and make the pool the center of our family lives, too. It’s thrilling to watch our kids compete, we make friends with the other parents and coaches. Volunteering at meets and supporting the team in numerous other ways takes up hours of our time.

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Our home pool at sunset.

Then poof! Out of the blue, your child decides they’re done. But funny thing is, you’re not! Then the Coronavirus hit and all the teams are out of the water. There isn’t any practice to go to. I heard from one of the moms who wrote me earlier. Now that her son can’t go to practice — he wants to. He’s been given a taste of what it’s like to not have his teammates and coach in his daily life. He also doesn’t get to substitute the swim practice hours with anything else. Plus, our school age kids aren’t in school or with their friends.

I guess the lesson is, “Hey it’s not that bad!” The complaints we all had before this shut down seem petty and small compared to loss of life, loss of jobs, income and activities. Another reason to be grateful for what we do have and realize that our lives can change with our next breath.

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Me and my swim buddies with the Masters’ T-shirts we created.

What have you found you miss the most during the Coronavirus shut down? Is there something you weren’t thrilled about that you’d like to do, now that you can’t?

 

Day 40: Shelter in Place

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Robolights

Amazing that it’s been 40 days and the three of us are still speaking to each other. I will say the novelty of my husband working from home has worn off. Having my daughter home has been a rare treat — although I’m not sure she’d say the same.

We have to walk early in the morning because the sun gets too hot by 8 a.m. What is surprising is the number of people out and about has quadrupled this week. I think it’s because we’re all out at the same time to avoid the heat. Yesterday and today, I went for my daily walk to the park and just don’t want to be that close to other people. So, I’ve veered off to walk the streets of our neighborhood. I enjoy looking at the architecture and landscaping. One house is famous for its Christmas display called Robolights. The artist, Kenny Irwin, has worked on this place for more than 30 years and it’s quite fascinating even without its hundreds of thousands — or millions — lights that glow during Christmastime. Here’s a story about the future of Robolights which may move out of the city due to unhappy neighbors and zoning regulations.

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Robolights statues.

Something fun we’ve been enjoyed is playing smash ball in the pool. It’s a game we played at the beach for years. We end up laughing and smiling and staying cool while it’s more than 100 degrees outside. We’ve played so much that I can barely raise my arm.

Major accomplishments that my daughter and I have done are cleaning out the food cupboards and the laundry room plus making homemade tamales. I’m almost done with another goal — cleaning out and reorganizing all our files. That’s something I’ve dreaded doing but have needed to do since we remodeled the guest room a few years ago and everything got thrown into boxes. A few more weeks of this shelter in place and my home may be more organized than it ever was before.

Life seems scary at times, but we are all in this together. I love my family and friends and I don’t know if we’ll have a new normal or not. But, we will continue on.

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Frank Sinatra Estate

What are your favorite things to pass the time during shelter in place?

 

Thoughts about working from home and raising kids

I wrote this long before the world was in a pandemic. People dropped their kids off at school and went to their jobs in person. Today, that’s all different. Most of us are working from home and our kids are not in school — while we shelter in place. That makes this story about how to juggle parenting and working from home valuable today

katrob 3When I started my Public Relations business, it was June. By July, I discovered I was pregnant. I did pretty good balancing work and life until my firstborn became mobile. Once he was crawling and spitting up on my keyboard, work became more challenging.

I saw an article in the Citizen Times, a USA network paper in North Carolina, called “Making it all work: Balancing parenting and working from home” by Marla Hardee Milling. She interviewed several families and asked how they worked from home with kids. I enjoyed reading their stories, because I had plenty of my own!

If you are a parent, working from home can rank as a blessing and a curse.

First up — the pros: creating a business at home allows you a flexible schedule. You don’t have to worry about a commute. You don’t have to keep a well-stocked wardrobe for daily appearances at an office (this means you can work in pajamas if you want to), and you may well find that you are more productive when you are working for yourself. 

But there are pitfalls. 

Interruptions can be aggravating. Neighbors and friends may think they can call at any moment because you’re at home. Kids often have the uncanny ability to need something right in the middle of a business call. And you may be surrounded by nagging reminders of things that need to be done at home — the stacked dishes, the pile of laundry, the accumulating clutter. 

So how do you strike a balance between being efficient running a home business and keeping your sanity? 

Juggling life and work

Stephanie Carol of Asheville works part-time from home, writing a sewing blog and a travel blog.

“I juggle work at home life with family life imperfectly,” she admits. “My biggest challenge is that I would prefer to work in long stretches of time, but with kids, it’s more like bits and pieces. The two solutions I’ve come up with or used in the past include one, swapping child care with friends so we each get a full or half day to ourselves while the other watches all of our kids, and two: trying to break down my tasks into small chunks so I can dive right back in and out of my list and stay organized.” 

It can be even more complicated when both parents telecommute from home. That’s the current lifestyle for Amy and John Saunders who live in Waynesville with their 3-year-old son. Amy’s parents own a highway construction company — A&P Services LLC in Brevard  and she serves as the vice president of operations. John is a software architect who works for a company in Chicago. 

John’s job is structured in a way that he is required to be at his computer from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. But his home office doesn’t have a door, so Amy has to be creative about keeping their son quiet.

“We leave every morning around 9 or 9:30 and then come home for lunch,” she explained. In the afternoon, she fits in work as she can while her son has some quiet playtime. Once her husband is off work, they have a family dinner at 6, go through the bedtime routine and then Amy can hammer out details of her job that she couldn’t get to during the day.  

“As the VP of operations, I do all the scheduling, billing, general project management — I handle everything except estimating and HR stuff,” she said. “As long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter when it gets done.” 

When I worked from home I had two major problems: how to turn off work and how to get clients to understand that I couldn’t run over for a meeting at the drop of a hat. It was all about boundaries. I had clients who didn’t respect the hours I tried to set and would give me a project at 5 or 6 p.m. and expect it the next morning, because “I worked from home.” When I was pregnant, I could make it to any meeting at any time. Once I had a child, it was a different story. I tried babysitters and nannies and would make set hours when I was available for meetings and appointments. Invariably, I worked on projects at home while the babysitter was there. As soon as she left, I’d get a call from a client to come over immediately.

Here’s how other families deal with childcare:

What can I put off?

Without close neighbors to rely on for babysitting, Amy and John care for their son almost 24/7 except for rare moments when the grandparents can step in. It’s a challenging schedule and can be stressful, but she says, “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

What she is trying to change is her mindset that every work detail needs to be handled immediately. “If I get an email, I feel like I have to take care of it right away,” she said. “I’m learning that if I put something off until tomorrow, it’s probably going to be fine. Some things are time sensitive, but the majority of my job is not. I’m trying to find a balance.” 

Altamont Inspections is the business of Eddie and Angela Roberts, of Hendersonville. While Eddie is out making the inspections, Angela works from her home office to carry out all the details of running the business: scheduling, billing, troubleshooting, and setting priorities.

“I have a designated office space, so office work stays in the office,” Angela said. “I have set times to devote to work and I make a checklist each morning of the most important things to do.”

Having that list is crucial since they have two very active daughters — teens Anna and Emma — who are involved in band, gymnastics and other activities. “I always put family first,” she said. “If someone wants an inspection time that conflicts with my daughter’s band concert, I’ll offer them another day or time.”

She’s found it easier to keep separate email addresses and phone numbers for work and personal use, and she checks social media during her personal time. Angela also has learned to say “no” when she runs out of time.

“The PTO can find someone else to help with the dance decorations this time, but I’m happy to bring pre-packaged snacks,” she said as an example.  

Outside help

Her daughters are older now and more self-sufficient, but she also realizes the value of getting outside help to keep her household and business running smoothly.

“I hire help like a bi-weekly housekeeper, a lawn maintenance crew, and a caregiver to pick up the kids from school and help them with homework a couple of days a week,” she said. “I will also order groceries online and pick them up or have them delivered through Mother Earth Foods. A family dinner doesn’t have to be home cooked every night. I like to support local restaurants and order to-go or make a list of grocery stores that have weekly specials, like The Fresh Market changes their $20 ‘Little Big Meals’ that feed four each Tuesday and some Ingle’s delis have Friday steak nights.” 

With planning, dedication, and creative strategies, working from home can be a fruitful endeavor. And just think about all that traffic you don’t have to sit in day after day.

The final straw in my working from home was after I hired a full-time nanny. I watched as she raised my child. They splashed in the pool and walked to the park to play. Meanwhile, I sat at my desk jealous beyond belief. I quit the PR business and changed my work. Instead or writing press releases and newsletters, I began writing for magazines, newspapers and drafting novels and children’s stories. I squeezed my work in between raising my kids. I made way less money, but I have no regrets.

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Now there’s just me and the cat while I work from home.

Have you tried working from home? How do you juggle the parenting responsibilities with your job?

Stuck at home: Are the kids bored?

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Walking around the neighborhood.

I’m on day 29 of sheltering in place. I think about parents who used to drop their kids off to school and go to their offices. Now they’re home — with their kids — trying to teach and do their jobs. How do they do it all? I fortunately am not in that situation. I have myself to keep going and I don’t have kids at home who are bored or need to be taught.

I ran into an interesting article on this subject written by psychologist John Rosemond called LIVING WITH CHILDREN: Bored kids at home? Stop parenting. You can read the entire article in the Gazette-Virginian by clicking here.

Here are a few excerpts:

One website is titled “How to Cope with Kids During Coronavirus.”

Another, featuring a staged photo of an obviously frazzled mom with a toddler on her lap, tells the reader that “Parents are losing their minds having kids at home during coronavirus!”

There’s yet another, advising on “How to Keep Kids Entertained During the Crisis.”

On and on it goes, website after website counseling parents on how to deal with being confined at home with one’s kids.

The early 21st century may be remembered as the “Age of the Personal Soap Opera.” A person makes a soap opera out of a life situation, claims victimhood, garners sympathy, manufactures more soap opera, garners more sympathy, and so on. Soap opera begets soap opera. Forty-plus years of counseling experience has taught me that once a person becomes caught in the soap opera loop, it is harder than hard to get out.

For thousands of years, it was normal for children to be at home. It never occurred to parents that they might need “support” or advice to deal with that circumstance. Everyone was in the same sturdy boat. Furthermore, the boat had two paddles and was helmed by one or two adults who obviously knew how and in what direction to row. No one went running pell-mell down the road screaming that their kids had pushed them over the edge.

Rosemond explains in his article that the concept of “parenting” is new. Parenting is putting our children in the center of our lives. We live to make things easier for them. We want them to be happy and not struggle. It’s not that our parents didn’t care, they understood viewed their role as a parent differently. They new life was never perfect and at times hard. They understood that their number one job was to get us out of the nest and to be able to fly on our own.

Here’s a bit more of the article that I seriously can relate to, since my mom was the queen of chore lists:

Growing up, I was blessedly deprived of a mother who “parented.” My non-parenting mother, who was a single parent during most of my first seven years, did not put me at the center of her attention and hardly felt it was her job to keep me occupied. That responsibility fell squarely on my little shoulders.

“Bored, eh? If you can’t find something to do, I’ll find something for you to do.”

And just like that, I found something to do, knowing that Mom’s solution would not be at all to my liking, as in “You’re going to wash the kitchen floor and if you’re still bored, I have plenty of other things with which to un-bore you.”

Chores were a part of my daily life as a kid as well.  But I wasn’t given a choice of entertaining myself or doing chores. Chores came first, then we got to play. Also, my mom had a secret weapon. A timer. We practiced piano to the timer. We weeded to the timer. We vacuumed to the timer. And then she had the nerve to tell us that we had it so much easier than she did as a kid. I’m sure she’s right. We had all those new-fangled inventions like washing machines, dryers and refrigerators. She grew up in the day of ice boxes where an ice truck delivered chunks of ice to keep the food cold and wringer washers.

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A wringer washer

For parents who are home with their children, it’s a perfect opportunity to instill some chores into their daily routines. I do believe a routine is helpful to get through the days that seem to run together.

What type of chores are you having your kids do while you’re sheltering in place? What games, books or other activities are they doing to keep from getting bored?

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Who can be bored with this nugget around?

Learn more about family psychologist John Rosemond at johnrosemond.comparentguru.com.