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Supporting those around you and caring for yourself

The COVID pandemic is a stressful time and is effecting people across the world. It can be confusing and hard to see someone you care about not acting like themselves. Taking on the additional task of helping a family member who is having a difficult time requires practical and emotional help. It is also important to ensure that your physical and mental wellbeing remain a priority; ignoring your own self care is a recipe for burnout.

How to help your loved one…

If a loved one is having a difficult time coping with worries, fears, stress or other emotions, it is important to acknowledge their concern; try to see things from their point of view, this will help you understand their perspective. Use effective communication skills with active listening by being engaged and interested in what they are saying.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

In addition, observe the non-verbal communication such as the tone of their voice, facial expressions or eye contact.

Allow the person space to vent, listen but do not give advice. You can help them do this verbally by giving them a sheet of paper to write down their fears and the best way to deal with them. Over time, the venting of emotions will slow or stop because you are not fueling the fire by disagreeing, correcting them, or by telling them that everything will be okay.

In difficult times we all need additional love. Have patience. Don’t blame or shame. Remember to be empathetic. This will lead to more honest conversations.

Provide hope, it can instill motivation and change someone’s perspective. Reframe the COVID outbreak and have a conversation about what this time is teaching us.

Aim to have opportunities to be together free of COVID conversation. Focus on connecting and strengthening your relationship. Take advantage of the time when your kids are not around and do something fun. Perhaps you can plan a date night; i.e. it can be a picnic in the living room. Plan a meal and cook together or play music and dance. Or, simply dim the lights and get comfortable on the sofa together. If you do not live with your loved one, consider safe opportunities such as a distanced, outdoor get together.

Recognize that there are limits to what you can do to support your loved one. You cannot “fix” them and it may be necessary that they receive professional help.

JFCS offers drop in hours Monday – Friday for a 30 minute session, or you can make a referral for outpatient counseling.

How to help you, the caretaker…

Self-care is a key component to overall positive mental and emotional health. In order to help those around you, it is important to identify your own feelings and emotions. Allow yourself to feel.

If you are personally feeling overwhelmed, journaling could provide you with a release and outlook on what you are going through.

Take time for yourself to reduce stress and unwind. Stay calm. Engage in mindfulness exercises, like adult coloring books/worksheets, reading, working on a hobby, or a relaxing bath. This time will allow you to re-energize as well as recognize that you are important and need to have time to yourself.

Consider joining a support group where you can connect with other people experiencing similar circumstances.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC

Returning to Work During COVID-19

If you are returning to work after being on family medical leave during COVID and have not experienced working from home, you might experience different thoughts and feelings. How will it be to work virtually from home? How will I create home and work life balance? What if I don’t feel comfortable sending my infant or toddler back to daycare? How will I work fulltime from home while caring for an infant?

I personally am feeling overwhelmed, guilt, stress, anxiety, sadness, grief. These are all appropriate thoughts and feelings you may experience returning to work after being on medical leave during COVID and you are not alone.

Tips to help with the adjustment of returning to work during COVID.

  • Be patient with yourself. It may take some time to adjust going to work virtually when the last time you worked was before the pandemic.
  • Talk to your support system about how you are feeling, you do not have to go through this alone.
  • Identify the coping skills that work best for you and have them readily available before you start working.
  • Be kind to yourself without judgement.
  • Take a lunch break to fuel your body and rest.
  • Schedule time for a walk to move your body and get fresh air. Identify what self-care looks like for you.
  • Create daily routine.
  • Pick a time you will stop working. Turn on a timer and end work when the timer goes off.

If you continue to have a challenging time adjusting back to working during COVID, contact a professional for support. JFCS is offering daily Drop-In hours if you need a one-time consultation with one of our counselors. We are also accepting new clients for ongoing counseling, currently provided through teletherapy. Call us at 609-987-8100.

You do not have to go through this alone!

Mara Myerson, LCSW, LCADC

Parenting Post #5

Parenting Post #5: Quarantine Burnout – Parenting Edition

I will be honest, when thinking of what to address this week I felt I hit the metaphorical wall. It became one more task, one more check off the list for the week, and that thought was overwhelming. At this stage, many are struggling with quarantine burnout, “cabin fever,” or any other term one might have invented. And for parents, managing the day to day may seem like an increasingly insurmountable task. Remote learning certainly has positives, but right now, the negatives feel overwhelming – children are learning less than when at school, for young children most of the day is taken up with sorting out their video lessons, searching for emails and links to that one assignment you just can’t track down. It is exhausting, and you may find yourself more irritable managing these responsibilities. Adding to the mix now is summer break, what can usually be a time of relief and relaxation from the “everyday” stressors, now looms as yet another challenge.

What will you do with your children this summer? (see the links included below for a few options.) There are many recommendations and activities floating around the web, but few will carry you through an entire summer, a time usually filled with vacations, camps, and other organized activities, especially without the few hours of online learning that have kept children semi-occupied. The reality we are facing…Camp Mommy and Daddy. (I suggest giving yourself a moment to pause here and let that sink in.)

How do we manage the burnout, parenting, work and now camp counselor responsibilities?

One of the keys to mental health survival for parents during the pandemic is to not compare yourself to other parents, either personal friends or people on social media. You have you own parenting style, your own relationship with your children and you are doing the best you can. There may be the Instagram or Facebook posts of another parent weaving a swing set out of old t-shirts or baking countless seasonal treats – it is irrelevant to you. There is a strong chance those who look to be performing at peak, while still wearing makeup, have help and significant resources. Promise not to compare your pandemic performance to these standards! Holding yourself to these unattainable standards seen through filters will only have a negative impact on your mental health. If you are balancing work and distance learning, while attempting to keep a semblance of order in your home, have compassion for yourself, and only weave or bake when it is for you!

Another crucial key to survival is carving out time for yourself. If you do not take breaks, you will feel ever-worse. As noted in earlier posts, me-time is essential. Be kind to yourself and let go of the idea that you need to sacrifice your wellbeing on the altar of parenthood. Ultimately, this will negatively affect you and your children.  There is no shame in telling your partner that you need some time to yourself. Make sure that you are not using this time to clean or cook. Go for a walk, a run, meditate, bake for fun, garden, call a friend, or mindlessly scroll through your social media of choice (exercise caution as overindulgence in social media can increase stress.) Be open and talk to your partner and express your feelings of stress, exhaustion, burnout; chances are good that s/he is also experiencing something similar.

Do not pressure yourself to enjoy every moment with your children, because the reality is that these moments are not all “precious” but can be filled with demands. Yes, of course there are times that are beautiful and fulfilling, but to expect that you should enjoy all this extra time with your kids puts too much pressure on you and can lead to the kind of conflict that creates anxiety. For example, thinking: ‘I’m with my kids and should enjoy all this extra time before they are grown and don’t want to be with me,’ can lead to: ‘I can’t stand all the demands on my attention and time and feel I need to escape and join the circus!’

Find joy when it presents itself, and embrace it, but do not burden yourself with seeking it daily or hourly. It is unreasonable to expect constant joy and this notion can lead to feelings of guilt or underachievement. Ultimately, find some acceptance of the fact that you might shout occasionally and that you find lots of stuff tedious right now, but also allow yourself moments of grace. They will happen! Really.

For a deeper dive into the topics addressed above, watch my recent webinar “Pandemic Parenting: Tools for Now & After.”

Helpful links:

For how you feel about parenting in pandemic times:

  • Recommended writer, Jessica Grose—I read her recent article in New York Times and, three sentences in, actually said aloud: “hello, my new friend.” This writer gets it.

Burnt out on home schooling?

Mom-shaming ourselves

Camp Mommy/Daddy Planner – How to Host Your Family’s Own Personal Summer Camp

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.

A Reflection on “Making the Most” of Your Time

From your social media feed to calls with friends, there is a lot of talk about being productive during this pandemic; but not everyone can focus during a stressful time and that is okay. It is important to recognize that in the face of any challenging time, each person will cope in a different way. For some, there is comfort in exploring a new hobby, finding a new creative space, or working on home projects. For others, additional tasks can seem daunting and they must focus simply on the day to day. Everyone’s needs are different.

Our self-worth is often determined by what we have accomplished and how productive we are, for example, a song writer who can compose five hit tunes before breakfast. These are not normal times and we must acknowledge the “act of achieving” will look different for each person.

The unsettling nature of this challenging time can make it  difficult to feel grounded in a routine or to begin a home project. That is okay. We should appreciate that each person has a different “best” and not compare, judge or argue that it is not enough. Try to understand the other person’s situation;, put yourself in their shoes.

 It is important for everyone to honor the needs of your mental, physical, emotional and social well-being. Practice self-care.

It is not a matter of IF self-care is important, it IS critical during this time. Have compassion for yourself. Give yourself permission to take time to unwind, no social media, no outside distractions, no news – sit with your emotions, breathe, and allow yourself to focus internally. Find more mindfulness practice tips in our previous blog.

You may feel productive one day and not the next; accept that each day is different. Do not underestimate the power of doing nothing, learn to be ‘okay’ with just being. Show compassion to yourself and others, recognizing everyone is going through this as best they can, in their own way.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC Director of Clinical Services

Grieving in the Time of COVID-19

I went to a funeral last month for a 98 year-old mainstay of my synagogue who died of COVID. The immediate family, rabbi and cantor stood at graveside. I sat in my car, parked on the perimeter of the burial site, along with people in at least 25 other cars. We could not hear what was being said but we could say our own prayers and access our own memories. My husband played the Jewish memorial prayer—El Molei Rahamim—on his phone, and it set the appropriate somber tone. We reminisced about the deceased and said how pleased we were to see so many present under these very strange circumstances.

At the end of the service, we were allowed to go up to the grave, one at a time, to place shovels-full of dirt on the casket in accordance with tradition—if we wanted to do so. We were masked, standing 6 feet apart. We acknowledged each other with nods but did not speak. We hoped that the family would gain strength from our show of support. We gained strength from being together in this new, strange way because we shared our love, respect, and sense of rightness in being in the cemetery together.  Over the weekend, the synagogue held a Zoom memorial service that was attended by at least 100 people where stories were told and reminiscences shared.

This is grieving in the time of COVID.

We are already grieving the loss of a normal life. The loss of a loved one hits us even harder because the normal rituals of grieving are not available. As illustrated above, these difficult times call forth creativity and a search for new ways to come together to show respect, to grieve, and to share memories.

In these unusual and unprecedented times, I will share some of the wisdom I have gained as a chaplain leading bereavement groups for more than a decade and as a human being living with the grief of many in this time of COVID.  While my focus is on those who are grieving, I hope relatives and friends of the bereaved may also gain insight.

FEEL YOUR FEELINGS & BE KIND TO YOURSELF: Remember that there is no time limit on grief. Mourning the loss of a loved one is forever, but it also changes with time. There is no “right way” to grieve or “right timeline” for grief. Grieving does not happen in a straight line, it is experienced as waves that come and go.

In these surreal times of social isolation, it may be harder to accept the reality of the death of a loved one—that is normal. It also may not be possible to take time out for the mourning you want to do at this time, there are young children at home, or a job that demands all your energy and attention (this is particularly true for all front line responders, though everyone going out into the COVID world is living in a time of incredible stress), or you must attend to your own health or that of others.  Do what you have to do and do not be afraid that you are not grieving “properly.

HONOR THE MEMORY OF YOUR LOVED ONE: There are many ways to find the comfort that usually come from traditional funeral practices (shiva, viewings, etc.). Use Facetime, Skype and Zoom to connect with loved ones singly or in groups. Create memorials or electronic collages on Facebook or other platforms, these can continue indefinitely into the future. Plan a memorial for your loved one for the time when it will be possible to be together again. Pick up the telephone to call each other.  Send emails with pictures and stories. You don’t have to be technologically advanced to make the connections—just do whatever you can. A friend’s father died this past week of COVID. I did not know his father well but I would have attended the funeral, instead, I asked my friend if he would tell me stories about his father on the telephone.  He eagerly agreed. I plan to continue our phone conversations over the coming weeks and months.

CURRENT GRIEF BRINGS UP PAST GRIEF, REMEMBER YOUR PAST STRENGTHS: It is also normal to revisit many past losses while experiencing a fresh grief. This can be very painful, but it also can give you an opportunity to remember how you dealt with grief in the past—what helped you get through the unimaginable. One of my cousins is having flashbacks to her father’s death many years ago, she is using her COVID social isolation time to reach out to family members, share stories, and document family connections. The pain of loss is very fresh to her, but she also is finding new coping mechanisms that give her love and support.

STAY IN TOUCH: For the mourner, it may be hard to reach out and even harder to know what is wanted or needed. Friends and relatives may need to be more proactive than usual in making calls, sending cards, bringing or sending food, or offering any kind of comfort that is possible. It’s important to take action without being asked. This is another opportunity for creativity

SEEK PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING: Connect one-on-one with a JFCS counselor for individualized support and tips during “Drop-In” Hours, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10AM-12PM, Tuesday and Thursday 5 PM-7 PM. Call JFCS at 609-987-8100 and dial 0.

Beverly Rubman, Chaplain & Support Group Facilitator

Parenting Post #4

Parenting Post #4: Staying Current NOT Consumed with Information

Everyone is seeking to remain up to date on information and news during the pandemic, but, we also ask ourselves, how do we stay informed and yet not spend what feels like all day consumed by fear and anxiety?

A first step we can do this is set limits. Just as you would limit a child’s screen time or junk food consumption, you must work on limiting your own consumption of news and social media. Neither channel will bring a sense relief; and we must remain wary of social media where opinions and hysteria often overtake factual information. Even the most sober of news channels will eventually make you panic. Set a plan for yourself, for example: read/listen in the morning, so that you are up on any new developments. Do not spend more than one hour maximum on this morning update. If you must get a midday update, make it a quick one and from a reputable source—no more than 15 minutes of scrolling allowed! In the evening, but not after dinner, you can allow yourself the evening news. Avoid viewing after dinner as it could heighten anxiety and impact the quality and quantity of your sleep. You need your energy for whatever the days send you, be it working and online schooling of children, grocery shopping, endlessly refreshing your browser for an Instacart delivery slot (in itself a highly stressful activity), cleaning, cooking, exercise, phone calls or FaceTimes with friends and family…etc.

Parents are doing a lot these days; shouldering this kind of load requires a great deal of energy. If your energy is spent (dare I say, wasted) on endlessly trying to process the news, you will have so little left for all of the responsibilities required and demanded of you. Additionally, it is important to determine a way to process the news without letting it affect your mood to excess. We can acknowledge there are many things to worry about, but you do a disservice to yourself and those around you by letting frustrations or fear color your relationships and interactions. Children will not understand why you appear angry at them, you’re not, but you are potentially reacting to their requests in an escalated way because of your anxiety.

Once you have taken the news in through ears or eyes, remember to ground yourself back in the reality of your home. A quick way to ground yourself is through a grounding exercise. These exercises allow the stimuli of your immediate surroundings to enter your consciousness and help you to, almost literally, “get out of your head.”

Here’s an easy one, which can be done in two ways:

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise:

Version 1: Choose a color and notice 5 blue (for example) things around you. Then go with 4 green things, 3 red, 2 yellow, 1 brown. So, for 5 blue items….notice a blue pen, blue wall, blue book cover, blue scissors, blue water glass.

Version 2: You can also do this with the five senses: 5 thing you can see, 4 you can hear, 3 you can touch, 2 you can smell, 1 you can taste (even if it’s just whatever your mouth feels like in the moment).

Allow the noticing to replace thinking, even if only for the duration of the exercise. This grounding technique is also mindfulness exercise, as it practically forces you to experience only the present moment.

During these turbulent, frightening, frustrating, and maybe even boring times, mindfulness is the best coping skill to hone. Focusing entirely on the present moment, not the overarching feelings of this era, but rather the very moment of time, can help. If you find something, like a lovely flower blooming outside your window, and you focus just on examining its shape, color, smell, you will feel a little tension melt away as you are grounded in the present moment.

For even more information & tools, see Claire’s webinar, Pandemic Parenting: Tools for Now & After. Join on May 12 at 3 PM or view recording.

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.

8 Tips to Reduce Stress during COVID-19

If you are experiencing increased stress levels due to the globe battling its current viral pandemic, you are not alone. It is a perfectly normal response. COVID-19, for many, has been greatly associated with severe health and economic news predictions, endless data coverage reporting on the spread of the virus across the globe, and countless accounts of misinformation being spread on various platforms. As a result stress and fear have escalated when considering the many unknowns.

Knowing what stress encompasses is the first step toward attempting to reduce it.

Stress is simply your body’s response to mental and/or emotional stimulation. Stress can be beneficial when in manageable levels. However, when stress levels are chronic, stress can cause distress. Chronic stress impacts your health; it cause changes to your mood, eating habits, sleeping patterns, promote fatigue and trouble concentrating.

We’ll review 8 practices for how to help reduce stress levels during this crisis and beyond.

  1. Improve Sleep – Practicing good sleep hygiene (i.e. establishing a healthy nightly routine before getting to bed) can reduce the impact of stress during such unprecedented times of stress, anxiety and fear of the many unknowns. Specifically, a healthy bedtime routine includes reducing the exposure of blue light which is emitted by use of electronics such as laptops, desk tops, televisions, and cell phones. Reducing use of electronics one to two hours before bed can greatly improve the quality of sleep. Additionally, establishing a calming routine before bed such as, taking a long shower or bath, using comfortable pajamas, reading, listening to tranquil music and consuming warm non caffeinated drinks (i.e. hot tea) is known to improve sleep and thus decrease stress. 
  1. Use of Mindfulness – Practicing the use of deep breathing exercises such as 5-7-8 involves slowly inhaling through your nose to a slow, but paced, count to five, then holding your breath for a paced count of seven and finally exhaling through your mouth counting to eight. Practicing the 5-7-8 mindfulness exercise at least 8-10 times consecutively can reduce stress, muscle tension and promote a sense of calmness; use of the aforementioned exercise is recommended at least twice daily for best results. Learn more about Mindfulness in our recent Blog Post
  1. Improve Self-Care – Engaging in pleasurable activities during stressful times, can reduce stress. Activities such as, jogging, painting, drawing, talking to a friend, gardening, reading, taking a bubble bath or watching your favorite television show are just some ideas that can serve as self-care. View our recent webinar on Practical Skills for Stress Management for 4 guided coping skills that can help improve daily stress levels. 
  1. Reduce News Intake – Watching increased levels of the news can increase stress levels. Instead, partake in watching the news in small increments and watching news sources being reported from reputable sources such as the CDC. Many social media outlets and others are producing incorrect facts pertaining to COVID-19; arm yourself with factual information. 
  1. Maintenance of Structure – Many people have had their everyday lives impacted by COVID-19; parents are either working from home or staying at home to care for their children, or have been laid off or college students returning home unexpectedly. Such drastic structural changes may undoubtedly impact stress levels. Attempting to maintain the use normalcy where possible for time of eating meals, use of daily exercise and creative uses of technology to stay connected with friends and family can both reduce stress and feelings of isolation. 
  1. Use of Video TechnologyFinding new ways to stay connected to friends and family can reduce stress symptoms. Staying connected to others, even through video formats can reduce feelings of disconnection, while the globe is practicing social distancing and self-isolation. Creative ways to use video technology include FaceTime, Zoom and Tik Tok. 
  1. Exercise – While everyone may have varying endurance levels, nearly everyone can engage in physical movement while at home. Regular activities provide a level of exercise, from gardening, organizing a room in your space, walking your dog, or practicing at home yoga or jumping jacks. All forms of movement count toward active forms of exercise, which can reduce stress. The use of 30 minutes of exercise just three times a week can reduce stress and anxiety by approximately 70%. 
  1. Repurposing Time at Home – Being at home may be the perfect time to work on any small home projects such as decluttering the coat closet, cleaning out the infamous junk draw or getting rid of unused clothing can reduce stress levels. Purposely redirecting the focus on areas of one’s life that you do have control over versus those you do not can promote feelings of productivity, wellness and reduce stress. 

While there may be many things currently outside of our control related to the COVID-19 global pandemic, we all can put into practice healthy practices to reduce stress. We all experience stress and this pandemic is certainly a time for many to experience increased stress. While it may not feel like we have control over many things at this time, we do have control over how we respond to increased stress and its impact on our health and mental well-being.

 Arlene Munoz, MSW

Parenting Post #3

Parenting Post #3: Presenting Our Best Selves

JFS Seattle presented a webinar in recent weeks titled “Navigating Without a Map” a presentation about parenting in uncertain and challenging times. One of the questions they posed, and the one I found most interesting, was – “How can we maintain and present our best selves during this time of crisis?”

Parents often find ourselves helping our child through a difficult time, but are only affected by empathizing and feeling their pain in that moment. However, the current pandemic affects us directly and deeply in unexpected ways. Anxiety can often be triggered by uncertainty and much of this current situation is uncertain: Will we be infected? Will we know it? Will we receive treatment? And, when will this end?

We can control only so much and we all should know by now what to do: wash our hands, social distance, and, one that I have instated, no visits to the emergency room allowed, so be careful when you play! Admittedly, this is not the time for your child to pick up carpentry.

What is really challenging is explaining to your children, that it is unlikely they will attend school again this year, or see their friends in person for weeks or months to come, or play on a jungle gym in a park. And for parents and guardians, when will the online homeschooling end? When can we reclaim moments of freedom and peace? When can we go out with our partner or friends for dinner? Will I ever get to eat sushi again?!

Knowing all of these questions, we ask again, what can we do to maintain ourselves and best help our children? Some of these suggestions will seem obvious and others may be outside your scope, but tailor each to your personal situation:

  • Begin each day with a grounding exercise. An easy option is the 4-7-8 breathing for 1-2 cycles. This can be a quick and easy, yet effective, method. One set is only 4 total breaths and takes under one minute. Using the same counting speed, inhale for 4-count, hold for 7-count, exhale 8-count, repeat 4 times for one cycle. This is a refreshing way to start the day. If this formal technique is not for you, simply doing 10 total breaths of the slow inhale-exhale kind is good enough. Advanced version: run through any meditation you have already memorized.
  • Download Headspace App for free and use their Weathering the Storm series which is currently free. The guided meditations can range from 3 – 20 minutes.
  • Stay informed but DO NOT read online news or social media obsessively. Overconsumption or obsession with news is not beneficial for you or your family. Institute limits for yourself with news; consider allowing yourself 15-20 minutes in the morning to catch up with latest developments and then again in the evening. Aim to stop news consumption at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Find your news from reputable sources; absorbing unfounded claims on social media will only add to anxiety.
  • If you are able to go out of the house legally and/or safely, take a 15 minute walk. Focus on clearing your head of anxieties and try to find peace in signs of spring. By shifting your focus to nature and the environment, your mind will not dwell on stressors. This is also an easy way to practice mindfulness (a bonus! Aren’t you the multitasker now?!). If you can leave the house and enjoy exercising outside, this is definitely NOT the time to stop. An exercise routine will enhance your wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Take advantage of the season and spend time outside, nature is a reminder that there is still beauty in the world.
  • Gather for family meals, if you are able to do so, meals shared with the entire family are a way to maintain normalcy and foster togetherness for your children. There are new challenges in planning a simple family meal, food and other resources are limited, but cooking will provide a sense of control and fulfillment that you are providing a “normal” experience for your children. If it works for your family, consider each sharing one thing for which you are grateful before your meal.

These handful of suggestions are just a starting point; the main goal is to provide your children (and yourself) a sense of stability in an unstable time. If you can utilize any one of these options to find a calmer version of you, then that is a win.

If you find yourself needing more support, JFCS now provides “Drop-In” Counseling hours: Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10 AM – 12 PM and Tuesday/Thursday 5 – 7 PM. Call us at 609-987-8100, Dial 0 and you will be connected to a counselor.

Many of us find ourselves in entirely new situations during this crisis. If speaking to a therapist feels outside your comfort zone, remember that there is no judgment, only insights and advice from our counseling team. Find comfort in the ability to air your concerns, your fears, your stressors to someone outside your home or family circle.

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.

Parenting Post #2

Parenting Post #2: Consistency and Parenting 

Consistency is the key to so many things: catching fly balls, adhering to a healthy diet, implementing coping skills. It is also a key part of parenting and, much like practicing a sports technique over and over and over, it’s not always the most pleasant practice. It applies to parenting in a variety of realms and, annoying as it may be at times, it is crucial to providing your child a sense of boundaries and safety—where your child’s world begins and ends. When you are consistent, your child will know what to expect and both your behavior and his will flow smoothly from that place.  During the “new normal” of being confined to the home and remote learning, in many cases, consistency is more important than ever; even though it may be very tempting to become lax, which may feel easier on you in the short term, this will backfire in the long-run, when normalcy finally returns. Some examples will follow below and hopefully be a guide on how to implement consistency in your parenting and reap the benefits of a calmer household and even less anxious children (or at least children who understand limits and boundaries to things you don’t want to give them—treats, TV time, video games, toys).

“No means no” is something we’ve all heard or said far too many times, but it is probably top three in Important Things You Need To Do To Be Consistent. Yes, it’s great to start off doing this when your child is very young, but even if you haven’t been doing it until right this minute, it is not too late to start! When you’re asked for treats, TV, etc, you feel worn down, like an ancient rock in a creek—the water has gone over you so many times that your once robust surfaces have been rubbed smooth and you want to give up and give in. This is not the time for that! Rally your inner troops and teach them that they can ask once for something but if you say no, that is IT. Game over, no more asking, the answer will always be no. If your child has discovered that repeatedly asking produces an irritated “fine, have it, what do I care!?” response, the child will keep asking because, even if the parent is annoyed, they will get that pack of gummy bears. Now you’re in a feedback loop of resenting your child and yourself for this doomed loop from which you cannot extricate yourself. Is it fun to start saying no? Of course not! But if you can stand your ground and do it every time, you will see changes: kids will stop asking you so frequently and even if they do ask, just to see if they might get lucky, they won’t pitch a fit (as big of a fit) when you say no. Through repetition, they will respect your “no.”

The Swift Rush to Judgment. This is what I jokingly call the implementing of consequences aka Following Through. If you are always saying something like: “If you don’t stop doing X, I’m going to give you a (insert consequence here)” or “If you keep doing X, we are going to leave this (insert friend’s house, playground…)” but then you don’t actually follow through, your child will quickly learn that you make empty threats. This is where the Swift Rush to Judgment comes into play. When the child does do X, you immediately implement the consequence. Don’t wait, don’t let them bargain you out of it, make it happen and make it be something that makes sense to the child. But choose wisely! If you have a 3 year old being difficult at a playgroup and the consequence that comes out of your mouth is “we’re leaving if you don’t stop that,” then you’re going to be leaving too…leaving your friends and the support of being with them. So, be sure that the consequence doesn’t also hurt you.  Some reasonable consequences could include, no screen time tomorrow (for school aged children who understand what tomorrow is); gently taking away the toy that the child is having an issue with; taking the child “out of the mix.” Removing a child from an experience can be the most useful consequence of all: everyone wants to stay in the mix, where there are fun and friends. This is not a time out, this is going into another room or outside for a few minutes to regroup—it’s not punitive but, rather, a way to calm down.

To conclude and as a reminder: this won’t be pretty at first. You might feel uncomfortable; your kids may give you a hard time or throw a few tantrums. But if you stick with it, you will see results! Remember that old saying about catching a thousand fly balls before you can catch almost anything? That can apply here, but it will definitely not less than a thousand times of implementing strategies to become a consistent parent—probably more like a week or two. You will likely find that your home is a calmer place and you are maybe even a calmer person!

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills. 

Parenting Post #1

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills. 

Parenting Post #1: An Introduction and Addressing the New Normal

Welcome to this new series on parenting! If you are reading this, you may well have children or are just reading once you’ve run out of Netflix shows to watch. For those of us with school-aged children, especially those who work, life in the time of coronavirus has extra layers of stress and anxiety. Not only are we homeschooling our children, but we are doing it while worrying that we have enough shelf stable food and antibacterial soap and also attempting to attend Zoom meetings, conference calls, and write something for our boss. Add-in the usual responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, making sure our kids stop touching their faces, and trying to forge human connections for them via FaceTime. It’s a lot and if you feel like you are working more than you did before the pandemic—and even then you felt like you were going 24/7—you are probably correct.

So, let’s be clear: this first post is more about self-care for parents than about parenting itself. We’ll get to parenting in future posts, but for right now, listen up: You must take some care of you!

If you do not practice self-care, you will not be able to support those around you. What can you do to take care of yourself now and not burn out? Take advantage of the still-open and free outdoors, take a walk or a run or bike ride. There’s no reason to feel guilty if you can have your partner watch the kids for 30-40 minutes. For single parents, free time can be harder to find. Consider the advantages of nap time, for those with younger children. Put the little one in a stroller and walk while your child naps. If your children are school-aged but not old enough to technically leave alone, you can still go outside, where they can see you from the window and do something, even just some deep breathing alone. Stuck inside? Lock yourself in the bathroom, after explaining that you need a little time out, open up the Headspace App and use their free series “Weathering the Storm” for a quick mental getaway. Take a bath or shower, FaceTime with a friend. The main thing is that you explain to children old enough to get it that you need 10-15 minutes alone. If they’re still napping, be sure to use that time for your self-care. Sure, you might think you need to clean up and probably you do, but you absolutely have some time in there just for you. Read, stretch, utilize a free app (see below), watch a little TV. Whatever it takes to restore yourself just a little.

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW