Welcome to the Soothe Center!
This is a place where parents can find information about topics of interest for their children/families, e.g. anxiety, sleep problems, social isolation, stress, depression, boredom, etc. during this time of uncertainty.
This page will often be updated with new information, so please check back for any updates!
Self-care is everything we do for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We are more resilient and able to handle stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally. By modeling healthy self-care practices for our children, we are teaching them to value their minds and their bodies.
One way to teach our kids how to practice self-care is to help them ‘Take a SELFIE.’ This isn’t a selfie we take on our phone. This is a happiness selfie!
How to Take a Happiness SELFIE:
S – Sleep
E – Exercise
L – Light (sunlight)
F – Fun
I – Interact
E – Eat Well
Here are some self-care activities your children can complete! It lists a variety of coping skills they can review to evaluate how well they are doing at self-care, as well as set self-care goals.
Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Common Sense Media: Navigate social distancing and school closures with quality media and at-home learning opportunities for your kids.
Audible: Access a collection of free stories for kids to stream during the pandemic. Kids can stream these stories on a desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet.
Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga
While each of these videos are on children’s channels, ads and accessible links may not be. Parents should monitor their kids while on YouTube, even if that’s just being in the same room.
Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have been shown to improve both the physical and mental health of children and adolescents. Improvements in areas such as self-regulation, focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, balance, etc. The intention of these practices is for children and adolescents to fully tune into their mind and body without judgment—to “find their still, quiet place” within—and be able to pause before responding to everyday stressors.
Suggestions for daily practice”
- Preschoolers: A few minutes a day
- Gradeschoolers: 3-10 minutes twice a day
- Teens: 5-45 minutes a day (based on preference)
Here are a few resources:
- Kids Explain Mindfulness- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awo8jUxIm0c
- Mindfulness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxbdx-SeOOo
- Meditation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCuzh8SQ9ZA
- Yoga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02E1468SdHg
- Coming soon…
Anxiety and Coping With the Coronavirus
Managing worry — your kids’ and your own
We’re all on edge because of the coronavirus. Our daily lives have been disrupted, we aren’t sure what tomorrow may bring, and for many of us the nonstop news and social media coverage isn’t helping.
Our experts say that dealing with your own anxiety can be the most powerful way to make sure your kids feel secure. If you or your children are feeling worried, learning how to deal with that anxiety in a healthy way can help the whole family be more resilient, both now and when the pandemic is finally over.
“The treatment for anxiety isn’t to make the fear go away, it’s to manage the fear and tolerate uncertainty,” explains Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “So for the kids who’ve been in treatment for this, it’s almost like they have an immune response or they’re vaccinated against uncertainty. They’ve been training for this and now they’re able to put their skills in place and for many of them the coronavirus is not affecting them as much as those of us who aren’t used to dealing with uncertainty on a daily level.”
Many parents are having a harder time dealing with COVID-19 than their children, and some of the anxiety that kids are experiencing may be inadvertently passed on by worried parents.
As parents, we need to be modeling for our kids how to react to stressful times by coping with anxiety in healthy ways. “I think we have to be mindful of the present and stay focused on what is actually happening and not let ourselves go to worst case scenarios,” Dr. Bubrick recommends. “If we’re showing our kids catastrophic thinking and head-in-your-hands worry, and crying and fear, then they’re going to learn that’s the way to handle the times now.”
How to stay calm
Be smart about what you’re reading. While we should make sure we are informed about how best to keep our families safe, we should also be thoughtful about what we are reading online to make sure it’s actually helpful. It is easy to inadvertently get sucked into reading every update as it comes in, or clicking on, in Dr. Bubrick’s words, “the doomsday apocalypse kind of stories, which I would consider to be ‘mental health fake news.’ ”
Consider putting a limit on the number of articles you read, or for how long you will read about the coronavirus each day. If you’re consuming media that is making you anxious — pictures of lines at stores, people hoarding supplies, celebrities getting diagnosed — take a break. Being informed is one thing; being overexposed is another.
Focus on what you’re doing right now. Remind yourself that you are doing your part to minimize the risks by practicing social distancing and keeping your hands and your home clean. While it is sensible to be prepared for the future, Dr. Bubrick recommends “focusing on making sure we’re in the moment, and dealing with things in the present.”
Stop yourself if notice that you are getting carried away with “what ifs.” It will help if you can set aside time to regularly practice mindfulness, which is a tool to help people stay grounded and calm in the present moment — not caught up in the future or the past. Parents can practice mindfulness alone or with children.
Rely on routines. Establishing a routine that involves exercise, regular meals and healthy amounts of sleep are also crucial to regulating our moods and our worries. If your old routine is no longer possible because of COVID-19 precautions, look for ways to be flexible and start a new routine. Remind yourself that life is still continuing, and ground yourself by doing things like making agendas and setting goals.
Checking in with kids
When kids are feeling anxious, it may or may not be clear to parents. “We shouldn’t be looking for just one thing,” says Dr. Bubrick. “We should be ready to handle a variety of different expressions of anxiety.” Anxiety could look like:
- Reassurance-seeking (Are we going to be okay? Is grandpa going to be okay?)
- Reluctance to separate from parents
- Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
- Moodiness and irritability
- Tantrums or meltdowns
- Trouble sleeping
Kids may not always be able to express how they are feeling. For younger children, Dr. Bubrick suggests using a feelings chart instead of saying “Tell me how anxious you are.” With a feelings chart, which you can find on the internet, you can ask kids to point to the feeling they are having now. Parents can also use a traffic light chart to help kids share how intense their feeling is — a red light means they feel overwhelmed, a yellow light is medium and a green light is okay.
For kids who are more able to articulate how they are feeling, Dr. Bubrick says it is better to ask what psychologists call “forced choice questions.” “If you ask a vague question you’re going to get a vague answer,” he says. “So instead of asking ‘How was your day?’ which is pretty vague, maybe ask, “Did your anxiety get in the way of you having a good day today?” he suggests.
If you’re wondering about a teenager, Dr. Bubrick recommends talking about yourself first. “You can say something like, “I saw this article today and it made me wonder about this and that. Did you see something like that? What’s your reaction to it?’ “
Helping anxious kids
Structure their day. As parents we often think that setting boundaries for a child is a way to make our lives easier, but in fact kids thrive on them, too. It is easy for children to get bored or fretful if they are facing a day without structure, and anxiety can thrive under those circumstances.
Make sure that you are structuring their days when they are cooped up at home. Alternate chores or schoolwork with more fun activities and periods of free time. Make sure kids are still getting the chance to exercise and socialize with friends via video chats and social media if they are on it.
Avoid giving too much reassurance. For kids of all ages, Dr. Bubrick recommends avoiding getting into a cycle of providing too much reassurance. Kids can come to rely on the reassurance and want to hear it more and more often — and when a parent isn’t able to give them complete reassurance their anxiety can worsen.
Instead, remind kids of the things they are doing to take care of themselves (like washing their hands and staying indoors) and encourage them to focus on being in the moment. They can practice mindfulness activities alone or with you.
Model calm yourself. Don’t share your worries with your children, and if you are feeling anxious, find a way to ground yourself. “After this crisis is over, your kids are going to walk away from this having learned things,” says Dr. Bubrick. “What will they have learned from you in the way you handled this? Will they look back and say ‘Wow, I’m really impressed with how mom and dad held it together?’ Or are they going to walk away and think the world is a scary place?”
Look for the positive. Finally, Dr. Bubrick recommends looking for the silver linings. “I spoke to a family this morning on Skype and they said, ‘You know, our kids are all together for the first time in months and they’re playing games together and they’re laughing together and we’re spending time together.’ So there are silver linings, you just have to look for them.
An excerpt from the article “How to Talk to Kids and Teens about the Coronavirus.”
School-age children will be more aware of what is going on. They have probably had discussions at school and with friends.
- Talk to your elementary age children. Explain what happened while reassuring them that you and your child’s teachers will do everything to keep them healthy and safe.
- Children this age are also concerned about their own health, as well as that of family and friends. For example, they may have heard that kids aren’t impacted by coronavirus but that older people are, triggering fears about grandparents. They may be worried about money if they know adults are off of work. Try to spend extra time together. This will provide extra reassurance.
- Don’t be surprised if they are more irritable and touchy. Be extra patient.
- Limit media coverage.
- Try to continue normal home routines, especially at bedtime. If routines are disrupted due to school or after school activity closures, explain that this is part of the precautions grown-ups are taking to prevent people from getting sick. It doesn’t mean that all of their teachers and friends are sick.
- If fear persists, point out all the things adults are doing to help and to prevent the virus from spreading. Children like to be helpful and feel like they can do something from hand washing to writing letters to nursing homes.
- Ask them if they have any questions. If they do, stick to the facts and tell them what you know without exaggerating or overreacting. Use these resources to help them learn more about the virus:
- “Understanding Corona Virus and How Germs Spread” – Brains On Podcast (plus a kid-centered series on news literacy called “Prove It.”)
- “Just for kids: A comic exploring the new coronavirus” – Minnesota Public Radio
Children this age will be very aware of what is going on. They have probably seen news coverage and discussed the virus at school or with friends.
- Talk to your middle school children and answer any questions. This will help you determine how much they know and may help you correct any misinformation they might have.
- Acknowledge any feelings of anxiety, worry, or panic.
- Children this age will be more interested in what might happen in the future. Stick to the facts and don’t burden them with your own anxiety about uncertain dystopian scenarios.
- Some children may act out scary feelings through misbehavior. Others may become more withdrawn. Pay attention to these cues and ask them to tell you about their feelings.
- Talk to your kids about what they see on TV or read online and help them understand which sources are reliable and which aren’t when it comes to information about the virus.
- Talk about how events like this can surface harmful stereotypes and discrimination against certain people and populations. In this case, talk about the importance of disrupting anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia in coverage of and response to the coronavirus.
- Seek out positive media. Watch, read, and share stories about ways people are responding to the virus in collaborative ways to keep communities safe.
- Help guide your child’s worry into things they can do – like learning more about how to prevent the spread of the virus including washing hands and getting enough sleep. Use these resources to spark conversations:
- “Understanding Corona Virus and How Germs Spread“: Brains On Podcast (plus a kid-centered series on news literacy called “Prove It.”)
- “Just for kids: A comic exploring the new coronavirus“: Minnesota Public Radio
Amid the major disruption to every day life, it can be incredibly difficult but equally important to maintain some sense of structure and daily routine, especially a sleep routine. Children thrive on a regular bedtime routine. Still sometimes children, teens, and even adults can have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. Below are some bedtime strategies:
- Set a regular bedtime and adopt a relaxing bedtime routine for your child. Encourage older children to set and maintain a bedtime that allows for the full hours of sleep needed at their age (See chart below).
- Calming prelude to sleep that works for your child can be helpful. Things like taking a warm bath, having a story read or reading themselves, listening to soft music or sounds, journaling, snuggling in bed, etc.
- Refrain from caffeinated items post afternoon. This includes some soft drinks, coffee or tea, chocolate, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, etc.
- Refrain from sugary drinks or sweet food items post afternoon. Excito-toxins found in artificial sweeteners (even”diet” drinks) and components in processed foods are called so for a reason.
- Avoid rigorous physical activity an hour before bed as it is not calming for metabolism and deep rest. Mild yoga, stretching, mindfulness practices, or breathing exercises can all be helpful and can be incorporated in your child’s calming prelude to sleep.
- It is important that lights are turned off for sufficient sleep rhythms. Darkness promotes sleep and healthy levels of melatonin (See “melatonin” explained below). In fact, even if the child has a night light, sneak in and turn it off before retiring to bed yourself if possible.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by our body to regulate daily sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin levels begin to increase in the mid- to late-evening (after the sun has set) and stay elevated for most of the night during sleep (in the dark). Levels drop in the early morning as the sun rises (in the light) causing us to wake up. Our body’s natural patterns of sleep and it’s awareness of darkness effect Melatonin production.
‘Blue light’ from digital devices (e.g. iPad, tablet, cellphone, computer, television) can be most detrimental in suppressing melatonin levels needed for adequate sleep. In fact, the light from our devices may have a higher concentration of blue light than natural light, and blue light affects melatonin levels more than any other wavelength. Dim the brightness of your child’s devices before bed, or better yet, avoid digital devices at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Recommended amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations
* The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a Statement of Endorsement supporting these guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
Source: Paruthi S. Brooks LI, D’Ambrosio C, Hall W, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, Malow B. Maski K, Nichols C, Quan SF, Rosen CL, Troester MM, Wise MS
Recommended amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016 May 25.
pii: jc-00158-16. PubMed PMID: 27250809
Get Kids Moving
Getting kids moving and outdoors is simply good for their health (it’s good for adults’ health too). Try to incorporate daily movement and/or time outside for kids. Here is a National Geographic article about how to keep children safe outdoors during the pandemic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/2020/04/playing-safely-outside-coronavirus.html
Here are a few resources to incorporate movement indoors:
- Cosmic Kids Yoga https://www.youtubekids.com/watch?v=U9Q6FKF12Qs
- Kids Bop Dance Along https://www.youtubekids.com/watch?v=40uEcTuqIvM
- PE with Joe Wicks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybn_SO990go
Side note: Please know that as parents you are NOT responsible to entertain your children 24/7. Kids experiencing boredom can help them to develop creativity and resiliency. So please remember to slow down, breathe, and ‘place your oxygen mask on first’ so to speak—make it a priority to tend to your own physical and mental health needs as well.