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By Diane Braun – June 23, 2020 –

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold over 30 million copies in over 40 languages, is one of the most significant business books of all time.  Dr. Stephen Covey’s lifelong mission was to “unleash the human potential.”  The 7 Habits are the accumulated wisdom he blended into a comprehensive framework that allows one to be effective in their work and personal life.

The 7 Habits have the ability to introduce skills like goal setting, organization, time management, team work, conflict management, collaboration and communication. Those already familiar with the habits can also strengthen these skills.

There are steps to create habits that help you personally, and there are other steps that help you deal with and understand others. Ultimately the hope is that the participant will experience renewal – knowing that to be your best you need to feel your best mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The 7 Habits were developed to help people deal with issues that can hamper their productivity, creativity and personal health.  But can they also apply to dealing with the coronavirus? Let’s examine the third habit – PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST.  

Put First Things First builds on Habit 2’s goal setting by teaching us to keep going, watch for obstacles and distractions and ignore them or find a way around them. We also find out how identifying priorities will help us reach our goals. 

Most people fall into one of four quadrants when it comes to getting things done:

  • The “Procrastinator” is addicted to urgency. They thrive under pressure and like to put things off until it becomes a crisis. Stress helps them think. They rarely plan ahead because they like the rush of doing everything at the last possible moment. The only problem is they create stress and anxiety for themselves and others as well as the very real possibility of burnout. Most of the time what they accomplish is mediocre at best.
  • The “Yes-Man” has a hard time saying NO to anything or anyone. He tries so hard to please others that he usually pleases no one.  A victim of FOMO—fear of missing out—he can’t handle everyone having fun without him.  The “Yes-Man” usually ends up always being a follower, never a leader. The lack of discipline leads to always feeling like a doormat.
  • The “Slacker” just wants to hang out and would rather do anything than concentrate on a task. Mindless pastimes are the best use of their time. They can forget appointments easily, distracted by what they’re doing at the moment or not wanting to stop. They can’t be counted on and are viewed as lacking responsibility. They could miss opportunities by simply being disconnected from what’s important.
  • The “Prioritizer” is where highly effective people spend their time. He looks at everything going on and decides what’s most important—the big rocks – what needs to be done first and done well. Once completed, he looks at the small rocks, the little things that are not so important but take up time. By planning use of time a sense of control is achieved, as well as balance between the big rocks and little rocks, and tasks are done well.

During this pandemic we should be thinking, “What’s the most important thing for me to do today? Am I prioritizing my time to benefit me, my family, and our health?” By learning to manage our priorities and recognize distractions, Habit 3 will become the best way to meet our goals.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 5, 2020 –

As I am writing this I am following our state’s stay-at-home orders by practicing social distancing and working from home. For a lot of us this means working with children and spouses also in the home.

It’s not necessarily the most ideal work environment, but we make the best of what we have, and personally I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue working. Even though I’m checking in with my gratitude, it can still take a toll on my mental health. It definitely creates new stress when trying to work and meet deadlines while also trying to meet the needs of our children.

With the goal of completing our own work and ensuring our children have enriching experiences at the same time, we’re going to look for activities you can set up for them at home. Obviously it is impossible to have activities that will keep all age groups busy, so if you have a home with differing abilities like my own, you might need to have a couple of different activities going for this to work.

Sensory play is a great way to keep your littles busy for extended periods of time. This can be something prepared before it is needed (like the night before) and used for multiple days. It doesn’t need to be more difficult than necessary. Use items or ingredients you have around your house that are safe for babies and toddlers. We like to use cooked noodles (you can dye them if you’d like). Other easy ideas that are baby safe are dried cereals, Kool-Aid playdough or do-it-yourself moon sand (2 cups of flour and ¼ cup oil). You could separate the dry cereal and moon sand for older children and hide small toys in them.

When sensory play gets old, and it will, I suggest scavenger hunts for older children. This does not need to be something extravagant. I write alphabet letters on paint samples and hide them around the house. If age-appropriate, your children can work together to find all of the letters. This activity keeps them busy because they not only need to find the letters; they have to keep track of what letters they’ve found and still need.

I also like swapping out toys. This one takes a little more forethought. Keep some toys put back so your children don’t have access to them all of the time. When you bring out the toys they haven’t had access to for a while they will think it is awesome. These “new toys” will keep them more occupied than the ones they have regular access to.

Even with distraction plans, working from home with your kids underfoot is not simple. Hopefully some of these small tips will help keep them busy just long enough for you to check some more things off your to-do list.

By Shannon Loehrlein, LCSW – April 21, 2020 –

COVID-19 has led us into uncharted territory. Never before have schools across the country closed because of a pandemic. 

As adults we may be worried about the future. How long will schools and businesses remain closed? We may also be worried about how closures will affect our monthly bills, paychecks, and childcare. 

Children are worried too, but they worry about different things. Children are concerned about missing school, completing virtual assignments, and missed play time with friends. My 5-year old has been asking when she can go back to school to be with friends.

As adults, we don’t know the answers to a lot of these questions, but there are some things we can do to help manage our children’s fears. Below are some tips for parents and caregivers.

  • First, manage your own anxiety about the situation.  As parents we are naturally anxious about this situation. This is a good opportunity to help our child co-regulate.  If we can manage our own emotions, then our children will see positive coping skills in action.
  • Let your child know it’s okay to talk through their emotions.   Allow them to ask questions, but don’t feel like you must have an answer to all of their questions.  Listening is powerful. Sometimes all we can do is say, “I can understand why you feel that way.” Children need to feel heard and validated.
  • Limit your child’s exposure to news. This is also helpful for adults.  In the 24-hour news cycle it can be tempting to watch the news all day. It is important to stay informed but not oversaturated. Watching too much news can instill fear and anxiety in children. 
  • Keep a schedule. Many parents are being forced to either work from home or find emergency daycare placement with family or friends during this time. Kids thrive on a schedule, and their usual routine has been disrupted. Kids of all ages – and even adults – do not do as well when they are off of their normal schedule. So create a new schedule, and try to organize your child’s day during typical school hours. You can find free examples of schedules online. 
  • Make sure you limit digital time.  Although students have virtual learning built into their day, make sure you weave in play time and non-digital time throughout the day.  Excessive use of electronics can increase anxiety, so make sure your child takes breaks from electronics during the day. 
  • Encourage outdoor play. Kids are used to outdoor recess. Even if the weather forecast is not ideal, encourage kids to go outdoors in between the rain showers. They need to be able to run around and play to release energy and stress.
  • Teach your kids coping skills. Exercise, belly breathing, and talking about their feelings are going to be really important during this time.  Also encourage your children (especially teenagers) to reach out to their friends by phone and text.  For teenagers, relationships with peers are very important. 
  • Lastly, use this time to reconnect as a family. Normally our busy schedules leave us little quality time with family. Use this time to play board games, have family meals, and connect.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – April 14, 2020 –

With the current global health crisis, it seems like we are surrounded by doom-and-gloom information at all times. It’s easy to find negative news everywhere we look – on TV, on social media, and in written news.

More than ever, it is very important for us to be mindful and intentional about the information we consume. Being informed is important, but not more important than your mental health. We are going to discuss some ways to help make your mental health a priority while also being in the know about current events.

Currently some media outlets are heavily focused on the negative things happening around us. The pandemic information is scary, but it’s very compelling. This is the type of news that sucks people in, but it can also have a very negative impact on your mental health.

One thing experts suggest is getting information directly from the source instead of from news outlets seeking increased ratings. For example, with COVID-19, a good place to get information would be from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.

It is important to have a general understanding of what is going on in the world so you know which guidelines to follow to keep you and your family safe, but it is not necessary to have a constant influx of this information.

Actually, research conducted by Health Psychology suggests that seeing too much negativity can be harmful to your mental health. Being bombarded with negative news can increase your own risk of developing depression and/or anxiety. Research done at the University of California Irvine states that during a time of crisis people who seek repetitive negative news can be affected for up to three years after the event.

Also, be sure that if you are spending time on social media you are not using it as your main source of information about what is going on in the world. Limit your time spent online, especially on social media sites. This is also a good time to clean out the people and businesses you follow on social media. If there are people filling your feed with negativity or outlets posting only doom and gloom news stories, this would be the perfect time to filter your access to them. In exchange, look for some positive accounts to follow. In this time when we’re seeing so much negativity, there are also a lot of people working hard to fill the world with light and positivity.

This is also a good time for you and your family to work together to spread kindness within your own home and neighborhood. Write positive notes to your neighbors with sidewalk chalk and send thank-you notes to essential workers.

There is so much good happening in the world today, but choosing to focus on the negative can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health. For the well-being of you and your family, it is important to be informed but not overstimulated with negativity. Right now it is best to follow guidelines, stay home and do positive things.

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW – March 31, 2020 –

America has found itself in a medical crisis that most people didn’t see coming. There have been a lot of sudden changes in our lives that we weren’t anticipating. One of the most significant changes is the sudden break from school. Some school corporations have announced they will not resume school this year.  

It is crucial that we help provide our children with sense of comfort during this time. What are some things we can do to help provide our children with comfort and routine during a time that seems to be anything BUT routine? 

First, take care of your own mental health. If you’re feeling anxious about current events it is very important to minimize your own anxiety. Your children will be able to tell that you’re anxious, and this could create some anxiety in them as well.  

Strategies for managing your anxiety might include meditation, exercise, yoga, and reading. It is important that you have an outlet during this time. Be sure conversations you’re having about your own fears are not happening in front of your children.  

Your kids are probably spending a lot more time at home than they’re used to. It is important to provide them with some normalcy during this time. If you have assignments for them to complete, set aside time daily for them to do this work. This time should be structured and quiet, much like their school day.  

If you do not have assignments your children are working on at this time, I strongly suggest creating structured time in their day where they read quietly or work on age-appropriate math and language arts activities. There are a lot of websites providing free services at this time due to so many schools being closed. Keeping some structured time is important; when they return to school it will help lessen the shock.  

Once you have your structured time planned, it is also important to build in fun. I know it seems more difficult to have fun when you’re stuck in your house. This is a perfect time to dust off those old board games, have some killer dance parties, try a new recipe together and remember what it’s like to enjoy each other’s company without deadlines and schedules hanging over your head.  

Times are difficult and confusing right now, but we can absolutely make the best of it. Take this time to enjoy togetherness with those you love most.  

By Laura Keys, LCSW – March 12, 2020 –

You don’t have to tune in the news to know how worried everyone is about the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  If adults are worried, it follows that children will be scared as well. 

I have had a lot of parents reach out to me in the past two weeks to get advice on how to discuss the virus with their children.  Because many children are hearing about it at school and online, it’s important to make sure they have accurate information. 

As always, it is best to make sure they are getting their primary information from you.  Many parents are wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already are. Most experts agree to some general guidelines.

  1. Model composure – When I am on a bumpy flight, I always keep my eye on the flight attendant. If they are calm, I am calm. Children watch their parents every day in a multitude of situations. Even though you may be concerned yourself, it is important to model calmness when talking about the virus.
  2. Limit news exposure on the Coronavirus – Although the news can be helpful by keeping everyone informed, some news outlets tend to sensationalize current events to keep our attention. Some news coverage can have strong language and visuals that may be scary to a young child or lead to anxiety in an older child.  For this reason, it is best to limit this coverage when the kids are around, especially if they tend to be worriers by nature.
  3. Try to catch when your child is looking for reassurance – I’m sure all parents can remember times their children seemed to ask the same question over and over. It’s not that they weren’t listening the first time. Most likely your answer made them feel better, and they may need to feel better about something over and over if it’s scary to them. Try to answer their questions in a consistent and calm manner without bringing up that they have asked this “a thousand times.”  If you notice repeated reassurance seeking or you are not able to reassure them after several attempts, it might be helpful to seek extra support to help your children manage their anxiety.

Remember, everyone is working hard to manage the virus. There are many ways to prevent further spread. Practicing and modeling these simple behaviors can be a proactive measure for you and your child. Kids and grownups can try their best to stay healthy by continuing their usual activities while practicing these healthy behaviors:

  1. Sneeze or cough into tissues (and throw them away) or sneeze or cough into your elbow. This helps keep germs from traveling and making other people sick.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water at the same times you usually do, like after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose. When you wash your hands, remember to count slowly to 20. (Parents can help by singing the ABCs or “Happy Birthday” with their children the number of times it takes for 20 seconds to pass. This helps children remember to wash for a sufficient amount of time.)
  3. Try to keep your hands out of your mouth, eyes, and nose.

For more information on kids and the coronavirus, visit the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html.