The shelter in place orders continue. And our stress, anxiety, and boredom might be increasing. Here are 10 ways to ease the tensions at home during these very unusual times.

Make yourself #1.
You are the center, the fulcrum of a scale, and you cannot balance everything if you do not take care of yourself first. Only then can you find the strength to care for others. Like when flying, put on your own mask before you put on your child’s.

Be aware of your own emotions.
This is a scary and stressful time for us all, and you of course have a variety of emotions. But try to present a calm, confident, and optimistic attitude when with your kids. Save your upset expressions for when your children are asleep or off with their other parent.

Be honest with your children.
Answer your children’s questions at age appropriate levels. Give small answers to big questions; they will ask again if they need more information. Not all children will ask questions, so also provide short easy answers when a new challenge arises. It’s also honest to say you are tired, or simply need a break, or no, I don’t want to play that game for the 1oth time.

Lower the expectations you have for your kids, your family and yourself.
They are not going to complete all their school work, they are going to watch screens more than you want, and you are not going to clean every drawer and answer every email. Your only goal is to protect your children’s (and yours) physical and mental health. No school assignment is worth tears and anger; an extra 30 minutes of screen time will not hurt anyone. (Though interactive screen time with little ones is better.)

Acknowledge your children’s emotions.
This is scary and confusing for our kids too, and many are acting out. Don’t just focus on the behavior – which is the iceberg tip above the water. Look below the surface to try and understand our kids’ feelings. When we acknowledge our children’s words and feelings, they will find it easier to let go and move on.

Talk about all the helpers.
There’s a lot of heroes out there, and it’s reassuring to talk about the nurses, doctors, aides, custodians,, store clerks, the mailman, and everyone else who is working to make thins better. In fact, your kids are heroes too, by staying home, washing their hands, and coughing in their elbows. Make sure they know that.

Provide structure and a routine every day.
It’s difficult to do this, especially when you are home every day, all day. But having a simple daily schedule that includes 3 meals, outside play, a TV show together, and bedtime provides a level of security for you all. Ask your older kids to help create the schedule – they are more likely to stick with it if they feel they own it.

Plan for daily interactions with other people.
Our kids need to chat with friends, Zoom with Grandma, and wave at neighbors. Our kids thrive on social interactions, and it’s healthy to stay connected. You can watch for the daily mail delivery, the weekly garbage pick up, and the occasional UPS driver. Wave at them from your front porch and call out “Thank you!”.

End each day with a warm connection at bedtime.
“Let’s talk about your day” is how I tucked my kids into bed every night. Bedtime is an opportunity for a warm and loving connection, a chance to talk about the good and the bad moments of the day, and to look ahead to a better day tomorrow.

Reach out for professional help if needed.
This is a rough time for most of us, and there is no blueprint for how to navigate these times. If you have any questions, or just need someone to talk with, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Almost everyone needs extra support during this time, and almost everyone can be a good listener.