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  • Writer's pictureAnnie Dries, PsyD, LP

A Mother's Perspective on The Extended School Break Due to Coronavirus

The recent world events and the spread of the Coronavirus have been weighing heavy on the world. As a mom and psychologist, I have been thinking of the ramifications across so many aspects of our lives. The deaths and danger to the elderly and immunocompromised are absolutely a tragedy.

I have a habit of trying to find the positives in situations and I try to help others to do this as well. Because of this, I do see a silver lining in this for us parents and caregivers. Here in Texas, the schools have decided to extend the spring break through to March 27, 2020 in hopes of limiting the spread of the virus and protecting our at risk populations. No matter how we may be feeling about this decision, the fact is that it is now our reality. So, what will we do with this time? Don't hate, but I see this time as a gift given to us. More time with our children that was unscheduled and is plentiful.

Some of us have counted the hours, I'll bet. Yes, this is a major inconvenience when it comes to figuring out how we will navigate if we still need to go into work, or if we can work remotely, how we will manage to work and care for the kids all at once. Worries abound about whether jobs will remain intact. I am not trying to ignore these stressors or to diminish their impact on our well-being.

What I feel compelled to point out and share is that our children will never be this age again and this is an opportunity that we will not likely be given again.

This is something I have told myself during my time as a parent throughout the various stages of my boys' lives. Whenever things get difficult, I find something that I love about their current phase of life and I tell myself this will not last which allows me the opportunity to embrace the good with the bad.

Today I thought a lot about this and about how I can take this time as an opportunity to to create memories with my boys. I wrote a list of things I want to do with them while we are confined to our home. I also asked them what things they would like to do with this extra time we have been given. We have plans to play board games, watch movies, play in the yard and take walks on nice days, play lots of video games (of course), read The Hobbit, work on puzzles, make special meals, have smores over the fire and bake treats together.

I know it sounds like rainbows and unicorns but I'm also a realist. There will be days when we are done looking at each other, or where my boys don't get along, or where I will just feel like I need a break. That is okay. We also need to plan for these days. It is okay to give extra screen time if you are at a point where you know it is better not to interact with your child. It is important to evaluate your support system and ask for help or plan small breaks. Think about ways you will take care of yourself and what you can do to stay mentally healthy. Sometimes an hour or two can make a world of difference. Allow everyone to get a little time alone. There is nothing wrong with having your child play on their own in their room for 30 minutes to an hour (age appropriately of course) just as you would put your baby down for a nap when they are tired. We all need time to ourselves to decompress. You know yourself best.

I grew up in New York and I can still remember the aftermath of Hurricane Gloria. I recall the excitement of time off from school, playing board games by the light of our kerosene lamp, and heating water with our propane stove to bathe with. These were novelties for me. Above all, I remember my parents making me feel safe despite the uncertainties and I remember feeling a closeness as we went through not having power for almost a week.

I know that this is a terrible situation and that people are sick and dying, but the fact is that we are still here with children to care for. My hope is that when my boys are grown, they look back on this two week period with feelings of connection and warmth as I do when I think about Hurricane Gloria. I hope this perspective helps you to look back on this time with no regrets too.

Annie Dries is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a private practice in Colleyville, TX

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