Tips to Survive Quarantine with Kids

Tips to Survive Quarantine with Kids

Tips to Survive Quarantine with Kids

Survival Tips for Stay At Home

As COVID-19 has swept through the United States it has brought fear, uncertainty, and anxiety as well as unprecedented self-quarantine. The schools have closed for what feels like an unknown amount of time and while we all try to grasp the magnitude of this situation many parents are also left wondering how to survive this quarantine with kids. 

As a marriage therapist and parenting coach, a lot of my clients have been reaching out with questions and concerns surrounding this whole COVID-19 quarantine. I want to share my favorite helpful tips to survive quarantine with kids (especially school age!). 

Wake Up Before the Kids

Although sacrificing sleep is always a challenge and very much a sacrifice, it will feel worth it. Waking up before the kids 20-30 minutes allows you to take care of yourself first, have a moment of peace, and do something to set yourself up for success for the rest of the day (whether you are organizing your work from home space, prepping your mind with positive thoughts for the day, or searching for cardboard boxes to built the best forts with your kiddos).

Practice Mindfulness

Use mindfulness as a way to bring yourself back into the present moment when you’re starting to feel your blood boil or you’re having a moment of intense panic. Tune into what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Or walk yourself through a deep breathing exercise (breathe in 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, out for 4 counts, repeat 4 times). 

Set Up a Schedule for Both Yourself and the Kids

Creating a sense of routine and structure often is helpful for everyone involved. Setting up a schedule for both yourself and the kids will help you to monitor your family activities. Kids do best when they know what to expect, so laying out the plan for the day will keep things flowing a little more smoothly and hopefully stop everyone from asking for snacks every 5 minutes.

Enforce Quiet Time

Being home all day long together can feel overly stimulating. Building an hour of quiet time into the day can give everyone a break and a moment to recharge. During this time kids are expected to be in their rooms napping or engaged in a quiet independent activity. I tell my parenting coaching clients that this is an excellent time to practice self-awareness, meditation, and resetting before continuing through the rest of the day (and a little social distancing from the newness of being around eah other 24/7 for an hour never hurts…).

Use Dinner Time to Practice Gratitude as a Family

Cultivating gratitude is consistently shown to positively impact overall happiness so, using dinner time to practice gratitude as a family is an excellent time for cultivating gratitude with your children. Go around the table and say one thing you feel grateful for during dinner. Doing this regularly helps everyone start to tune in to what they feel grateful for throughout the day, it also reminds us that even on our hardest days there is something to be thankful for.

Have a Clean Up Dance Party at the End of the Day

Ending the day with a clean(ish) house may help everyone feel a bit more settled, so take 10 minutes before bedtime to blast the tunes and straighten up the days’ mess. The music makes it feel fun and special and may even end up in an all out dance party which is great for boosting mood and getting some extra exercise. Having a clean home at the end of the day will help set you up for success the following morning.  

Above All Else, Practice Self-Compassion and Patience!

It is A LOT to be managing work, kids, your relationship, pets, anxiety etc. Sometimes you will feel like all you’re doing is surviving and that is absolutely ok. 

This is temporary, every day is a new day and a new opportunity to try again. Sometimes you’ll be able to keep the days routine and other days you might need your kids to have a little extra screen time. Be kind to yourself and know that good enough is truly enough.

We can do hard things and we will get through this. Remember to stay connected to your friends and family and if you need some extra support, online therapy and coaching are good options to increase general self care.

Stay strong, you’ve got this.
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

 

P.S. If you are looking for an online support group, Growing Self is now accepting new members to our Coronavirus Support Group. Read More Here → Coping with Anxiety, Stress, and Lonliness in the Era of Coronavirus

 

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a Denver-based couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

Jessica meets with clients both in-person at our Denver office and by online video.

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Coparenting Together

Coparenting Together

Coparenting Together

Creating A Successful Partnership

The term coparenting implies that you and your spouse are parenting together, but the reality can often feel much different. The Oxford dictionary defines coparenting as “sharing the duties of parenting.” 

Often we think of coparenting in reference to couples who are separated or divorced and are trying to actively parent children from two different households, but the truth is that the act of coparenting is just as present for couples living in the same home. 

The experience of parenting with a partner can be difficult. You both love your children, you both want the best for your children and at times you may have different ideas of how to mold these tiny young people into productive members of society. 

Let’s be honest, parenting in and of itself is hard. There’s no reason to make it harder by feeling like you’re battling your partner every step of the way. 

Here are some tips to put the CORPORATION into coparenting: 

#1 FIND THE SIMILARITIES FIRST

It tends to be in our nature to focus on the negative, especially when we are feeling anxious, overwhelmed and angry. When I work with couples that are struggling to find effective coparenting strategies, we always start with finding where the partners are aligned. [Also see: Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner for more practical tips on building your foundation together.]

So before you and your partner start to highlight all the things you disagree on, change the conversation. Ask each other these types of open-ended questions

What values do you want to instill in our children? 

What feels most important to you to teach our children? 

What would make you feel like we have succeeded as parents? 

Are there things your parents did that you want to repeat or avoid? 

What do you enjoy about parenting? 

What feels hardest for you? 

These questions open the door to a dialogue where there can be connection, understanding, and alignment.

#2 GET ON THE SAME PAGE

Now that you’ve spent time changing the conversation, and you have some clarity around what you, as parents, are ultimately working to achieve with your kids, you can start to explore various parenting models that you both can agree on. 

Operating from a parenting model can often give parents a sense of relief because it feels like a manual for a job that came with no training. When you and your partner are both focused on parenting from the same lens then you naturally begin to respond to situations with similar language, and in similar ways. 

A few models you may want to check out are Love and Logic, The Whole-Brain Child, and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids.

#3 BACK EACH OTHER UP

Kids, even young kids, are far more perceptive than we give them credit for. As we all know children are in a constant quest to test the boundaries. It is our job as parents to set rules and limits to ensure emotional and physical safety. 

When there are gaps and cracks in our coparenting union, make no mistake that our children will find them. Just think about how much power it gives a child to understand that they can come between mom and dad! 

It is an unrealistic expectation that you and your partner will agree on everything and always make the same decisions and respond to your kids in the same way, but in front of your kids, make an agreement to back each other up (and then settle any difference in opinion behind closed doors).

[For more information on nourishing your relationship with your partner through this parenting phase see: How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby for relationship-care tips!]

# 4 RELINQUISH CONTROL AND EMPOWER YOUR PARTNER

Nothing feels more defeating than having your partner swoop in and redo your work. Part of coparenting is about recognizing that your partner is sometimes going to do it differently than you would and your way is not always the right way

Sometimes your partner is going to put your child in an outfit that does not match or give your kid two sweets when you would have only given them one. Don’t jump in and change your kid’s clothes or scold your partner. Being able to have flexibility around the small things helps create space for conversation around the big things (see step one for figuring out what the “big” things are and step two about backing one another up). 

Give your partner space to build their own relationship with your kids, and the opportunity to feel like an empowered part of the parenting team.

#5 HAVE FUN

Spending time together as a family doing things that are enjoyable and fun increases a sense of fondness and admiration for your coparent. When we feel positive about our partner we tend to have more tolerance for the moments that are hard. Find time to play, be silly, and admire how great your coparent can be. 

Remember, you’ve got this, you are the parents!

Warmly,
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

Do you have some helpful coparenting tips to share? Tell us in the comments section below!

 

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

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Coparenting Together

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Parenting with a partner can be difficult. It’s not unusual to have different ideas of how to raise your children, but working together and building strategies for success can help ease some of those uncomfortable conversations. Couples therapist and parenting coach Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT shares 5 Coparenting Strategies for a successful partnership on this week’s The Love, Happiness and Success blog post!

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

Becoming Parents, Together.

Welcoming a new baby into the world can be one of the most exciting and joyful times for a couple… and also one of the hardest. It’s unfortunately very common to have marriage problems after baby. As marriage counselors and family therapists we often see that most couples spend so much time and energy preparing for the birth, and how to take care of their newborn, they neglect to think about how they’ll keep their relationship strong after baby.

The relationship issues they experience after having a baby can therefore catch them by surprise, and feel all the more challenging to resolve in the stressful weeks and months following the birth of a child.

Just like we encourage couples getting married to get premarital counseling to prevent future problems, we encourage pregnant couples to proactively prepare their relationships for life-after baby. Today, we’re here to help provide some guidance for preventing relationship problems after having a baby, or for healing your relationship if it feels like things have gotten harder since becoming parents together.

Common Marriage Problems After Baby

Many couples report relationship issues after baby. Why? It’s because having a new child to care for together is uniquely stressful, and it requires you two to work together as a couple in a different way than you ever had before. Furthermore, you’re likely both feeling depleted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed. Plus, when your baby needs something, it feels like an emergency!

In this emotional, hormonal, and circumstantial pressure-cooker frustrations flare, and resentments simmer, particularly when things are feeling out of balance between you and unspoken expectations are going unmet.

Many women report feeling disconnected from their husband after having a baby, often due to feeling overwhelmed, overburdened, and because it’s difficult for their partners to know how to support them — physically, emotionally, and in terms of practical help. Men too can experience disconnection from their partners after the birth of a child, often due to feeling suddenly secondary to this new little being who needs so much care and attention.

Having a new baby requires couples to renegotiate boundaries, establish new ways of doing things, and enter brand new emotional territory together — all while sleep-deprived and stressed. It’s a a new chapter that involves a great deal of personal growth work, both for each partner individually, and as a couple. It’s no wonder that many couples struggle as they make their way forward, together.

Relationship Changes After Baby

In addition to the new challenges couples face around how to work as a team to care for their baby, they may temporarily lose many of the fun bonding activities they once shared. Many couples need to rebuild their sexual relationship (slowly!) after the birth of a child. It’s also generally much more difficult to spend time alone doing fun things than it was in the past. (You’ll find very few brand new parents at a weekend-music festival, for example).

However, strong couples learn how to find new things to enjoy together. While having time alone is still important (date night, anyone?) it’s extremely helpful to find ways of having fun and connecting around your parenting role too.

Building a Strong, Happy Family  — Together

The good news is that through preparation and communication, couples can not just avert marriage problems after baby but enter a new era of strength and satisfaction in their relationship. Yes, things change, but many couples report feeling more deeply committed to each other and their new life as a family together in the months and years after their first child.

The early stages of new parenthood require working out kinks, and learning how to work as a team in a whole new way. Having a happy marriage after parenthood means learning new ways of communicating, connecting, and enjoying life together.

Because this transition to parenthood can feel so challenging for many couples, we’re devoting a whole episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to supporting you through it. Marriage and family therapist and parenting coach Jessica Small will be sharing her tips for how to not just keep your relationship strong after baby, but set yourself up for success in the years to come.

Listen now to get Jessica’s advice for how to:

  • Prepare your relationship for a baby
  • Have crucial conversations that will help you work through issues as they come up
  • How to support each other emotionally after having a baby
  • Practice practical strategies to make things easier for both of you
  • Keep a compassionate mindset
  • Create a happy new chapter for your marriage

We hope that this information helps you successfully transition from being a happy couple to a happy family!

Sincerely,

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT and Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong, After Baby

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star,   “Blister in the Sun” (New Wave Lullabies Vol. 1,)

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Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

In addition to working with private clients, Jessica leads our Online Postpartum Support Group.

Learn More About Jessica

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Parenting Two Under Two: Strategies For Success

Parenting Two Under Two: Strategies For Success

Parenting Two Under Two: Strategies For Success

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

Jessica is also the facilitator of the Postpartum Support Group that meets Mondays online at 9 AM MST. 

From One Mom to Another…

Yes, I’m a marriage and family therapist but I’m also a mom. I was 6 months postpartum with my first baby when I found out I was pregnant with my second. This was not exactly a planned event and I am a consummate planner. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I felt like I was just getting my parenting sea legs and was suddenly going to be thrown into a momentous storm.

So I did what any person would do, I panicked and then consulted the internet, asking “how to survive two under two?” My babies are now 1 and 2, and we’re all okay. I can confidently say we made it through the first year, and I learned many things along the way.

While the one thing I know to be consistently true is that nothing is consistent and that the next year will bring a whole new set of triumphs and challenges, there are a few tips I have for living (not just surviving) with two under two.

Two Under Two: How To Make it Work

Help your oldest kid first

I remember reading this same piece of advice over and over again and it always seemed backwards to me. I thought my newborn would be so helpless that they would need my attention immediately while my older one was a bit more self-sufficient and could wait. However, in practice, I found this advice to be gold.

With the exception of any safety/imminent threat issues I attended to my older child first and once I got her settled, I was able to fully attend to my baby. My older child was generally easier and quicker to serve and once she was settled I had enough time to fully give the baby what he needed.

Trust that you have enough love and time for them both

I was afraid that having a second child so soon was going to mean I was going to miss out on my first. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have enough love or time for them both and that my first child was going to get lost in the needs of a newborn.

One of the many things having children has taught me is that love is infinite, endless and brutally intense. Love can expand far beyond the reaches you could ever expect and there is always room for more. You can trust that your heart will make space for your growing family, it always does.

As for time, I would be lying if I said that having two children did not create limitations on my time, but that was going to be true no matter what the age gap! What I found was that I became more intentional and present with my time. Because I was afraid of not having enough of it, I was more thoughtful when I did have it. I started to cherish the baby’s morning nap because it gave me space to give my oldest my full attention.

I also reminded myself that it’s good for kids to learn to not be the center of attention, to have to entertain them self, to share, to practice patience to realize that the universe has many people in it and there is enough love and space for them all.

Find a routine that gives you a break

Nap time is one of my favorite times of the day. It is a much-needed break from parenting. I love my kids but I also love the break from them, it is like coming up for air after being submerged by the endless needs of others.

When my second baby came I vowed to get them on a schedule that allowed me this break. Although it took some time, I aligned their naps so that most afternoons I get at least an hour break (here are some parenting tips around sleep schedules, if you’re interested). That break is my haven, my time to reset, check out, get a task done or read a book. That break is imperative to my survival.

Be kind to yourself

The day after I brought home my son from the hospital my daughter fell off the bed. I was holding the baby and saw it happen but couldn’t get to her in time. She cried. I cried. We both survived. Things happen. Be kind to yourself.

Breathe

Honestly, of all my tips, this one is the best. Breathe. When both babies scream you’re entire drive…breathe. When you’re overwhelmed and exhausted…breathe. When your one child poops in the tub that both children are in…breathe (and yes, this did happen). Focus hard on that breath and say to yourself “this too shall pass.”

It always does.

You’ve got this.

Sincerely,
Jessica

PS: If you are in the thick of parenting babies, toddlers or both, and are looking for more practical tips and emotional support – I hope you consider joining our online postpartum support group. We laugh, we cry, and recently washed hair is absolutely optional. 😉

 

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Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness. Jessica is the facilitator of our Online Postpartum Support Group: New Baby, Happy Life where she shares more practical tips for new parents.

 

Sleep Makes Everything Better

 

By day, I am a marriage and family therapist. I love helping new moms and dads make the beautiful and often challenging transition into parenthood. However, my after-work hours consist of practicing what I preach in my parenting coaching and family therapy sessions as a mom of two littles myself. One of the most valuable lessons I can share with new parents is to prioritize sleep for both you and your children!

Sleep Training Can Be a Lifesaver

When my daughter was 4 months old she went from waking a manageable one time per night to waking up every 2 hours. I thought I was going to lose my mind! I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed by this new pattern. I decided it was time to sleep train.

I packed her up, went to the library, and checked out several books on sleep training. It was a Wednesday when I decided to make this life change and my plan was to start sleep training by that Friday. On Friday evening I skimmed through the rented books and decided sleep training was imminent.

Within a week my little one was sleeping through the night and I was reclaiming my sanity.

When You Educate Yourself You Can Teach Your Kids

During pregnancy, I went to many classes but not one of them talked about sleep, even more importantly, infant sleep. It had never occurred to me that good sleep habits are TAUGHT, and parents are the teachers.

Teaching your baby the habits of good sleep is a lifelong gift. Think about how often people talk about sleep, how great they feel when they get it, and how destroyed they feel when they don’t. Sleep matters.

Research shows that sleep is a critical component of good health, both physically and mentally. We need sleep to function at our optimal level.

Here are three reasons to prioritize your baby’s sleeping skills

When baby is sleeping, everyone is sleeping!

  • Teaching your baby to sleep through the night means that you, the parents, also get the sleep you need. People who are severely sleep deprived often experience increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Parents who are in a serious need of sleep may find that they are lacking in other ways as well including distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and general self-care.
  • Parenting is a hard job (not to mention any other employment/roles you may hold) and it is critical that you, as a parent, are getting enough sleep to manage it all.

 Teaching good sleep habits also teaches babies how to self soothe.

  • Self-soothing is a fundamental developmental skill. At some point, babies must learn how to calm themselves down from a state of stress or irritation independently of their primary attachment figure.
  • This is a skill they will utilize throughout life. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that one of the factors that determine an infant’s ability to sleep through the night is based on their ability to self soothe during the first five months of life.
  • Self-soothing may come in the form of sucking on their thumb, pacifier, stroking a security blanket, rubbing their eyes, playing with their hair etc. When a baby is able to self soothe, they are able to fall asleep without being held or rocked AND are able to put themselves back to sleep during the middle of the night without needing mom or dad!

 Knowledge is power.

  • Understanding baby sleep cycles, sleep cues, and positive sleep associations give you, the parent, back a sense of control.
  • When I talk to parents who have little ones that are not sleeping they share a sense of powerlessness, defeat, and frustration. They want their baby to sleep, they want to sleep, but they are unsure of how to make it happen.
  • Understanding the basics of sleep and the sleep teaching strategies provide a framework to operate from. It will help you dispel the myths that might be negating your progress (e.g. babies that sleep during the day, don’t sleep at night- THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!) and it will give you a roadmap for how to manage the sleep regressions that will undoubtedly come even after your baby is trained.
  • Once you have a handle on your baby sleep needs, sleep will come.

Remember, you are the parent, you can do this! May the sleep gods be with you.

Warmly,

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

 

P.S. If you need more support please join our Postpartum Support Group! It is a fantastic way to connect with others, learn new skills and strategies for managing this new job you are learning, and getting some extra support.

 

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