Families, Inc. Trumann Clinical Supervisor and psychologist Dr. Dana Watson has been featured regularly this spring on KFIN’s Breakfast Club to discuss maintaining a healthy mindset during the coronavirus pandemic. The following transcript is of her conversation with KFIN’s Brandon Baxter on March 25, 2020.
Q: Can we just review a bit of what we’ve talked about before: how to talk to your children during this time, how to manage our own adult anxiety?
For children, keep the lines of communication open; check in with your child; have discussions about how the world, community, family is changing; make sure they feel safe and know that you’re in control. Normalize their emotions and reassure them. Have a schedule every day to increase feelings of normalcy. Teach your children to shift their focus to “others.” Write letters or make cards and send to the local nursing homes.
For adults, limit social media; limit the 24-hour news cycle; allow emotions to come; honor those, solid, healthy support systems; find ways to connect with others socially; make a schedule for yourself. And again, there is nothing that helps to distract us from our own stuff more than pouring back into others. Make two calls a day to elderly people who may need contact and support. Drop off a meal for a person who can’t get out. See if they need groceries.
Q: Are people as miserable in your office as they seem on Facebook?
[Laughing] It’s pretty remarkable to see how different people and different personalities are handling this. It’s stressful for everyone! Some people have a “let’s make the best of this” or “how can I help myself and my family and my community” approach to surfing unknowns, and some have a “We’re never going to make it”/doomsday outlook.
Many of the parents who are staying home are growing super restless and have run out of crafty ideas, and the ones who are still working and can’t be with their children are ready to spend some time at home. No matter what group you’re in, I think we’re all starting to think the grass is looking better on the other side! I am ready to be home for a little break, but I know a lot of other folks, like my husband who has been forced to work from home, are ready to get out of the house and back to an office setting. And, of course, everyone is worried about finances and their own health and the health of their families.
Q: Can people even come in for therapy now?
Very limited services are available in-person. Most insurances are covering therapy sessions over the phone or through Skype or Facetime. It’s not ideal for me as a psychologist—I always want to be with and observe my clients and spend time with them face to face—but it’s also a cool way to stay connected in this difficult time.
Q: What about people who already have depression or anxiety or PTSD? Is this harder on them?
Sure, they’re more vulnerable in challenging times. They might also be more resilient. In some ways they’ve been preparing for this! But watch yourself and watch your family members if they’ve had some troubles prior to this. Make sure you’re checking in and connecting with them often.
Q: What about families? What can families do during this time to keep from going stir crazy and feeling overwhelmed?
Our family has decided to use this time as wisely as we can. We sat down together and came up with an emotional goal, a physical goal, an academic goal and a creative goal for the next 30 days. This quarantine will be over, but Lord knows we will never forget it. I wanted our family to come out of it having learned something, using the opportunity to have grown in some ways, rather than wasted or lost every single day. I wanted us to be better on the other side.
So, we set goals together and right after waking up, the kids complete AMI or lessons on Khan Academy for about 45 minutes. Then we do yoga or dance videos or walk the dogs for half an hour and then in the afternoons, we watch videos geared toward children on gratitude, managing emotions, empathy, being a good friend, etc. Once a day we make a simple craft or bake something. There are other lessons I’m hoping we can incorporate each week, like beginning finances, online museums and science projects. Thank goodness for YouTube; the possibilities for learning are limitless.
Q: But you’re teaching them so much more than just yoga and crafting, right?
Above all else, we want our children to learn to be optimistic, to take life’s setbacks or tragedies and move forward. I say that in my home all the time—Let’s move forward. Don’t stay stuck. When this is over, we will be more emotionally, intellectually and physically flexible than if we had not had this time together. On so many levels, this virus is costing us, each family and every country, a lot. Don’t let it rob you. You use this time to pour back in to yourself, your family and your community.