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Surviving and Thriving the Pandemic Indoors Again

New games, popular movies, and other choices shape a resilient narrative.

Our first take at social distancing: when kids were off school for weeks and telework took hold. Then came summer, a bit of a reprieve outdoors. Now, back indoors.

We've seen what happens with siblings together 24/7, hardly any sports to watch, canceled trips and school activities a no-go. First it was boredom, bickering, and too many fearful headlines. Now: school/work collide again amid more troubling headlines and an election.

To thrive, not merely survive, this pandemic in its varying stages, one needs to work on resiliency, connection, and forced interludes of plain fun.

Loriann Oberlin, MS, LCPC
Board games provide social skills. Coloring and card decks relaxation and reflection.
Source: Loriann Oberlin, MS, LCPC

Stream with a theme. Yes, kids still want to zone out after school. Parents may need the reprieve television affords as they catch up on work. However, when adults guide what goes on the screen, advantages outweigh mindless binge-watching. Look at your streaming choices as a means to shape your family narrative and perspective, for worse or for better.

Young children benefit from social/emotional learning via Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Peg+Cat, and Arthur episodes. Finding Nemo features altruism, the animated Lion King promotes grit as well as healing, and Monster University tackles failure and success. Fantasia contains a wonderful collection of classical music.

Acceptance, emotions, and relationships are all over Shrek and Inside Out . Middle and high- schoolers learn about journaling and consider their journeys in Freedom Writers.

All the President’s Men, Shattered Glass , and The Post offer moral, historical and decision-making themes. Teach social awareness and career exploration through movies. One can’t watch Hidden Figures without being in awe of mathematical prowess, nor a sense of struggle and accomplishment from Harriet and On the Basis of Sex, exploring sexism.

Whatever media gets viewed in your home shapes your child
Source: Pixabay

Kids will never think of fast food the same way after Super Size Me, nor football after watching Concussion. Both have vital health takeaways. Without live sports, kids experience grit and determination viewing Rudy and The Blind Side.

Game yourself into a different life. There’s such a temptation to tune out with individual devices, furthering isolation. Opt instead for board games, the chess set, or a deck of cards as these foster social skills, turn-taking, fair play, and cooperation.

Try the 2017 version of the Game of Life featuring modern scenarios of viral pet videos, online business, home theaters and video game designer as a career choice. The 2018 Game of Life Quarter Life Crisis is an adult parody version where you can be a social media influencer, podcast host, or ride-share driver, live in a tiny house or parent's basement, and experience pitfalls of a psycho ex, no Wi-Fi, or getting trolled online.

Clue increases a child’s deductive reasoning, chess and checkers help with strategy, and Sorry is a marvel at testing low frustration tolerance. Bananagrams and Scrabble make spelling fun.

Loaded Questions , TableTopics , and Imagine If encourage us to understand one another. Magnetic Poetry and Rory’s Story Cubes allow word smart kids to express themselves. Famous Failures bills itself as the game of persistence. Election Night, a Brain Child award winner, lets you experience the road to the presidency using a colorful dry-erase map of electoral college votes and special dice promoting math fact fluency. 1

Enough current events? Read! University of Sussex researchers found that in merely six minutes reading a novel, we lower heart rate and muscle tension. 2 With a novel in hand, we lose ourselves into a character’s world. We cannot perseverate on our own problems when we get behind a character and his or her circumstances.

Reading to children enhances brain connectivity in the temporal cortex, encouraging encourages conversation. Teens enhance their vocabulary, critical to SAT performance, among other objectives.

Studies also show that readers live an average of two years longer than non-readers 3 , and they’re more considerate and nicer. 4 Citing “theory of mind,” researchers found that fiction readers embrace other, new ideas without losing sight of their own. 5 In short, they have enhanced empathy. 6

Puzzles & coloring promote patience and calm. As one fits jigsaw pieces together, mental speed, problem-solving, and memory become enhanced. 7 Weeks into the pandemic, CBS Sunday Morning featured the puzzle craze, as a means to pass the time but also a way to learn geography, express personal photographs or enjoy a hobby or relaxing scene. 8

Coloring, especially mandalas, quiets the brain. Ancient mandalas were developed by Tibetan Buddhist monks on which to meditate, as far back as the fourth century, using sand. Today, coloring a mandala reflects the creator's inner expression and taps into the subconscious (from a Jungian perspective), when you might not readily express feelings in words. Start at the center, coloring to the outer rim that serves as a boundary between you and the outer world.

If transitioning to games, puzzles, or coloring competes for gadget-driven entertainment, parents should just hang in there amid any initial pushback. These methods work.

Seek support to change troubling thoughts/habits. Everyone’s favorite neighbor, Mister Rogers, once said: In times of great stress, look to the helpers, and these include mental health therapists.

I suggest several self-help resources on my website and tailor even more recommendations to clients in sessions because I use a strong base of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and family systems. 9 You get out of counseling, most often done these days via telehealth, what you’re willing to put into it. Look at credentials and theory used. Some TV/radio ads for services may not fall within insurance or state-mandated requirements. CBT is very homework-based. Look at books written from a CBT perspective. For kids, The ABCs of CBT is an illustrated card game to drive home the concepts of examining automatic thoughts and changing habits.

During this confinement, our choices enable us to more than survive…but thrive. We’ll get past this, likely stronger for it.

Copyright @ 2020 by Loriann Oberlin. All rights reserved.

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