Currently, we are in month number six of the COVID epidemic in the US. Depending on where you live there is probably still some level of social distancing, mask wearing, outdoor eating and virtual schooling. And there’s something else that I’ve noticed, my neighbors or myself leave the sidewalk when we see the other approaching. Spontaneous conversations in line at grocery stores and other places along my daily errand route are largely reduced. And because 2 of our 3 children live in NYC (former epicenter) we hadn’t seen or worse hugged them in forever. Well, a recent spontaneous road trip changed all of that.
As my husband and I sat in our home in Virginia on a recent Friday night, I realized how much I missed them and needed to get my mama arms and heart around them. So we decided that the next morning, we would load up the car and drive to NYC for a few days. We found a hotel going the extra mile cleaning and sanitizing. In fact, they have a recent partnership with Lysol (which might be why I haven’t been able to find one can for myself).
This trip was not what our normal NYC trips have been. No Broadway shows, not many dinners out and none indoors. No crowded sidewalks, in fact, Times Square resembled a normal thoroughfare instead of the crazy hustle and bustle it always is in late summer and early fall. Even with all of that, the city was still a sight for sore eyes. I’m a native New Yorker who has been living in the south, off and on, for over 20 years. Seeing this new New York, reminded me about what’s important and maybe even more important now. And that is finding a way, no, making a way to stay connected to the people we love. We weren’t reckless while visiting my hometown. We wore masks everywhere, there was hand sanitizer seemingly on every corner and New Yorkers were so friendly and happy we were there.
During this impromptu trip I learned that no matter what happens, busy life, long work days, extra responsibilities, a pandemic, it doesn’t matter. I have a responsibility to remain connected to the ones I love and the ones that love me. We almost talked ourselves out of going. We knew several of the days in NY would be work days for the kids while working from home. But to my surprise they were as happy and as eager to see us as we them. From the family outdoor dining night to a mother daughter brunch, my heart was over flowing. The conversation at those tables and also while watching Sunday football was exactly what I needed. And that was no surprise, I knew that. But what I didn’t know was how much our kids needed it too.
Let’s face it, these have been scary times and not just for children but all of us. And so we have to fight for pieces of what normal will be and live and love every moment of them. What can that look like for you and your young adult children? Maybe they aren’t a 3.5 hour drive way but what about a Zoom family game night (https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g32098665/best-games-to-play-on-zoom/)? Or a virtual family dinner party (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/voraciously/wp/2020/03/21/eating-alone-together-virtual-dinner-parties-are-helping-people-fight-isolation/)? And in the times you are unable to be the one connecting with your young adult, the University of Michigan Department of Medicine suggests the following:
Tips for college students:
1. Know that it is okay to feel how you are feeling.
It is normal during this crazy time to experience feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, or all of the above. You are allowed to feel this way and to communicate with others how you are feeling. It is also okay to sit with these emotions. If these feelings worsen to the extent that you are no longer able to function like your normal self, reach out to one of the resources listed below for additional support.
2. Maintain a routine.
Start your day at about the same time each day. Set a goal for coursework to be completed for each morning and afternoon. Maintain adequate nutrition by eating three healthy meals per day; now is a great time to try new recipes! Try to get in at least one physical activity each day. It is very good for your mental health to get some fresh air and go on a walk, run, or bike ride.
3. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The goal should be 7-9 hours per night. Limit screen time in the evening, and avoid caffeine starting in the afternoon.
4. Connect with others.
It is easy to quickly feel lonely and secluded from others during this stay-at-home period. Make an effort to stay socially connected by engaging in regular video or phone calls with friends and family.
5. Take a break.
Take time for yourself each day. Step away from the news and from your coursework to do something you enjoy and that you find relaxing or rejuvenating.
As the saying goes, this too shall pass, but the question is, “When?” So until that time, find (make) a way to stay connected. Virtual hugs are fine but there are those moments when my kids fit perfectly into my outstretched arms. And in that moment everything is normal again.
Five tips adapted from "Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic as a College Student," U-M Medical School Department of Psychiatry.
This article was first posted on CollegiateParent.com