Managing Screen Time in the Pandemic

Parents know instinctively that they shouldn’t allow inanimate objects to fill their child’s schedule. Kids need to run and play and create. They need to breathe in fresh air and exercise their muscles. They need unstructured play time in which to make up games and live out their fantasies.

But, screens are here to stay. They are a part of daily life and will be in ever-changing ways in the future. And video games, movies and even educational online material are very seductive to our little ones. They will happily spend all day using them in one form or another, foregoing the more active choices such as playing out of doors.

And now, during the pandemic, vast numbers of our children are receiving their education online. They are spending even more hours in front of a screen. Should we be worried? 

First, let’s look at the positive outcomes of screen time.

  • There is quality educational material available in many, many places.
  • Screen time is engaging, kids love the colour, the action and the entertainment value.
  • Screen time causes kids to stay put in one place and tends to draw them in so they are content and quiet.
  • When used properly, children can learn just about any subject matter on educational sites.
  • Online lessons, games and activities can enrich learning.

It’s true. All the facts and understandings we used to present to kids verbally or with pictures and books, can now be called up with a few clicks of a keyboard. Want to learn about gorillas in the wild? Just search a few minutes and then watch a video of them in full colour. 

Does your child need support in mathematics? Just search out lessons at the appropriate level and you’ll find all the math games and activities you need at your fingertips. And the kids enjoy doing it.

Why Worry?

If computers and other screens are so wonderful, why do experts worry that our kids are using them too much? Well, there are good reasons for parents to monitor and manage screen time. Here are some of the concerns:

  • When children don’t exercise, they become obese
  • Many children display sleep disturbances due to overuse of screens.
  • Early Childhood experts point to excessive screen use as catalysts for behaviour problems such as aggression and impatience.
  • The more hours spent in passive play, the less spent in healthy, active play.
  • Some studies have linked screen time with inability to focus attention in other learning situations.
  • Excessive screen use in toddlers is linked with delayed speech.
  • Some studies suggest that excessive screen time delays academic performance overall.
  • In older children excessive screen time is linked to depression and suicide.

Setting Realistic Expectations

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all screens be turned off thirty minutes before bedtime and that television, computers and other screens not be allowed in children’s bedrooms.

Common sense would tell us that long hours spent in front of a screen, no matter the activity, isn’t ideal for growing children. But how much is right for your children? Check out this link to The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Plan. Use it to help you arrive at meaningful guidelines for screen use in your home.

Most experts agree on general guidelines for screen use in young children:

  • For children younger than 18 months, no screen time at all. Babies and toddlers are much better able to learn and grow with adequate physical play time, plenty of sleep and quiet read aloud times with adults.
  • For 18-24 month olds it is also recommended to refrain from screen time. However an occasional quality viewing time with adults is allowed.
  • For 2-5 year olds one hour of high-quality educational programming is suggested.
  • For school-aged children the amount of screen time increases to several hours per day, provided the content is good.

You may have noticed that no one believes it’s a good idea for children to spend long hours playing video games or using screens for entertainment. And most families realise their children are too attached to their screens and are spending more time with them than is healthy.

Parents, you can be role models for screen use as you make room for family conversations and play times free of devices. You should also make sure to preview games, apps, and any website your children are using. There are many sites inappropriate for children and even dangerous. Be sure to use parental controls to block unsuitable sites and supervise your children as they use their screens.

Other helpful rules may include:

  1. Prioritising unplugged, unstructured playtimes daily
  2. Creating screen-free family times such as meal times or family game nights
  3. Enforcing daily limits and curfews such as no screen time before bed
  4. Managing screen time used during homework sessions
  5. Charging devices outside of the bedroom at night
  6. Eliminating background TV noise
  7. Teaching your children online safety rules such as maintaining privacy and avoiding predatory sites.

No, it won’t be easy to manage screen time for your family. But it is necessary. Whenever you feel that the screens are doing the parenting, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate. We live in an amazing time of information at our fingertips. Let’s be sure to maintain a healthy balance in our family’s daily lives.

Resources

www.smartparentadvice.com

www.healthline.com

www.journalistsresource.org

www.nhs.uk

www.iraparenting.com

www.mayoclinic.org

Helping Friends and Family Deal with Stress

Even “normal” times are filled with stress, but this is 2020. And 2020, is the year filled to the brim with stress. A world-wide health crisis has stunned all of us, plus there are financial concerns, political divisions, job-related worries and the challenge of just plain getting through the days with high levels of uncertainty.

For many, these difficult times have increased mental, emotional and physical stress levels, to the point where some of your friends and family members may be in need of help.

What are some signs that may indicate your friend or relative is under undue stress? 

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches or other sickness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or digestive issues

In children, stress may look a bit different. It can include:

  • Temper tantrums
  • Illogical fears
  • Tummy aches, headaches
  • Bedwetting or change in sleep habits

If you notice these troubling behaviors and conditions in someone you love, you may want to take the time to intervene and problem-solve with them.

Ways to Help

Helping adults with stress may be as simple as a willingness to listen to them explain how they’re feeling. A discussion to identify some of the above symptoms is also helpful. If an adult can identify the triggers for certain unhealthy reactions such as irritability or anxiety, there is a higher likelihood the symptoms will diminish. 

Another way to help is to brainstorm positive, practical ways to intervene when the symptoms of stress arise. Getting help with housework or taking advantage of local food banks may decrease the anxiety produced by reduced funds in the pandemic when some are feeling overwhelmed.

There are other healthy ways to reduce stress such as relaxation techniques including breathing exercises, yoga routines and the like. Some find that simple hugs help to relax and de-stress. 

In children it can be helpful to help them name their fears or worries. Talking about a bad dream in the light of day may reduce the likelihood of it returning. Assuring a child that the adults in his or her life will be there in all circumstances and that they are loved unconditionally is also helpful in reducing acting-out behaviors. 

Children are often not aware of the reasons for their behaviors. Naming the feelings and offering alternative options for expressing them can be helpful to them.

When Stress Becomes Too Much

There may come a time when a person needs professional help to deal with the stress of life. If you notice a friend or relative withdrawing from usual life patterns, or if you recognize destructive cycles in their life, you may want to recommend one of the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This type of counseling works on understanding thought patterns and the triggers that lead to negative emotions and behaviors. Identifying these patterns and taking positive action when they arise is a helpful therapy for stress

Mindfulness (awareness of feelings or sensations) or meditation combined with physical activity such as yoga has been found to reduce stress levels.

  • Medications

In some cases a medical professional will prescribe mild tranquilizers or anti-depressants to those whose life is being adversely affected by stress.

  • Ecotherapy

This simple treatment involved spending quality time in nature. Walks beside lakes, rivers or on beaches, sitting and relaxing in a natural setting and enjoying all the beauty of a natural environment has profound effect on many who are suffering from stress.

  • Complementary Therapies

Examples of complementary therapies would include meditation combined with yoga or other physical movement, acupuncture, massage therapy or aromatherapy. 

Everyone deals with stress; it’s a natural part of our daily lives. But these are unprecedented times. Be aware that your friends and family members may need additional support in these troubling times and remember to take good care of yourself as well.

Support Your Local Community during the Pandemic

The Covid 19 pandemic continues to impact all of our lives in numerous ways. But rather than feeling like victims in this trying time, we can search for ways to be part of the solution. We can help others get through to the time when the virus is under control and we all return to normal life.

In the meantime…

The Basics

By now we know the things we can do to keep the virus at bay. We can stay home most of the time and when we do venture out we wear masks to reduce the chance of spreading or catching the illness. We wash our hands regularly and we keep a distance from others at every opportunity. We respect others by doing these things and while none of the restrictions are pleasant, they are worth every bit of effort if the number of cases stays lower. It’s a golden rule idea: treat others the way you’d like to be treated and stay safe.

Support Your Local Businesses

We’ve all seen local businesses with closed signs. Many were forced to shut down entirely or were only allowed to do partial business for the past months. This is especially true for food service businesses. While large food chains may suffer during this pandemic, it is small locally-owned businesses that are at greatest risk of permanent closure. Whenever possible, patronise those small, local businesses. Buy your morning coffee, order your take-out meals or get a socially-distanced hair cut from your small, locally-owned shop. Your effort may help keep their doors open until the pandemic is over.

Check on Friends, Neighbours and the Elderly

In this time of extreme isolation, many people are totally alone. Make the effort to call or otherwise contact your friends, neighbours and especially aged folks who may not be reaching out for the support they need. Be sure to ask questions to learn whether your friends need help in procurement of food, medicines or other important day to day necessities. And just take the time to talk with them and allow them the benefit of contact with other human beings.

Support Food Banks and Other Agencies

Every town and every city has some sort of food bank to provide for those in need. In every area these agencies are at their breaking point in terms of the surge in requests for help. Many small food banks have sprung up in public areas because of the huge need for help in this time when many have lost their incomes. People are asked to donate food items to these small food banks or are free to take some items for their next meal. This is your opportunity to donate goods or financial help to food banks, restaurants or schools which are going the extra mile to feed their communities.

Support Shelters for the Homeless

Imagine being both homeless and at high risk for catching the virus. Many homeless shelters are stretched to their limits normally, but are expanding their services to keep homeless folks safe in this time of pandemic. They need resources to cover these expansions. Check in your area to see if this is a need in your community.

Stay Positive

There’s no better feeling than giving of your time, energy or money to help others. This pandemic can weigh us down with grief and loneliness, but let’s not let that happen. Let’s find ways to be part of the solution to living well during this especially difficult time. Let’s give and bring hope to others.

For more information on the Covid 19 virus worldwide, and how to help with current needs related to it, go to CDC Foundation.

How seniors in assisted living can make the most of life

As one progresses in age, life naturally becomes more laboured and difficult more often than not. Senior citizens have a physical and cognitive decline with time, and any amount of help is appreciated. Assisted living is a new concept to help these senior citizens with their daily works. It is especially applicable for those who do not have any medical or systemic issues but are not at the prime of their health. 

Benefits in terms of eating, bathing, and other related activities are commonly included other than daily recreational activities. In this article, a brief description of how assisted living can be beneficial for senior citizens has been given below- 

Less housework

Household chores can be especially difficult for senior citizens as their bodies are not as agile and full of energy as before. Assisted living can help with all these household works and relieve the elder people of their duties. Thus, they tend to feel more energetic and can freely engage in things that interest them. 

Independence

Assisted living is not like other old-age centres as the caregivers are not completely in control of the senior citizens. They have the independence to choose what kind of activity they want to engage in and what does not float their boat. It gives them some psychological freedom as well, which is very important as a person ages.

Treat depression

As one’s physical and cognitive abilities decline, they tend to question their self-worth more, which has a bad psychological impact on them. Under assisted living, they are continuously given the responsibility of some work or the other, which keeps them occupied and engaged. Thus, it is effective in treating depression to some extent. Assisted living communities that allow dogs or cats can help seniors handle depression with the help of their four-legged companions. People with pets are less likely to suffer loneliness and depression than those who do not own any pets.

Keep them connected

There is an old saying that an empty mind is the devil’s workshop. It is applicable for the geriatric population as such. Therefore, one of the main aims of the assisted living centre is to make them use their mind all the time. As they interact and talk to others, their social quotient is also maintained, and they remain connected to each other for long. 

Help them feel useful and needed

Like mentioned before, incompetence creeps in with age. However, when entrusted with some meaningful work, they tend to feel like they are contributing something and are useful and needed as a part of the community. 

Activities

The assisted living centres specialise in framing a schedule for the senior citizens in a manner that they would prefer and want. They even take suggestions from the receiver of the services and their relatives to ensure that they come up with the best options available. These activities, however big or small, play a big role in keeping the elderly engaged and functioning. 

Peace of mind

Since the people in assisted living centres know that there is always someone they can rely on and do not have to feel lonely or out of place, it gives them a lot of peace of mind. Moreover, engagement in religious thoughts also has a calming effect on them. Assisted living for religious people is a perfect strategy adopted by the groups.

Daily assistance

There are some daily activities like eating, walking, and bathing in which the senior citizens could do with as much help as possible. The assisted living centres provide daily assistance in this regard to all. 

Keep them mentally active

Specialised events like movie night and physical activities like games can play a big role in keeping their brain running in the best possible manner. 

Assisted living is probably the best for seniors after they have reached a certain age. It can be hoped that the above-mentioned tips are of help and make you understand why assisted living for seniors is a great option.

Want to feel better? Take a walk!

     
If you are like me, you don’t want to hear about another diet or diet plan for at least the next ten years. Whether it is the newest fad diet or a fairly reasonable low fat, low carb diet, most of us have had our fill of them. But when you pick up the latest magazines you can be sure you’ll see plenty of new headlines about diets and weight. Why? Because for most of us, weight control is an ongoing problem. Whether we were skinny or chubby kids, most of us have a few extra pounds to contend with in our senior years.
Any intelligent adult knows how to lose weight. You simply increase your activity and decrease your calorie intake. Yes, it is simple, but oh, how difficult to do! We love to eat and a good portion of our entertainment revolves around the sharing of food. The answer is eating a healthy diet in moderate portions. But let’s focus on the most accessible and direct way to add calorie-burning activity to our busy days. Let’s walk!

Have you heard about walking 10,000 steps a day? That idea has been around for a while as a means to increase activity. If you do a little walk around the house you will soon realise that you can’t get 10,000 steps in with your normal routines, you will have to add a nice intentional walk to achieve that count. I am convinced that exercising and dieting go better with some motivational support. Do you remember the little charts you made for your kids to motivate them to do their chores? Why not make one for yourself related to your addition of daily walking? It is easy to get an approximate step count during your neighbourhood or treadmill walk. I find that I walk about 100 steps per minute, so I start my day with 3500 steps before drinking my first cup of coffee. It is a great way to wake up and get the metabolism going.
Another reason to walk is that it is good for the overall health of our entire bodies. It is low impact exercise, requires little gear and has the added benefit of getting you out of doors at least in good weather. Your muscles are getting a work-out, your heart is happy and your body is burning calories with each step. Doctors generally recommend that you walk between 30 and 60 minutes per day at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. You should be able to carry on a conversation easily at that rate. Distance is more important than speed.
Be sure to take reasonable precautions before adding any new exercise program to your days. Your doctor will most likely be thrilled if you begin to walk, but talk to him or her first. Wear good shoes for support, layer your clothing for comfort, and wear reflective colours if you walk after dark.

A good walk begins with a few minutes of warm-up, a short break for some stretches, then the main body of the walk. It ends with a gentle stretch. Look online for pedometers to track your steps, and be sure to do research before purchasing a treadmill as they can cost anywhere from €500 to over €3,000 and are a major purchase. If walking alone isn’t your cup of tea, find a partner or join a walking club. The time flies by when you are walking with a partner or with a group and the social aspect makes getting your exercise a joy. 
Don’t want to diet? Want to enjoy life and feel tension-free? Don’t have a lot of money to hire a personal trainer? Then you can take the simple route to better health: add a daily walk to your routine, get your step count up to around 10,000 and enjoy the benefits of a slimmer, healthier body. 

Less Clutter = Less Stress

2020 has been a stressful year and we’re only half way through it. But most of us would also agree that with the stress there have been some positives. We’ve slowed down. We’ve cooked healthier meals. And many of us have begun to take on cleaning and de-cluttering projects because we’ve had a lot of time on our hands.

If you look around your living space and feel the need to de-clutter, you may be encouraged by some common sense tips and bits of information to help you tackle one project at a time.

First of all, a cluttered, messy home causes mental overload. Everywhere you look there is a job to be done. You can’t find the paperwork you need or the article of clothing you want to wear. When you look at your laundry pile, it seems endless and overwhelming. These emotions are energy-draining and contribute to higher stress levels.

On the other hand, an orderly living space sends the message that all is well. Anxiety gives way to relaxation. You’re able to focus on the task at hand and that focus often leads to creativity and accomplishment.

But, de-cluttering requires a concerted effort beginning with the decision to do it. Most de-clutter experts encourage a systematic, well-planned attack on “stuff” in the home. Here are some tips to setting out to make your home a peaceful, healthy, and enjoyable place to live.

  • First of all identify the trouble spots in your home. They most likely will include junk drawers, closets, storage areas, and the garage. Make a list.
  • Decide on a sorting method as you work on one trouble area at a time. You might decide to toss, store, recycle or sell items. 
  • Develop some self talk to help you with the decision-making. “Someone else can use this now,” “Thank you for your service, but I don’t need you anymore.” This will be especially difficult when sorting through clothing items. A good rule of thumb is to ask, “Have I worn this in the last six months? Does it need repair? Does it fit well? If not, recycle or otherwise dispose of it.
  • Identify “memory clutter,” those items we keep because they represent a fun time or a certain relationship. Is there a way to save the memory without keeping the item?
  • Identify “someday clutter,” the items that don’t fit, but maybe you’ll lose ten pounds, or I’ll fix it someday. Either fix it now or get rid of it.
  • Make it a goal to clear flat surfaces in your home. These are the areas that begin to build up with unfinished business: items that haven’t been properly put away or things we don’t have an established place for.
  • Keep like items together. For instance tools and home repair kits should be stored together so everyone knows where to find them. 
  • When possible, enlist the help of the rest of your family. Even children will become excited about cleaning out excess “stuff” if they get the proceeds at a garage sale.
  • You may wish to research new storage units for your kitchen, laundry area or clothes closets. A junk drawer can be cleaned up quickly with some simple box dividers to keep the articles separated and easy to find.
  • Don’t let the “wasted money” blues get in your way when purging unnecessary items. Those expenditures are history and your goal now is an orderly, relaxing space in which to live each day.

So let’s be thankful for the good things 2020 has brought our way. The challenge to de-clutter and de-stress our homes can be one of the positive outcomes.

Active, Healthy and Positive While Living in Quarantine

Living a quiet life at home sounds very good when caught up in the usual hectic pace of our daily lives. But now the time at home is getting old and we’re looking for ways to make it both manageable and enjoyable.

It’s easy, at first, to lounge around in pyjamas, eat too much. It seems like a bit of a vacation to let regular chores go and to know others can’t see us so, who cares about the hair and make-up?  But if you’re like me, you want to feel productive at least part of the time and that vacation soon begins to feel like captivity.

Here’s the solution. Design a routine that works for you. Choose some of the positive activities below and build a schedule around them. Turn your lethargy into an active, healthy schedule and you’ll feel happier and more content in one of the most challenging events of our lives.

  1. Cook healthy meals

Since it’s difficult to shop for groceries and we’re often relying on online orders, be extra-careful to plan and cook healthy meals. It’s tempting to eat too many treats and let nutrition go. Here are 100 meals that are both healthy and require few ingredients.

  1. Organize and De-clutter

Most of us have the uneasy feeling that our home is a bit of a mess. We need to get rid of things, but where to begin? We have time now, so there’s no excuse, and I think you’ll find it’s actually fun to get rid of unwanted, unnecessary items once you begin. Check out Marie Kondo’s method for de-cluttering and then modify the procedures to suit your home.

  1. Get regular exercise

Stress can destroy our desire to stay fit. It can paralyze us. We may not be able to maintain our usual exercise routines which involve fitness clubs and team sports. So it’s time to be creative and just do it. You can create your own at-home exercise routine or get online and find a good old-fashioned exercise video to do from your living room. Don’t forget most of us are free to walk in our own neighbourhoods if we keep a distance between us.

  1. Deep Clean

Dirt happens. The most fastidious housekeeper will need to occasionally do a deep-clean of each room. You have the time now, so what’s keeping you from a frenzy of cleaning? Why not select one room, follow the deep cleaning checklist and before you know it, you’ll have a sparkling-clean abode.

  1. Read 

Most of us enjoy a good book and usually don’t find enough time to read. Now we have nothing but time. So..

  • Read a classic you’ve always wanted to read
  • Find a new author and explore his or her writing
  • Read a bestseller
  • Explore a new genre. Maybe you’ll enjoy fantasy or romance
  • Look for an online book club
  1. Write

Have you always meant to try your hand at poetry? Do you enjoy writing thoughtfully in a journal? Do you enjoy writing to others? Take the time now to write something. Perhaps a memoir of this unique and challenging time will become a valuable family treasure.

  1. Connect with Friends and Family

This one goes without saying. We miss the family and friends who are beyond our touch at this time and for some time to come. Make the phone calls, do the video calls or send a quick note to someone you love. Maybe this is the time to strike up a renewed friendship with someone you’ve not seen in a long time. Make those connections.

  1. Watch an old or new TV series

Is there a television series you’ve always wanted to watch from beginning to end? Now is the time. Find something just right for you and go ahead a binge-watch.

  1. Rest or Nap

In times of stress it’s even more important to get adequate sleep. Most of us are worried about the effects of the virus and may be losing sleep because of that. Do your best to get good sleep at night and take a nap now and then if you need it.

  1. Take an Online Class

There is probably some skill you wish you’d learned earlier or some knowledge you wish you had. Maybe it’s time to study a bit each day and learn something new with an online class. Many are free and the accomplishment will feel very good.

In any time of crisis there are those who stand up to the challenge and those who don’t. Take stock of your situation and determine the best path for the coming weeks and perhaps months. Let’s thrive!