As the Covid-19 situation goes on and many people are under “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders, I have seen lists of different activities posted by many of my fellow therapists. Over the last few days I’ve even received e-mails of these from some- even from our realtor!
I had my own list I was working on…and hearing the woes of many parents who don’t want their kids to be on screens the entire day (and dealing with it at home), I tried to make my list mostly non-electronic. So I’m posting it here. Many of these are good for all ages or families, not only for kids! I hope someone finds it helpful!
51 Mostly Non-Electronic Activities
Take a walk…walk a dog if you have one
Go for a run
Make a fort (inside or outdoors)
Ride a bike
Shoot hoops or practice another sport
Have a catch
Put together a puzzle
Color (print a coloring page if you don’t have a book)
Write a story, poem, song, or rap
Edit or make something with pictures on your phone or computer
Make a card for someone you care about- mail it to them if they live somewhere else
Make a collage (using magazines, photos, or images from the Internet)
Do a crossword puzzle
Organize something that has been bothering you
Play a board game
Do pushups, situps, jumping jacks, or other exercises
Watch a family movie or TV show
Build with Legos
Try to solve a Rubix Cube
Do Mad Libs (can be found online if you don’t have a book)
Do a scavenger hunt (inside or outside)
Read a book or magazine (or download a book)
*Build a ramp or jump for your bike, skateboard, or scooter
*Build a treehouse
Cook or bake something
Do a house project (clean up a room, weed or plant a garden, paint something)
Wash the car
Play a family video game like Just Dance, Wii Bowling, or something else
Play ping pong, pool, knee hockey, or another indoor game
Have a sports tournament (1 on 1 basketball, P.I.G., 1 on 1 badminton, Cornhole, tennis, golf chipping or putting, etc.)
Make up a game using a ball or other sports equipment
Play a family whiffleball or kickball game
Learn about something new on the Internet- a person, a place, how to do something, etc. Write down 10 facts about it
Write about a favorite place, memory, or time in our life
Practice an instrument or singing
Think about a hobby you used to like- practice it for at least 5 or 10 minutes
Start planning a family trip or vacation. Look into where you might go, what you might want to do while there, what there is to see, how you would get there, etc.
Find things around the house or in your room or play area you could donate to someone who needs it more: food, clothing, shoes, household items, etc.
Facetime, Skype, Zoom, or do some other type of video call with someone you care about…even a group of people
Write a letter to someone and mail it to them (like they did in the old days!)
Thank someone at home for something they do for you, something nice you appreciate, or give them a compliment for something you like about them
Set up a “family fitness” course (indoors or outdoors)…different exercises in different areas, like pushups, situps, jump rope, or running a short distance
Play card games, like Uno, Fish, War, Poker, etc.
Play a video game everyone can play, like Mario Kart, Mario Bros, Smash Bros, or a sports game. Play for fun or have a tournament
Clean up or re-organize your room together
*Have an adult help you or provide some supervision to make sure if is safe! You can find plans or instructions online if needed.
As of today most schools in our area are closed for at least the next few weeks, colleges are doing classes online, and many non-essential businesses are to be closed. We are to be practicing “social distancing”, or minimizing contact with others, in order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus or Covid-19.
I follow many other therapists on Instagram and several therapist groups on Facebook and there is no consensus among providers on what to do here. As counseling or therapy is a necessary service, especially during these uncertain times, therapists do agree that we must continue to provide our services, and to offer clients different options to do so. Some therapists are providing strictly online (video) or phone sessions, some are seeing whichever clients who want to come into the office, and some are doing both.
As Director at Matthews Counseling & Coaching, I have decided to offer clients different options to continue services with us, or to be able to begin services if they wish. Clients may choose an option that works best for them. At this time we are offering:
Traditional, in-office therapy: Staff are cleaning and disinfecting the office each day and avoiding contact to the extent possible (not shaking hands, not sharing pens, not handling client credit cards, etc.). The office is not a high-traffic area and typically only 1-2 therapists are in the building at a time and do not often cross paths, so there would rarely be a crowded waiting room or high likelihood of exposure. Therapists would, of course, stay home if symptomatic or otherwise not feeling well, and would encourage clients to do the same.
Teletherapy (secure, online video sessions or phone sessions): Our staff use HIPAA-compliant technology, including phone and teleconferencing software, to meet with clients virtually who cannot or do not wish to come to the office during this time. This is also an option for clients who do not live close to the office, but might like to see one of our providers.
Walk and talk therapy:Currently only Dr. Jesse Matthews is offering this service. Involves holding sessions while walking local paths during the session time, rather than meeting in the office. This is appropriate for clients who are in physical shape to walk 1-2 miles and who sign a separate release/consent form. This is also weather-dependent, but with spring approaching and warmer weather, it should be possible on most days.
All clients have the option to put their counseling on hold if they decide this is best, and of course they are free to discontinue counseling at any time. Providers will make every effort to put them back on the schedule, and in their desired time slot when they wish to return. However, given the unknown nature of the present situation and the anxiety or other difficulty it may create, it is recommended that clients continue to meet with their provider- at least for a periodic check-in, as they are able. This can help clients not to lose momentum or progress gained in therapy and can provide a helpful outlet. This will also ensure provider availability in the future.
I was thinking about this topic today as I was reading yet another article about college not being for everyone. I reposted it, saying, “I cannot talk about this enough!” Of course, it’s true. There is no one-size-fits-all option for those graduating high school, and even if college is what your child wants and something he or she can do, ages 17-19 just may not be the right time to start.
As a parent, psychologist, and member of my community, I have seen firsthand what kinds of things can happen when you send a child to college who isn’t ready or who just doesn’t want to be there (I mean for academics). Hint: Things don’t usually go as hoped.
Whether a student attends an Ivy League school, goes in or out-of-state, gets any sort of scholarship, attends 20 minutes or 8 hours from home, lives on or off-campus, college is expensive! Tuition, room and board, fees, books and other materials, money to get to and from school, and of course spending money are all part of it. But add in failed classes, course or school withdrawals, money being spent wildly (perhaps on mom or dad’s credit card), or even unforeseen medical bills or legal fees, and the cost of college can increase dramatically (with no guaranteed degree, career, or future in sight).
And to be honest, your child going to college and just not being successful, or having to come home early due to emotional or other issues isn’t even that bad, relatively speaking. Sadly, there are more and more stories of college students dying by suicide, overdose, or alcohol poisoning, or being hurt or killed in various types of accidents. I’m not saying none of these students were ready for college or shouldn’t have been there. Often times accidents are just that, and they can happen to anyone. But what I am saying is that risk is increased- particularly for those living away at school- for bad things to happen when a student is either not focused on school or having issues that interfere in some way.
At least some of the time, there are red flags that parents just ignore. And I am not blaming these parents! We all want our children to succeed and we want to believe they have what it takes to do what it is they say they want to do, and we want to believe them when they tell us that they will step up or that they can handle it. We often don’t want to be the bad guy (or girl), either, and tell our child that he or she isn’t ready to go away, so we’re not going to support it (at least not yet). We want our child to have the same opportunities as friends and peers. And lastly, none of us can predict the future, so even when we genuinely feel good about our child’s ability to do college, we could be wrong.
I reflected on my experience and knowledge of this phenomenon and came up with a list of signs or red flags, so to speak, that college may not be for your child, at all, or at least just not yet. I’ll list them and elaborate a little, then discuss some alternatives and compromises to going away to college. Here goes…
1)Your child “hates school”. If your son says this, has said it over the years, or his behavior reflects this attitude, what makes you think that four more years of school is a good idea? He may need to mature or gain some experience working, particularly in a less-than-glamorous job, to have the chance to see that school isn’t that bad. That, or perhaps he can find another path that doesn’t involve school or at least has less of it or only classes that he may be interested in.
2)Poor or low grades. If your child doesn’t get good or passing grades in high school, odds are that that this will continue in college- especially with little support, no oversight, and a lot of freedom. One can’t simply flip a switch and become motivated. Doing well in school involves learning good habits and developing a work ethic. By college, you have it or you don’t (or at least you need to take more time to develop it).
3)Low effort, not motivated. See #2. Unless your child has a learning issue, low IQ, or a disorder or disability that interferes, poor grades are typically the result of poor effort. And if your child does have any of those issues, then he or she is going to need some extra support to succeed in a college environment (just as they did in high school).
4)Lax attitude or “just not getting it”. This just isn’t going to translate to success unless it changes, so going away to school is a big gamble in this case. Often by the time your child gets it, it is too late.
5)Frequent missed assignments. If this happens, there is either an issue of some kind, or it’s just not important to your child to get his work in. If your child would rather watch TV, sleep, play video games, or hang out with friends- why wouldn’t you expect this to continue in college? What’s going to be different?
6)Your child is not realistic. Whether it’s about her abilities or what she wants to do with her life, you need to have a realistic sense of who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and what you’re going to do at college and beyond. Dreaming is perfectly ok, but your ideas have to have some grounding in reality. See previous items.
7)Your child doesn’t study. If he gets A’s and B’s without studying, this is fairly typical for high school. Either he wasn’t challenged enough or didn’t care to go the extra mile (if he got B’s and could have had A’s). The game changes in college, though, and students always say that they had to start studying (maybe even learn how) if they had not done so before. If this happens, a student may very well be successful. But if not?
8)Your child has no idea or plan for the future other than “going to college”, getting a “good job”, or “making a lot of money”. I think this is different from being undecided and surely many college students change majors or don’t know right away. How could you at 18? What I mean is that a prospective college student ought to at least have some ideas or some interests, or else a desire to take different courses or to seek out information to figure it out- rather than a “I’ll just go to college and it will come to me” attitude. If that is not the case, it would give me pause about sending my child away, particularly if any of the other items apply.
9)Your child has a history of behavior problems. Mostly I’m talking about disciplinary (suspensions or expulsion) or legal (arrests, probation, etc.) issues. I’m not talking about a child who makes a mistake, pays the price, and learns from it- but those who are characteristically impulsive, prone to making poor decisions, or who just aren’t adjusting their behavior in light of the consequences. Again, how could you expect such a child to go away by himself and start making better choices? To assume so would be risky and perhaps dangerous.
10)Your child has had substance abuse problems. I’m not referring to a child who took a few beers from you one time or who got caught smoking pot at their friend’s sleepover- unless this behavior was habitual and he or she didn’t respond to any consequences or intervention. I’m talking about more severe cases- with repeated use, consequences, dangerous behavior, poor decision-making, and so on. Going away without any oversight and having all that freedom, chances are this is not only going to continue, but it will escalate. Also a risky and potentially dangerous proposition.
11)Your child has not applied. If you have to threaten your child, keep reminding, or sit her down to complete her college applications, there is your proof that she is either not ready or it’s not that important to her to go. If she misses the deadline, then the situation will handle itself! Just please, resist the urge to do this for your child. If she won’t fill out an application, how is she going to sit and write a paper? Or study for a test? Or get up for class?
12)And this is related to most (maybe all) of the others… Your child was successful (at least on paper) in high school, but only because you did too much for him… made sure he got his work done or studied, advocated for him to his teachers, intervened if he got into trouble, you woke him up in the morning, or you just did everything for him or did everything in your power to save him from consequences. There are plenty of these parents out there, and you have to be honest with yourself. A child who has had this experience simply isn’t going to have what it takes to succeed in college. To go from doing virtually nothing to everything at once?! Not realistic, and mom or dad won’t be there to save the day!
Of course, each case is unique, and a child who fits any of these may very well go away to school and do well- or at least okay. But by and large, these are well-known red flags that parents should not ignore as they prepare to make such a big decision. Please know that college is not the only option for your child, or at least not going away to college or going to college right away.
Here are a few options that could be a better fit.
1)Taking a “gap year” (or more). This means taking a year off from school, but it can involve anything from:
working part-time or full-time at home
living somewhere else for a time and perhaps working (for example, in another place with family like an aunt and uncle or grandparents)
volunteering, as in organizations like the Peace Corps or City Year, or perhaps through a missionary organization
spending a year pursuing a passion like high-level sports or performance
2)Trade school. Your child may be more interested in going to less school, working with his or her hands, taking only classes of interest or directly related to a career, or may view this as an opportunity for a good career with less student debt.
3)The military. Certainly the military offers an alternative to college and opportunities to learn independence or skills that could translate into a good career, in the military or outside of it. They also offer money for college, whether your child doesn’t think college is for him at first but changes his mind, he is weary of student debt, or he just isn’t ready at 18.
4)Other training programs. Unions and some larger companies offer apprenticeships or other opportunities for on-the-job training in different careers.
5)Community college. Community college is easy to get into if your child’s grades were less than stellar in high school. It is also inexpensive and local, so one need not go away to go there. This is a great option to try different classes, see if college is a fit, or to prove that your child is ready to do the work of college.
6)Commute to a local college. This is more expensive than community college, and your child has to get accepted, but it could be a compromise between no college or community college and going away. This could allow for a cheaper option and more support and oversight, but also gives your child the chance to be “in college”, perhaps with some friends. If successful, he or she may then live on campus the following year or could transfer to and live at another school.
There are likely more options yet, but these would be important for parents to consider and to talk with their child about. If your child has shown he or she isn’t ready or may not want to do college, considering these options doesn’t make you the bad guy at all. It means you’re smart and realistic, you’re able to see your child in an objective way, and you are looking out for his or her best interest. Wishful thinking or trust without any track record of past success don’t translate to success in college. And just as college isn’t the only path to success, it also isn’t an entitlement- whether you are paying 100%, helping to pay for it, or your child is going to pay for it himself. Your child has 4 years of high school to get ready and to prove he can do it. If he doesn’t do that, it’s not your fault. And it may not be his fault either! But readiness or lack thereof is the point.
As a psychologist in private practice I have worked with many young people, often in high school, in college, or in trying to figure out their next steps after high school. One theme I have seen lately, especially during this time of year, is young people feeling nervous about going off to college. Whether they have had thriving social lives in high school or not, I have heard a lot of talk about feeling anxious about meeting new people, finding where they fit in, or not being isolated.
One thing I have been going over is doing the behaviors that are necessary for making new connections. People who struggled socially often dread starting over, while those who were very social may question if they will have the same success in a new environment. Whether or not socializing or meeting new people comes naturally for you, by doing these things the experience can feel more manageable and you should get better results.
Here is a list of behaviors to remember:
Be friendly! Smile, make eye contact, look approachable.
Remember: you are not alone…everyone is in the same boat- new and nervous about meeting people and fitting in- whether they look like it or not! If this situation is at all hard for you, remember, the rule is: GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!
When you’re moving into your dorm room, setting up, or just hanging out the first few days, keep the door open. People might stop and say hi, or you can say hi to them.
Smile and say hi if you pass people in the hallways. Do not look at the floor or your phone!
Introduce yourself when you get a chance, people will reciprocate.
Try to take introductions into a conversation…when you have your foot in the door, try to get to know the person a little more.
Go to mandatory floor or dorm meetings, try to talk to people. They may even have ice breakers for this purpose.
Go to optional gatherings like floor pizza parties (where the intention is to get to know each other).
Hang out in the dorm lobby, outside of the dorm, or wherever people congregate. Going to where people are increases your chances of meeting people.
DO NOT STAY IN YOUR ROOM BY YOURSELF! You can’t meet people then, and you will be missing opportunities to make connections. Particularly during the first week or two, you don’t want to miss the boat! People will be meeting each other, forming groups, and so on. Be part of it.
Remember that connections spread. Even if the first people you meet don’t become your best friends or your core group, you might meet other people through them, or just being with other people will reduce your anxiety about meeting others- making it easier for you to meet more new people.
Ask other people if they want to go and get a meal, to check out the bookstore, to go to CVS, or on some other errand with you. Chances are they need to go there too!
If people invite you to do things, say YES! Don’t miss opportunities. This includes going to get something to eat, taking a walk, going to the gym, or going for a run or to play basketball.
Check out extracurricular activities. Most schools have an activities fair or something like that near the start of school. Go with other people if you can, check out anything that looks interesting and talk to anyone who looks inviting. Clubs or activities are a great way to meet people, and you know you have something in common you can talk about!
If you think you might be interested in joining a fraternity or sorority, or even if you aren’t sure or think you would not be, check out the Greek fair if your school has one, or go with some friends (these are usually at least a few weeks out, so you may have met some people by then) to some of their events (called rush events). You can gather more information this way about whether you do or don’t want to do this, and at worst you might still make a few connections.
Look for cues. Does it look like someone is into the same thing you are? Are they wearing something that you identify with? For example, are you into skateboarding and they are carrying a skateboard? Are they wearing the shirt of a band or a team you like, or of a high school you know? Do you see someone you have already talked to in a larger group? Then you already have things you can talk about!
Be mindful about your phone use when around others. I know your phone is a great social crutch, but LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE TELLS PEOPLE YOU ARE BUSY AND YOU MAY NOT WANT TO TALK!
If you’re going to get something to eat, ask someone (or even a group) if they want to go with you. If you’re already there and you see someone you have talked to, ask if they want to join you. Or, if you see someone already there you have talked to, ask if they mind if you join them. Most people don’t want to eat alone!
Ask people if they want to go to: a sports game, a club meeting, a movie, to an off-campus restaurant or coffee shop, to a play or comedy show, to some other fun area of the town or city, a haunted house (ok, maybe not a haunted house…but you never know!) and so on. Chances are the other people at your school would be interested in doing some of these things too, and this may be part of why they chose that school!
Look for opportunities in classes, in between classes, while studying in the library or some other location, hanging around campus, around your dorm, at parties, in the dining hall, etc. I met my best friend in college while doing laundry! You never know!! Worst case, you make an attempt and it’s not reciprocated, but you tried. Or, you at least know another familiar face.
Remember: IT’S NOT ALL ON YOU. Just as you need to make the effort, so do other people. Once you make even 1 or 2 connections, IT WILL GET EASIER!
Don’t forget to manage your anxiety. It’s completely normal here and to expect to have none might be unrealistic, but you can deal with it. Breathe, tell yourself reassuring things (positive self-talk), take time outs to be alone if needed (just not for too long), use other coping skills, or talk to a friend, family member, or some other person about how you’re feeling.
Last, remember some easy conversation starters (and anticipate questions you might be asked):
Where are you from? What is that like? Add to it: I’ve been there…I have never been there…I love it there…or, I’ve always wanted to go there.
What high school did you go to?
What is your major?
How do you like it here so far?
Are you ready for classes to start?
Are you joining any clubs or activities? Do you think you will rush a fraternity/sorority?
Are you going to/looking forward to the first football game? Do you think you will be going to the basketball games (or other sports your school has)?
Go with what you know: “I saw you at the ultimate frisbee meeting earlier”, or, “I think you live on my floor”, or, “Do you live in ______ Hall?” Even if you’re wrong, you’ve still started a conversation!
If you remember these things and are mindful about how you present yourself, you are sure to make some connections in your new home. It may not be easy, but with a consistent effort you can do it! If you need support, don’t hesitate to reach out to your family or a friend, or even your therapist if you have one at home. You can also talk to your RA (resident assistant), or don’t be afraid to visit the counseling center (this is what they are there for!). You are not alone. Remember these tips and try to have fun!
As a graduate student who worked and had a family, self-care became a topic of interest. I did research in this area, presented at conferences, and talked with other researchers and authors. As a psychologist who is every bit as busy as I was in grad school, self-care continues to be something I think about and talk about with colleagues on a regular basis. My wife, who is in graduate school for counseling, and I also talk about this a lot.
After a recent conversation with my wife, I have been re-evaluating my own self-care. I learned something new which I thought was really important. One of her professors gave a very interesting definition of self-care. To paraphrase, “self-care is anything that you do to set your future self up for success”. Further, “self-care doesn’t happen in a spa or in a yoga class…those things are important, but they are really leisure activities- not self-care”.
The important piece here is the distinction between leisure activities and self-care. Self-care is, of course, taking care of ourselves- but this is defined by most people as taking part in leisure activities like exercising, relaxing, pampering ourselves, hanging out with friends, etc. These and more are important for our well-being, but our ability to do them is often limited- to weekends, after work, days off, etc.
In contrast, self-care can happen anywhere, at any time. Self-care, as it is being defined here, also frees up time and mental energy for you to be able to participate in leisure activities. If these are things that set your future self up for success, what does that mean?
To reference the example I was given, this can mean things like:
completing your paperwork before going home at the end of the day
completing items on your to-do list
making your to-do list for tomorrow or for when you get home
scheduling time in your day to take a break or to get yourself organized
cleaning off your desk at the end of the day
Let me give more examples:
To get ready for the morning…
pack your lunch
pick out your clothes
set your alarm so you have more than enough time to do what you need to
get your kids’ things ready (have them at least help if not do it themselves)
be sure to get enough sleep!
To plan for the weekend…
make a plan if there was something you wanted to do
make a to-do list of jobs or projects
write out your schedule if you have activities or plans
make sure you have what you need (groceries, gifts, etc.)
communicate with your partner or family about plans (better yet, make plans with them)
To be ready for any kind of event (and be on time)…
make sure you have everything you and your family need (make a list, in advance)
plan more than enough time to get ready, to leave, and to get there
resist the urge to do too much before the event
communicate the plan to your partner, family, or friends (or make plans together)
What I’m talking about here is thinking ahead, planning ahead, getting organized, and avoiding flying by the seat of your pants (which brings STRESS!). This is the true definition of self-care, as it allows you to reduce stress or the potential for it, to be prepared for what lies ahead, and to have more time for leisure and the things that you really want to do. I would also bet that if self-care, as I have described it, is not a strong suit, then you frequently complain about not having enough leisure time or time for yourself. By refining your definition of self-care and putting a greater focus on it, I assure you that you will have more time for leisure than you think, no matter how busy you are.
If self-care is a struggle or if you feel your life is too stressful to really focus on this area, consider talking with a professional about it. Whatever your situation, chances are there are things you can do that would help.
Matthews Counseling & Coaching is a private practice in Chester Springs, PA, offering counseling and coaching services to individuals, couples, and families. I (Dr. Matthews) started my own practice in 2014 after completing my training and working as part of a group. I really wanted to work in my own community, and I was lucky enough to find an opportunity to do that. Last year I decided to form a group of my own, recently adding two other therapists.
As I often found myself unable to take new clients, and as my practice became more specialized, it became time. I didn’t want to turn people away, and I wanted to be able to help more people who contacted me. This was not taken lightly, as I sought clinicians who would be a “fit” for the practice and the community. It was also important to me that anyone representing my practice share similar values, like professionalism and respect for others. In addition, I value being a real person and making people feel comfortable whenever they call me or they come into the office. I just couldn’t bring other therapists into my practice who I couldn’t be comfortable talking with as my own therapist or who I couldn’t vouch for.
I thought I would say more here about why these things are important to me…
Being a real person– Too often I hear people say therapists they have seen or spoken to are “weird”, “stiff”, “cold”, “awkward”, and so forth. That just doesn’t sound like someone anybody would want to talk to! How can anyone want to talk about their stuff if they can’t get comfortable? I try to strike a balance between being professional and “clinical”, with being a regular person who can have a conversation or be a good listener. I also believe it’s important that a therapist be relatable and not cold or stiff. Being comfortable is the cornerstone of therapy or counseling, and sets the stage for you to develop a good working relationship with your therapist, which studies show is critical to therapy being effective.
Professionalism– I take pride in doing good work, providing the services that clients are looking for, and in helping everyone who contacts me to the extent I can. Though I may not see everyone as a client, I will at least offer some referrals or educate them on how they might find the right person for them. And a key part of professionalism is customer service. You wouldn’t believe how many potential clients tell me that they have called other therapists and few (or none) have called back! One told me yesterday that they called several and that I was the only one who called them back! Unbelievable! I may get busy and may not get back as quickly as I would like to, but I will always call or e-mail someone back.
Respect– Respect is a broad term, but I always respect my clients and my role in trying to help them. They’re asking me for help, so that is what I try to provide. I also have great respect for anyone who contacts me, because they’re taking an important step in finding someone who might be able to help them. And that is not easy to do! I also respect diversity in all forms and love working with a wide variety of clients. I welcome anyone who wishes to become a client, and if for any reason we cannot work together, I will try to help you to find the right person for you.
I worked hard in finding additional therapists to join the practice, and I truly believe they espouse the same values that I’ve built my practice on. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Please check out their profiles if you want to find more information. As always, please contact me if you have any questions: email@example.com