Keep Calm and Structure On: How to manage emotions and build structure at home during COVID-19

by Elizabeth Sautter and Dr. Rebecca Branstetter 

“I’m scared of getting sick and I miss my friends” -5 year old
“I’m scared you are going to get sick and papa (grandparent)” -16 year old
“It’s only Day 2 of home school and we are already going crazy!” -Parent of child with special needs 

During this unprecedented time of school closures, social distancing, and fears of the coronavirus, parents are scrambling for ways to support their children’s social and emotional health. 

As a parent, you may be wondering “How do I support my child, calm her fears, and maintain some sense of normalcy during a highly abnormal time?”

If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you may be concerned about managing your child’s social-emotional and behavioral reactions to the big change in their routine. 

All kids (and adults!) profit from structure, predictability, and routines during times of uncertainty. Younger children, children with special needs, and children experiencing high levels of situational anxiety during this time may need structure even more. 

As co-creators of Make it Stick Parenting, we help parents teach their children social-emotional and behavioral self-regulation through everyday activities at home. We are offering up this short free three-video series on how to set the stage for a more calm, supportive home environment during school closures.

We invite you to listen, download the tools, and tailor to your personal situation. If something resonates and you want to try it, great! If something doesn’t seem to fit for your family or situation, then adapt as needed. Everyone’s situation is unique and there is no “one right way” to parent in this time. There are some basic guiding principles, however that may help you keep calm, support your child where they are and make the most of this time with your children. 

Download all the Free PDF Tools we mention in our videos by submitting your email below:

1-Four different schedules to print and use.
2-Steps for how to check-in with your child on a daily basis.
3-Calming menus for you and your child.
4-Mindfulness resource guide.


Subscribe to get free tools to help create calming strategies, family schedules, and more!

Video One: Keep Calm and Schedule On
Here’s a 12-minute video on the importance of keeping a routine during school closures and how to use the free schedule tool we created for you. 

Other resources we talked about:
– Free Internet: To enroll for Charter Internet’s service, call 844-488-8395; for Comcast’s, 855-846-8376 for English speakers or 855-765-6995 for Spanish speakers, or go to
– List of free subscriptions to educational websites

Video Two: The Need for Daily Check-Ins
Here’s a 9-minute video on using morning meetings/check-ins and evening debriefs to manage big feelings that may arise during this time. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this blog to get the free morning meetings and evening debrief tool. 

Other resources we talked about:

Video Three: Emotional Regulation
In this 13-minute video, we talk about the importance of having a plan for managing big feelings and behaviors that are likely to arise during stressful or dysregulating times. It’s expected for you and your children to have heightened emotions and there are strategies that can help. We have included a strategy for using a “calming menu” for you and your child and several of our favorite mindfulness activities for kids. 

Other resources we talked about:
– Social-Emotional Lessons/videos:

While this is a time of stress, confusion, and anxiety, it is also an opportunity to connect with your child! It’s a chance to help teach and support their social and emotional skills. With the flood of information that changes minute-to-minute, we hope that these videos give you and your family some comfort and calm. 

We are in this together, and we will get through this together. Please feel free to drop a comment if you need more support or if you’d like to share strategies that are working in your family. There is so much wisdom in the Make Social Learning Stick community, and we’d love to hear from you. 

Take care,

Elizabeth and Rebecca

***EDITED MAY 2020***

P.S. If this training was helpful, you’re in luck! We have a free webinar where we dive deeper into 3 ways you can support your child’s social-emotional skills even when everything social is cancelled. Click here to register!



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