The great unknowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has led to heightened levels of stress and anxiety nationwide. As this dark cloud of uncertainty looms over us, parents are wondering how they can support their children emotionally during a time of crisis. We found an article published by the Huff-Post that encourages parents to use this time to teach their kids about resilience. This article maps out specific ways children can develop skills from learning how to be resilient while adhering to advice from child development experts. Check out our biggest takeaways from the article.
Link to full article: Resilience Is the Most Powerful Skill Kids Can Develop Right Now
Resist The Urge To ‘Save’ Them
“‘Parents can help their children tremendously by not ‘saving’ them,’ said clinical psychologist John Mayer. Although it’s hard to watch your children struggle or fail, they gain self-confidence by learning to pick themselves up after making mistakes. Don’t shield them from difficult feelings or challenges.”
“During the pandemic, parents should offer a sense of safety and security, of course. But they should also encourage their children to practice problem-solving by letting them find their own ways to cope with their new reality.”
Focus On Support Instead
“Rather than jumping in to fix the problem when kids are bored with their toys or unmotivated to do school work, parents should let them feel their feelings as they face these challenges. The key is to listen to and encourage them so that they feel comfortable taking control.”
“There is a core of resilience in every young person, and they are more adaptable than we think,” said Genevieve von Lob, a psychologist and author of “Happy Parent, Happy Child.” “However, they can only unearth it if they are sometimes allowed to face their vulnerable feelings and we can keep trusting that they will get through. The more that we can support our children to move through their feelings and not run away from them, the more emotionally resilient, confident and adaptable they will grow up to be.”
Talk About Emotions
“Resilience does not mean ‘everything is great right now!’ (cue fake smile). It means noticing the feelings bubbling up and being honest about it. Those feelings we push down and hide will come out in one way or another so we might as well face them head-on,” said Kelly Oriard, a family therapist and co-founder of Slumberkins, an education brand focused on emotional learning.
“Parents can promote emotional growth by encouraging their children to talk about their feelings, helping them identify those feelings and validating them. This kind of communication may also foster a stronger family connection.”
Highlight What’s In Their Control
“To offset a sense of helplessness, parents should talk to children about what they are all doing to play a part in helping, such as social distancing and wearing masks,” Navsaria advised. “This teaches children problem-solving skills. When children develop a roadmap to solve problems, they feel a better sense of agency and control — all contributors to resilience.”
“In addition to practical steps to prevent illness (like washing hands and keeping a safe distance from others in the grocery store), there are many other areas of pandemic life that kids can control: how they spend their time at home, what they do to manage tough emotions, which self-care tools they utilize to reduce stress, etc. Parents and kids can discuss these coping methods and even make a list of them together.”
Model Resilience Yourself
“Mostly you teach your kids this stuff by doing it in front of them,” said psychotherapist Noel McDermott. “So if a parent learns resilience techniques and does them, their kids will do it as well.”
“Parents can demonstrate how they face challenges and frustration head-on and use different coping tactics like meditation, talking to loved ones, making art or playing music.”
Know It’s A Long Road
The past months have been about transition, survival and worry, but much of the mourning over the losses of the pandemic may come later, as we gradually get back to some sense of normalcy.
Knippenberg advised parents to keep these resilience lessons ongoing, pay attention to behavioral changes over time, and consider reaching out to a child mental health professional if needed. Children facing food insecurity, the deaths of loved ones or the loss of a home are extra vulnerable and may require a longer recovery process.
Parents: keep in mind that you can model these coping skills at all times. You can incorporate these teaching moments while doing fun activities at home with your family! Our kids are watching how we handle the pandemic. Let’s teach them how to cope the right way.
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