Children learn to be resilient by watching those around them. They learn to go with the flow, to put things in perspective and to make healthy choices to help them cope. For most families, this has been a very difficult few months. We are having to juggle so many things and adapt to a new normal, all while living with the fear of a new and potentially dangerous virus. It is not uncommon to feel a sense of hopelessness and our mental health can suffer. What can we, as parents and teachers, do to help our children not only get through this, but to learn skills to help them cope with the curves life throws?
In these uncertain times, children turn to parents and teachers. They see and hear how we deal with things and this forms a blueprint for their future. It gives them a template that they can refer back to, thereby making obstacles seem less daunting.
As adults, we might feel that we are saying all of the right things, but children watch our body language. We convey more than we realize through our expressions, our posture and our actions. If we look worried, children will pick up on that. If we are slumped and sad and binge way too much on way too many things, kids will pick up on that. We need to model confidence, while acknowledging that it is okay to feel unsure and maybe even frightened.
Here are some ideas that will help build resiliency:
1. Label your feelings. Often, children only have words for the basic emotions – happy, sad and angry. We need to help them label a broader spectrum of emotions. I feel concerned…. I feel disappointed….I feel content…. Children need to know that all emotions are okay and it is good to express those emotions.
2. Keep a routine. It is so important to keep a routine for our children. They thrive in this environment and a lack of routine can be stressful. Try to wake them up at the same time each day, have breakfast, get dressed and get ready for learning time. Some families are even keeping recess times the same! Have lunch and schedule learning and play for the afternoon. Dinner time together is very important as this time allows us to connect as a unit and offers a chance to talk about what is happening in and out of our homes. Keep bedtime consistent.
3. Model gratitude. There are a lot of things to be scared of right now and a lot of things that make us feel angry or upset. There are also many things that are good and bring joy and happiness. Express gratitude – lunch as a family, more time to be creative, homemade meals, a country that is working hard to keep us safe. Gratitude teaches kids to be positive.
4. Build relationships. Children and teens need to feel nurtured and safe at this time. Make extra time to do things together. Bake together, go for bike rides, cuddle in bed and read stories. Hug extra and remind children that you are there to keep them safe.
Covid will define their childhoods. It is their “look back and remember where you were when…” moment. We can make this a comforting memory all while building resiliency and giving them the tools to overcome obstacles when they are adults.