BUILDING RESILIENCE IN CHILDREN DURING UNCERTAIN TIMES
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One of the strongest instincts parents feel towards their children is protection from suffering and now, more than ever, we want to keep children from being exposed to the news and disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic. #Toddlers, #preschoolers and #kindergarteners will pick up on the news and fear that surrounds us daily with this virus and the elections around the corner. Just the fear and uncertainty of everyday disruptions to their lives and education, social interactions and relationships is a huge worry for parents. The one thing we do know is that many situations will occur in their lives that we cannot control but we can work to strengthen our relationships with them, giving them confidence and building their trust and resilience in themselves and their capabilities.
The best way to help our children now is to shape their reactions to difficult times by teaching them to manage their feelings and build inner resilience.
Here are a few suggestions from @Pop-Ins Schoolhouse in Littleton, to help:
“I feel like I’m failing": Learning self-forgiveness
Perfection is not necessary now. Know that if you forgive yourself and focus on the good in yourself now through self-compassion, your child or adolescent will learn to be a bit gentler with themselves. That is lifelong protection. There’s no need to beat yourself up!
“My kids are frustrated, and so am I": Learning to empathize
One of the most respectful things we can do is genuinely understand someone else's point of view. The best way for children to gain this valuable tool in life, is to listen and understand. You build their empathy for others by working to understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
“I don't know how to handle how I feel": Processing and releasing emotions
A time of uncertainty with heightened emotions is the time to show that emotions are not to be ignored. Our children must learn from us that having emotions is good, talking about them is necessary and being honest with them is healing. Help them to work through their difficulties and try to suggest alternate activities that will help.
“I want to pull my hair out": Creating a safe haven within our homes
The stress load in homes is high now so try to build an atmosphere of calm in your homes. We cannot control the outside world, but we can create sanctuaries within our homes. With peace in our homes, we can better handle the outside world. Laughter, music, cooking, baking - all these activities will help relieve stress.
“I need a timeout": Being a calming presence for others
In moments when the future is unclear and our minds begin racing toward worse case scenarios, the presence of a reassuring voice makes all the difference. Make time for individual nurturing for each member of the family. Read together, draw, color, or tell a story to your children. Make sure you get time to take a warm bath for yourself or just a good cuppa coffee.
“I don't know how to respond": Being clear and honest with yourself and others
Say what you do know. Answer questions honestly and always admit what you don't know, but offer to research for the correct answers.
“My mind feels out of control": Maintaining physical health strengthens emotional health
Make sure, now that the colder months are looming over us, that the kids play physical games. If you have to, get them out to a facility where they can safely exercise. Strong bodies support our minds to best navigate the circumstances we confront. Say out loud: “I can't just sit on the couch all day. I'm going to exercise. If I don't take care of my body, I can't focus as well."
“I keep thinking about the worst-case scenario": Stay present and live in reality
Uncertainty can make our minds race to the worst possible outcome. Catch those thoughts and say, “I am imagining the worst. Help your children to find alternate solutions to each problem that arises. Let me focus on the actual reality in the present time." Young people can assume the worst because they have not yet had the experience to know that crises come and go. Let them know “You'll get through this with me by your side."
“I can't do everything": Learning to let go
Stay healthy, strong, and compassionate. Take care of those who are vulnerable. Let family members know they are precious. Do what it takes to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Everything else can wait. Take each day a step at a time.
“I am so disappointed": Find joy, give service, and maintain purpose
Help your children see the difference they can make in others' lives and how good it feels to give service or just help out in the home. This may enhance their own resilience because they'll learn the joy of giving. More important, they'll learn there is no pity in receiving.
“Will things ever be the same?": Hope
Resilience is about more than bouncing back. It is about adapting. Growing. Becoming stronger. Being ready for the next challenge, but also being prepared to savor all the good life has to offer. Uncertainty is frightening, but knowing that we are not alone to figure it out brings comfort. Any individual alone is vulnerable, but joined together we are stronger than the combination of each of our individual strengths. People together can take turns between drawing strength from others and being a source of strength. We will get through this when we come together!
Remember what our grandparents always said - “This too shall pass, and you'll get through this with me by your side."
Ken Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, is author of, Building Resilience in Children and Teens,