Resilience is the process people go through when responding to difficult times. Everyone experiences disappointments, setbacks, failures and challenges – resilient people tend to thrive as a result of these.
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is posing kids with a range of challenges and you don’t have to look far in the media to find an article about the negative impact of the pandemic on children’s mental wellbeing.
Your kids have no control over the virus itself, however, they do have control over their response to it and whether they respond in a way that will help them thrive, and not just survive.
As parents, you can help them choose their response – check out this list of things for you to do and not do as you support and guide your kids.
Bear in mind as you read this that there’s no silver bullet, and no one-size-fits-all solution. Each child’s experience of COVID-19 is different, as is their capacity to respond with resilience. Resilience is dynamic and will change depending on a child’s personal and environmental context. It’s also relative – what might be a big deal for one child might be insignificant to another.
So, what are some of the things you can do?
- Connect with your children. Spend time with them and give them your full attention – they need to feel seen and heard. Connection can take any form – chatting with them whilst you fold the laundry or a bike ride. Show them that you love and value them, and that they’re worthy of your time.
- Notice and observe their experience. It’s easy to make assumptions about our kids’ experiences but often we can get these wrong. Noticing and observing how your child is actually responding to the pandemic, will help you to identify how best to support them.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Take opportunities to check in with your kids and see how they’re doing. Answer their questions about COVID-19, keeping your responses factual and age-appropriate, and simple and brief when speaking with younger kids. Try and become their single source of truth. Encouraging them to talk about any worries they might have is a key part of this.
- Teach your children to choose optimism. Optimism isn’t a trait, it’s a strategic choice. When your children tend to the helpless, or the pessimistic, gently encourage them to reframe and to choose a more optimistic perspective.
- Encourage plenty of unstructured play. This is a critical part of children’s ongoing growth and development and is a great alternative to gaming or other screen-based activities that you’re may want to limit. It teaches a whole range of skills, including problem-solving, creativity, turn-taking, negotiation, sharing and lots more.
What are some of the things NOT to do?
- Ensure your kids don’t abandon self-care. Looking after themselves physically, mentally and emotionally, is key to being able to respond with resilience to situations. Getting enough sleep and exercise and eating healthily are the basics.
- Don’t let your kids watch the adult news. The adult news should be saved until they have the maturity to handle whatever might be portrayed. Some of what appears on the adult news is age-inappropriate and can be upsetting and confronting, particularly for young children.
- Don’t tell them not to worry. When you tell your kids not to worry, you’re shutting them down when they’re expressing how they’re feeling. You’re inadvertently sending the message that it’s not OK to feel worried, which may prevent them from telling you how they feel next time. Also, when children feel worried they’re in fight or flight mode and are physically not capable of processing a cognitive suggestion such as “Don’t worry!” They need safety and not reassurance – show them some empathy, give them a hug and, when they’ve calmed down, share with them some practical tools and strategies for managing their worried thoughts.
- Don’t relax your boundaries. Children crave boundaries because they make them feel safe. Just because everyone’s world has been turned upside down by COVID-19, it doesn’t mean you need to put your boundaries aside. Far from it – kids need these at a time like this more than ever. It wasn’t OK to shout at mum before COVID-19, and it’s still not now.
- Don’t allow your kids to be unsafe online. Many kids are spending more time online during COVID-19 and it’s important that you put in place firm boundaries aimed at keeping them safe. These include (but aren’t limited to) switching on parental controls, keeping phones out of the bedroom at night, making sure all online activity is age appropriate and ensuring your kids know never to share their location or personal details online.
These are critical life skills that won’t just help your kids navigate the COVID-19 crisis, they will also help them navigate any challenge that comes their way.
Looking for ways to help your children take on new challenges? Check out Caribu’s Social-Emotional Learning Category! Sign up for Caribu to get started, and share books and activities with your loved ones in an interactive video-call.
You can read the original article on Kidspot.
Susie Mogg, An Expert Guide To Help Build Your Child’s Resilience During COVID-19, October 2nd, 2020, https://www.kidspot.com.au/parenting/child/child-behaviour/an-expert-guide-to-help-build-your-childs-resilience-during-covid19/news-story/573e746a078bca845789e0caa579de08.