We’d love to share with you some thoughts from a recent Huffington Post article written by Catherine Pearson discussing how parents can help their children’s development during these unprecedented times.
Mental health experts say kids will come out of the Covid-19 pandemic with some powerful life skills and tools for getting through hard stuff. That’s not to sugarcoat the reality, but it is a reminder of the kind of learning that can come through adversity. Here are four powerful lessons kids can take away and some simple strategies to help them get there.
Lesson #1: How to live with uncertainty.
In a matter of months, kids’ worlds have been totally upended by COVID-19. Their school has moved online, they can only see extended family and frends virtually and there is limited ability to go outside. None of the grown-ups in their lives can give them any answers about how or when this will all end, because everything is uncertain. Learning to live with discomfort and uncertainty is part of becoming a “developmentally healthy” adult, said Nicholas Westers, a pediatric psychologist.
How you can help? Rather than trying to give your child a clear answer about what comes next, be honest about the fact that there is a lot we do not know. If you have a toddler or preschool-age kid at home, explain that doctors are working to find medicine that will help us all be healthy and could allow life to go back to normal. With older kids, you can be more candid. Ask them about what they think is happening in the world right now, then tell them what you know — and what you don’t. Promise you will continue talking about what comes next as things continue to change and progress.
Lesson #2: How to be resilient.
We know kids are struggling to accept the reality of today’s world and their place in it. With that said, this is a great time for parents to help kids learn to appreciate their own abilities to bounce back.
How you can help? Allow room for their discomfort by simply acknowledging that you are also feeling stress and fear. Then model coping for your children such as going for a walk, practicing deep breathing, connecting with friends etc. Think of ways to include your kids, which in turn will hold you more accountable to your own self care.
Reinforcing problem-solving skills can also help foster resiliency. When there is a dilemma or a question, instead of answering it, it’s a great time to ask our kids to tell us what they’re thinking. It may be the first time that we’ve had the time to sit down and really observe our children’s thinking processes and problem-solving skills. If your kid tells you they’re sad or lonely, perhaps ask what they think a good coping strategy is, rather than immediately jumping in with a suggestion. Give them a chance to think on their own and to use you as a sounding board.
Lesson #3: That they are so much more than school and extracurriculars.
Many older kids have had ideas of things they wanted to learn or do that they’ve never really had the time for. Our teenagers are over-scheduled and they don’t have downtime or playtime anymore – now they have plenty of it. We’ve heard stories of campers who have taken up the guitar, or who have tried cooking for the first time, maybe even during one of our instagram live virtual programs. It’s not about self-improvement, it’s about making sure that your child recognizes they have time and space to reconnect with who they are outside of school and their usual routines.
How you can help? Talk with your child about what they’d like to be doing more of, then be prepared to get into their chosen hobbies with them — even if that means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. If they don’t necessarily have a ton of ideas about what they’d like to do, think about some simple things you can do together, like playing a board game or making a meal together. Then tell them how happy you are to have that time together and how much you value your connection with them.
Lesson #4: How important their role is in your family.
When everyone is busy rushing out the door to work or school, your child may lose sight of their own role in the household. Now is a good time to make it clear that your family is a team and they are an essential part of it. You can teach them each person plays a part in the family routine during this isolated time.
How you can help: Ask your child to help you with sweeping, or cleaning up toys, or other simple chores. You might have to redo it, but you’re setting a precedent that they are a part of the team. Depending on your child’s age, now is a good time to give them more responsibility around the house than you might otherwise. Let them set their own alarm clocks. Give them chances to make their own meals. Make sure they’re taking out the trash or cleaning up around the house. Give them important roles at home. Reinforce how helpful they are and important they are to the family.
We hope these lessons can help enrich your child’s development during this complex time. We must remember that in adversity there is also opportunity.