If there’s one positive thing to come from the uncertainty of 2020, it’s an opportunity to help our kids become more emotionally resilient. Now, this isn’t to say that it has been easy or even ideal. I know we all wish we could reverse the disruption to their education, activities, and relationships. However, playing the cards we were dealt, we have the opportunity to help our children become more resilient by supporting them in an ever changing world.
Children look to us for guidance, stability, and safety. This is something that our environment can’t promise us right now since adults are even trying to figure this out as we go. That’s all we can do! We as caretakers, despite our own worries and responsibilities, have to be especially vigilant about helping our children to develop in emotionally positive ways. Rather than shielding our children from what’s happening in the world, there are opportunities to share kernels of positivity, wisdom, and hope to help shape them into emotionally resilient children and adults.
How to Develop Emotional Resilience at Home
A lot of a child’s emotional development stems from their interactions with other children which we all know looks a little different right now. Nonetheless, if emotional development is put on the back burner now, it has serious implications for their futures. The good news is that spending more time together is mutually beneficial for caregivers and children.
- Take notice: Children are emotionally resilient, but they aren’t impervious to school closures and a lack of playdates with friends and family. Try to take notice if your child has become more anxious or stressed by misbehaving, expressing worry about their health, not eating, or becoming more fidgety. You can help them cope with deep breathing exercises, helping them find a quiet space, encouraging them to ask for help or hugs when they’re overwhelmed, or by practicing EFT Tapping.
- Offer reassurance: We can’t promise that this will all be over soon, but we can offer optimism about the future. Life is not always going to be this way. Hopeful messages go a long way!
- Be honest: Children look to us to model how they should think, feel, and react in all situations, especially new ones like the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Remember it’s okay to be honest about how you are feeling as a result of the pandemic, but keep it age appropriate. For example, it’s okay to say things like, “We can’t go back to normal yet because we could get sick or make other people sick. The doctors are working very hard to keep everyone safe and healthy, or to admit to them, “I understand how you feel. I miss being with my friends too.” Parents can allow room for sad feelings even while being optimistic about the future.
- Mimic their previous routines: Wherever and whenever possible, you can try to restore a sense of normalcy and stability by mimicking the routines they had in place pre-COVID. Even developing new reliable routines will help children to feel more grounded and comfortable. You can ask them to help you build their schedule so they feel included and aware of how their days will be spent until they can go back to school.
- Spend play time together daily: Now that recess is cut from their curricula, kids need more time to play with their siblings and parents. What are your favorite ways to play and connect with your child? For my family, we like to build puzzles or play board games after dinner. It’s more about the conversation, the laughs, and learning from you rather than the game!
- Stay active: Speaking of play time, our little busy bodies need an outlet for their energy! I know I need exercise just as badly to help regulate my mood and get my own health back on track. Try going for a walk, having mini dance parties, doing yoga, or riding bikes together!
- Devote time to digital detoxing: We all need a way to escape, but phones can keep us away for longer than we intended. Breaking away from the screen provides more opportunities to work on their emotional skills, grow closer to their parents, and feel like a part of a community outside of the home.
Try Mission I’m Possible
In addition to these tips, we recommend our Mission I’m Possible Program which empowers children to take charge of their emotional development. Through simple play-based exercises, children can learn to take notice of their “negative” feelings before they take over a situation; it teaches children to proactively express their emotions in a healthy way and take notice on how their feelings impact others. It also encourages children to take a break from the tablet to perform their “top secret” missions.
We know that adding another role to your routine is hard, and that parents are juggling many more responsibilities than ever before. Other child psychologists know this very well too! If you think your children could use extra help coping with the pandemic and all its repercussions, there are many family therapists available via video to help. Children are tough, and it’s no surprise that they get it from YOU! Helping children to become emotionally resilient stems from how you are coping, so remember that taking care of yourself also means taking care of them. You can do this!