A recent article from Kenneth Ginsburg at Healthychildren.org talks about ways parents can protect children from witnessing the fear and uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. He recommends shaping the lessons gained during this difficult time by intentionally managing feelings and experiences with an eye toward helping build resilience.
Below are some of the feelings many of us are experiencing, paired with the chance they offer us to model and teach lifelong resilience skills.
“I feel like I am failing.” Perfection is not an option here. 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.
Learning to Empathize
“My kids are frustrated, and so am I.” 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 perspective is by benefiting from it firsthand. You build their empathy for others by working to understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Processing and Releasing Emotions
“I don’t know how to handle how I feel.” 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.
Creating a Safe Haven Within Our Homes
“I want to pull my hair out.” You can love your child and still sometimes want to tear your hair out. We all have bad days when the stress load is high, and it’s high now. 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.
Being a Calming Presence for Others
“I need a timeout.” 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. Be clear and honest with yourself and others. Say what you do know. Admit what you don’t.
Maintaining Physical Health Strengthens Emotional Health
“My mind feels out of control.” 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.”
Stay Present And Live In Reality
“I keep thinking about the worst-case scenario.” Uncertainty can make our minds race to the worst possible outcome. Catch those thoughts and say, “I am imagining the worst. Let me focus on what is really happening.” 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.”
Finding What You Can Do
“I feel helpless.” Few things create discomfort more than feeling like there is too much to do or nothing you can do at all. Few things restore comfort more than tackling what you can. Model the importance of one of the most calming words: “Yet.” “I’ll NEVER ______!” can transform into “I haven’t ______ yet.” Don’t accept failure or disappointment as permanent but instead view setbacks as opportunities to try yet again.
Learning To Let Go
“I can’t do everything.” 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.
Find Joy, Give Service, And Maintain Purpose
“I am so disappointed.” Help your children see the difference they can make in others’ lives and how good it feels to give service. This may enhance their own resilience because they’ll learn the joy of giving. More importantly, they’ll learn there is no pity in receiving.
When You Can’t Change Things, Adapt
“I had so many plans that aren’t working out.” Many of our plans are not working out. Focus on what you can make a reality and what you can do.
Relationships Strengthen Us
“I miss my family and friends.” This is a generational defining moment. If this generation learns that when times get tough, people unify, it will be the generation who can lead us into a better-shared future–one in which we hold those we love nearer and offer those who are vulnerable the extra support they deserve.
“Will things ever be the same?.” 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. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the most difficult times will have passed. No matter what, hopefully these lessons endure.
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!
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