As the pandemic continues many children are suffering confusion and stress. Parents may be stressed themselves, but there are some ways to help kids feel better:
The first step in helping your child is look inward.
Children and teens pick up the level of stress in their parents. They don’t always understand what’s going on, but they can feel the tension, so the more calm a parent can be, the more they’re reassuring their child.
Of course, staying calm clearly isn’t always easy and often requires a conscious effort. Create a mini break for yourself to reset your own stress levels. It might mean you go into the bathroom and lock the door for 10 minutes if you need to just kind of chill out and have your own space. It may mean you go for a fast walk to reduce any tension that you have.
Focus on what’s working
Another way to help: Shift focus from your child’s worrisome behaviour. Instead pay attention to what’s going right and reinforce it.
Try saying things like, “you look really upset, but you talked about it, you stayed calm, you used an ‘indoor voice’, and you asked what you needed. It’s important to teach kids, even at a young age, to figure out what they want and to assert themselves.
Create soothing spaces
Some parents have found it helpful to help their children create soothing spaces just for them, places they can go when they need to feel better. Kids have always liked being in their treehouses, their own little area where they can put their things and feel safe.
Support kids’ friendships
Connections to friends are important for kids’ psychological development, especially for teens. Are they losing friends or are they disconnected? While we need to physically distance, we need to make sure we’re all socially connected.
With so many things that are beyond our control right now, parents can try discussing some things their children can, in fact, control. For example, how they spend their time, what hobbies they engage in and enjoy, how they interact with family and friends, even what they can do to “stay safe.
We want a proactive orientation. We don’t want our kids to feel like victims. Kids can be encouraged to play their guitar more, learn a new hobby, spend more time talking with their friends.
Have open and honest conversations
When children are clearly sad or upset, the best gift parents can give them is time. Sit with them and give them time, time to wait and listen to what they have to say. This lets the child know that number one, they are “worth waiting for” and that you will try to understand what they’re going through.
Be honest when talking with your child no matter what their age. That might mean admitting you don’t know the answer to a question about the pandemic and offering to look it up together. This models the attitude you want them to develop as they grow older.
Build a hopeful vision of the future
Being honest and direct is actually a way of teaching your child to feel hopeful. Hope isn’t about pretending that everything’s OK; it’s about recognizing that things can be very, very difficult and that in the midst of all of that, we can still find ways to grow as individuals and as a family and to strengthen our connection with each other and with the people we care about.