In the midst of all the environmental, emotional, and societal shifts that we, particularly parents, are collectively experiencing in the year 2020 — self-care and grace should be our first line of defense. We can’t respond perfectly in every situation, nor should we expect that of ourselves, but we can try to regularly gauge and respond to the mental and emotional needs of our children. Every child processes, adjusts, and adapts to stress differently and needs us to respect their individual pace and their individual needs.
How can we best provide the security, love, and reassurance our children are searching for during this time of uncertainty?
Recognize and accept their presence whenever possible. If you’ve found yourself among the millions of people keeping children at home while working remotely, you know how difficult it can be to juggle work demands with the needs and demands of the kids. Adapting to children’s interruptions when they desire your attention will help both of you in the long run. For instance, if you’re going to be in a meeting or conference call, you might set your child up beforehand with a snack or project to help prevent interruptions.
Knowing your expectations in advance helps them understand that your attention is needed elsewhere temporarily. Depending on your child’s age, promising a small reward afterward, such as a snack or playtime together, can also be helpful in gaining their cooperation.
Help them feel reassured of their safety and stability. Although life is less predictable than we would like, much does remain in our immediate control. As always, assuring your children of their safety is helpful and comforting. Children crave routines and structure in order to feel safe, so establishing and maintaining daily routines can help them achieve a bit of reassuring predictability.Chore checklists, baths before bedtime, meals at the same time–such mundane daily activities can help you as well as your child find a sense of normalcy.
Keep the dialogue open. You might want to use dinnertime or bedtime to talk openly and freely with your child. Their defenses may be lowered at such times, and they may be more willing to share their fears. Asking open-ended or hypothetical questions will get them thinking, and then you can slip in a few “temperature checks” to gauge their mental and emotional states. If they are aware of COVID and its impact, for instance, you can let them know they aren’t in immediate danger. Explaining necessary precautions can also provide you with an opportunity to reassure them that parameters are in place to keep them safe and secure.
Help them make sense of their feelings. If your child is concerned, fearful, or anxious, help them understand that they are entitled to those emotions, thus helping them learn that whatever they are feeling at the moment doesn’t change the fact that they are safe and loved. Whatever their mindset may be at that moment, accept it for what it is.
Look for age-appropriate tasks or crafts and problem solving opportunities. Taking on new responsibilities can help a child develop more independence and foster positive feelings in them. When your child encounters difficulty, encourage them to think it through before stepping in. If they become frustrated or angry, offer them a helpful clue or encourage them to create a strategy to figure out how to resolve the issue on their own.
Help your child learn to use meditation and mantras. Taking time to recite positive I Am statements with your child in the morning, for example, can help them create a mindset that positively shapes the course of their day. Focus on their strongest characteristics or on goals they plan to achieve. Similarly, meditating with them for a few minutes first thing in the morning or just before bed can help instill daily peace, self-awareness, and gratitude for both parent and child.
Although we may feel uncertain in these tumultuous times, we can nonetheless empower and support our children, foster a sense of stability, and help them look toward the bright future that lies ahead of them. We don’t need to be super-parents, just loving parents doing our imperfect best.