Yes Mom and Dad, your child is resilient.
It is “back to school” time. Honestly, I have always met this time with very mixed feelings. I was excited for my kids and their new experiences ahead and I loved shopping with them for new notebooks and pencils and the coolest folders and pencil pouches. The first day of school pictures of our kids scrubbed and smiling are treasures, but I also was a bit melancholy as I thought about the ending of summer and our relaxed schedule and the family fun of the season.
This year as I listen to the conversations of parents I hear the fear in their voices, I see masks on the school supply lists, I hear about distancing during lunch and recess, and no hugs from teachers; my heart just feels sad. What will these children feel like the first day of school? How will they feel wearing masks? Do they feel safe? How will they continue to grow and learn if their lessons are remote? Will there still be the excitement of the First Day of School?
Then I stop and tell myself, kids are resilient. Kids are pliable…their little hearts and brains adapt. It is easier for them than me.
We as parents cannot control the circumstances of our child’s world, but we can help him or her build resilience to be able to handle the bumps in the road.
Resilience is more than hanging on just hoping that things will get better, it is teaching your child to be adaptive and accept challenge. Resilience is also the ability to appreciate all that is good in life right now instead of concentrating only on the negative. This virus is a challenge, a big one, but there are always challenges in life and supporting our child’s resilience is one of the keys to a happy, successful life. So, what can we do as parents to support our children as they navigate their new world?
Control your emotions
- Your child will follow your lead. If you are anxious, your child will be anxious. Taking care of yourself is key to handling your anxiety. Exercise, eat well, establish a sleep routine, connect with others, and take time to just be. We can’t control the outside world, but we can control our home. Create calm, be sure your child feels safe.
Concentrate on the positive
- Talk in terms of what is good right now. I am a firm believer that every child should end the day on a positive thought. What has been good today? Resiliency focuses on the good even in times of challenge.
Help your child with self -regulation
- When a child reacts with tantrums, whining, acting out, or defiance, many are experiencing powerful feelings or emotions they can’t control. Be patient and work with your child on addressing the emotion:
- Name the emotion or feeling.
- “Change is difficult, are you feeling angry or frustrated with all the changes with school?”
- Ask your child about what he or she feels.
- Defining this helps your child realize when he or she needs to work on self -calming.
- “When you are upset do you feel your heart pounding or your tummy feeling funny? That is what it feels like when you are very upset.”
- Model what your child can do to stop the escalation.
- Take a deep breath, take a step away, separate until he or she feels calmer.
- Encourage talking about the feelings with you or a trusted friend.
- Move on, find something positive to do.
- Give your child some control or choices.
- When a child is asked to do something he or she is not happy about, giving choices or some control will result in more cooperation.
- “I am sorry that we have to wear masks to school for safety, why don’t you come with me to choose one that you like the best.” “I know it is disappointing that your soccer team has been cancelled. Would you like to kick the ball in the yard for practice every day or should we head to the park? You choose how to spend your time.”
- Plan a few minutes every day to simply be with your child.
- This is time to talk, play, laugh, just be. Your child needs this time to know that no matter what is happening, or how he or she is feeling or reacting, he or she is loved.
Don’t try to remove all stress or challenge from your child
- Placing your child in a bubble or rescuing him or her from all stressors, results in a less resilient child. Exposure to stress and challenge with loving support from parents helps a child develop coping skills.
So as my heart feels heavy as I see our children put on their masks, distance themselves from large groups of friends, navigate the disappointments of sports and other activities being cancelled, celebrate birthday parties with drive by parades….I still see children smiling, accepting the changes, spending more time with family, learning how to wash their hands and stay healthy, learning through technology, reading more books, having more quiet time and yes becoming more resilient. Maybe I can learn from them. Smile Mom and Dad, your child is resilient
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.