It would be an understatement to say that the last two years have been difficult for children and teenagers. Major worldwide events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have had an impact on our daily lives and put us to the test in unprecedented ways. Racial and political issues are also constants in the lives of young people of all ages.
Parents have a plethora of concerns and inquiries. What does all of this anxiety, instability, isolation, and change imply for my children? How can I assist them in coping? Will they be alright? The good news is that resilience, or the ability to persevere in the face of adversity and stress, can be learned and strengthened at any age. We can't keep our children from feeling unhappy, stressed, or having setbacks. We can, however, cultivate their ability to cope with and learn from adversity when it is possible.
How can families help their children develop resilience?
The relationship between parent and child, which is a significant contributor to healthy development in children and teenagers, is where resilience begins for every one of us. A safe, stable relationship with at least one caring and responsive adult is a powerful stress buffer, according to research on childhood trauma such as exposure to violence, divorce, mourning, and natural disasters. Recent research suggests that teenagers who feel linked to their parents or other caregivers, as well as their friends, and who have stable daily routines, are better able to cope with COVID-related stress (read more here, here, and here).
Parents may foster their children's resilience in five evidence-based approaches as we navigate the shifting demands of the pandemic (note: automated download) and the difficulties of our times.
Make an effort to make friendly, nonjudgmental friendships.
Give a sympathetic, nonjudgmental, and receptive ear. Allow your children to openly communicate what's on their minds and how they're feeling.
Assist them in recognizing and naming their feelings. Investigate what triggers such emotions, then connect them to specific coping strategies.
Recognize what we're all going through right now and let others know that it's fine to feel the way they do.
Inquire about their concerns, then provide information in a developmentally appropriate manner. If you don't have the answers, tell them you'll find it out with them.
Assist in the development of coping and emotional management skills.
Encourage problem-solving for both large and minor problems. Explain how you deal with challenges in your own life and see if they can come up with ideas for their own.
Develop calming skills by engaging in a self-soothing exercise. Together, take four slow, deep breaths, snuggle with a pet, make a gratitude list, or watch a happy video.
Instead of focusing on the past (which can't be altered) or the future, they should focus on the now (which has many unknowns). This is the essence of mindfulness, which can help people cope with negative thoughts and sensations by reducing their intensity and discomfort.
Encourage positive thought processes.
Assist youngsters in accepting uncertainty rather than fighting it. Recognizing that change and uncertainty are an inevitable (albeit difficult) aspect of life encourages us to be more adaptable, concentrate on what we can control, and move forward.
Wherever you can, exert control. We may not be able to do all we desire right now, but it does not rule out the possibility of accomplishing something! Even when things are difficult, children can choose to do something that makes them happy, such as engage in a favorite hobby, take a movement break, connect with a friend, or assist a family member.
Remind your child of times when they have overcome obstacles in the past and that things will improve: "This is really hard, and it won't be like this forever."
Make sense of it altogether and look for reasons to be hopeful.
Consider your family's values and try to take inspiration and strength from them. Your child can feel good about what they stand for, whether you prioritize being bold, giving back, or family time.
Engage in activities that bring your family closer to society and to your cultural or religious communities. Knowing you're a part of something bigger makes you feel protected and comfortable.
Cultivate happiness. Important milestones should be celebrated, even if in a modified form. Make new family rituals that your children will remember long after the pandemic has passed.
Emphasize your child's positive qualities. Identify how they've evolved throughout this time and how they can continue to succeed by leveraging their strengths.
Make an effort to set a good example for healthy coping skills.
In difficult times, children look to their caretakers for guidance. When you utilize coping techniques, you are not only meeting your own needs, but you are also encouraging others to try them out.
Encourage family members to stick to typical routines, which provide a soothing sense of structure and normalcy during difficult times.
Make your physical health a priority by getting adequate sleep, eating healthy(ish) food, and being active.
Do you have a feeling of being overwhelmed? Take heart and be cautious.
Remember, you don't have to do this alone as parents. All of the significant people in your child's life can help them develop resilience and cope. Leaning on your family, friends, neighbours, teachers, coaches, and cultural leaders can help you feel more connected and realize you're not alone in your struggle.
During the pandemic, the never-ending demands on parents have increased dramatically, and burnout is obviously high. While self-care may feel guilty or time-consuming (and who has the time? ), your ability to be there for your children is contingent on you having gas in the tank. Mini stress breaks can help you recharge, and they can be as easy as spending a few minutes to relish your morning coffee, listening to music or talking to a friend during your commute, taking a short stroll, or writing or praying before going to bed.
Above all, cultivate self-compassion and treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you show others. Because no one is perfect, you can't and won't be the perfect parent. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed or frustrated, to make mistakes, and to stray from the norms.