As a mother of three children in elementary school during the COVID-19 pandemic, I can attest that the crisis has placed significant burdens on families. Juggling virtual learning, loss of normal routines, and the fear created by how the loss of social interactions will impact them…parents have plenty to worry about.
Just when life was starting to feel more normal, the omicron surge has us fearing another shut down.
There is however, within every crisis, the opportunity. As parents, we have a unique opportunity to help our children emerge from the crisis as more resilient and optimistic people. Supporting our children’s mental wellness requires us to model the emotional perspectives we want to foster.
Navigating loss. COVID has resulted in the loss of so much. No Kindergarten graduations, virtual birthday celebrations, no play dates or sports. But the internal narrative we give to our kids can help them to be able to tolerate loss throughout their lives. As adults we know that losses big and small will dot the timeline of life.
When an event is cancelled, talk it through with your child. Offer positive reinforcement. Acknowledge their feelings about it. Too often we try to make our kids feel better by minimizing the situation or feelings about it. Tell them it is okay to be disappointed. Helping kids have a healthy relationship with their feelings is a skill to benefit them throughout life.
We can do hard things. Author Glennon Doyle offers one of my favorite mantras I offer my kids when faced with a challenge. “We can do hard things.” Acknowledge that the challenge faced is difficult and comes with difficult emotions. But instill resiliency through encouragement that they have the skills to tackle that challenge.
Loving others. Conversations about COVID, masking, and vaccines make their way into little ears. Don’t shy away from conversations about this. Answer their questions. Reinforce that through social distancing, masking and getting the vaccine we can show people we love and those we don’t even know that we care for their health and safety. Long term, this promotes a sense of social responsibility.
Grit. The challenges we have survived this past two years are worthy of praise. Verbally acknowledge how tough our kids are. Kids are inherently more resilient than we are as adults. Promote that. Tell them every day that you see them persevering in the face of adversity.
Model these approaches. The great crises of history shape that generation. We as parents have the great opportunity to shape our kids to be resilient, strong people who can take on anything.
Vice President, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic
Spectrum Health is here to help individuals and families ride out COVID stressors and get on the pathway to hope. Spectrum Health C.A.R.E.S. is ready to step in for any family in crisis, too.