This year of living under COVID-19 restrictions has affected all of us, including our children. They’ve had to stay inside (along with their stressed parents), cut off from friends, with their routines disrupted. This powerful experience will affect them for years to come. But it does not have to be a wholly negative one. You can use it as an opportunity to help them learn to cope with stress.
During childhood, we learn who we are and how to manage ourselves in the world. Children are greatly affected by how their parents treat them on a daily basis and guide them through difficult times -- even adolescents absorb messages their parents give them (despite their frequent self-absorption and focus on peers). While you may not realize it, your children will carry these lessons into adulthood.
You can help your children grow from their current pandemic experiences by reinforcing these four basic messages:
- You are not the problem. Your child may feel stressed, afraid, and out of sorts during this time. These feelings can be distressing and may leave your child questioning what’s wrong with them. By validating their feelings and letting them know that these are understandable reactions, they will learn that they are OK.
- This time of stress and distress will pass. Despite how it might feel, this pandemic will not last forever. Restrictions will eventually be lifted, they will return to school and seeing friends in person, and life will move on. Letting your child know this (and reminding yourself of it) can help ease their concerns.
- There are things you can do to help yourself. Encourage your child to find ways to enjoy their time at home. They might enjoy crafts, learning something new, or reading. Though they may not be able to meet in person with friends, they can enjoy time together virtually. And if they feel anxious or sad, they can do these same things to help them through those tough times.
- You are not alone. Let them know that everyone needs help sometimes. With that in mind, encourage them to seek support from you or another responsible adult who they trust.
Adults who feel the healthiest and happiest tend to feel positively about themselves, know that they can manage through difficulties, and see important people in their lives as emotionally there for them. By teaching your children to view themselves and others in these ways, you will be preparing them to thrive throughout their lives, even as they face inevitable difficulties.