As we slowly re-enter daily life, parents face many challenges compounded by the complications of COVID-19. As a mother of two young children, I fully understand that we are in an extraordinary moment in time that offers reasons to be concerned, cautious and optimistic, all in equal measure. I have experienced first-hand how young people struggle socially, academically or emotionally when confronted with sudden and unexpected change. So how can we support our children and help them transform these uncertain times into an empowering, resilience-building experience?
1) Recognize that out of adversity comes opportunity
Optimism and resilience go hand-in-hand and now is an excellent opportunity to model and teach our children a crucial concept: that human beings can choose how we respond to things we can’t control in life and focus on things we can control. Every child is different and some children, especially younger ones, might need further clarification. A simple way to explain this is by asking your child to close their eyes and imagine the colour green. Then ask them to imagine the colour yellow. You can say, “It looks like you were able to direct your mind to imagine the colour you wanted. Was it easy for you to do that?” Now ask them to close their eyes again and imagine a circle, then a square, then a triangle, etc. Draw attention to the child’s ability to direct their mind and the ability to focus on the desired object or thought, which undoubtedly gets easier with practice.
2) All we need is L.O.V.E.
Our basic needs have been shaken over the past six months and now, more than ever, it’s essential to acknowledge that challenging behaviour is often a young person’s way of expressing an unmet need. Responding to your child’s challenging behaviour with L.O.V.E (Listen, Observe, Validate & Empathise), quickly diffuses arguments and strengthens your connection, allowing children to become better equipped to share that love with the world. And in a world where fear and hurt may happen, love always wins!
3) Prioritise stress management for family wellbeing
Fear and even anxiety are common emotional responses that many of us may feel, as we ease our way back into the new norm. Understanding that anxiety is the brain’s or the body’s response to stress, recognizing possible trigger points and developing coping strategies are all ways in which parents can turn increased awareness into an advantage for the whole family during challenging times. Practising self-compassion, relaxation and mindfulness techniques reduces the physical and mental effects of stress. For example, breathwork, stretching and meditation are all excellent for allowing the mind to become more present, enabling the body to relax.
4) Rev up resilience by getting comfortable with discomfort
Dealing with discomfort is a life skill and the most effective way to teach our children about resilience is to model it. As parents, we must resist the urge to fix things and accept the discomfort of seeing our children being uncomfortable. I once read somewhere that if we want a child’s mind to grow, we must first plant seeds. So if you want to support your child, ask probing questions that guide them to finding a solution. When we do so, we enable young people to confront uncertainty and in time, solve problems independently.
5) Focus on support and guidance
There appears to be little consensus about what the future may look like, and most of us are facing genuine concern about the forward trajectory of our children’s lives. However, one sure thing is that parents want to do their best by their children. With support and guidance, young people can learn the necessary skills to pace themselves and become more resilient, adaptable and ready to embrace the opportunities of this ever-changing world.