We are in an unprecedented time of change and transition, in which there is unpredictability, uncertainty, and fear. As much as we’d like to shelter our children from global and personal issues, their exposure to stress and trauma is inevitable. In fact, if we completely shelter our kids from truths about the pandemic or other topics, this would actually put them at a disadvantage because they would be ill-prepared for coping resiliently through adversity. Resilience is a muscle that needs to be practiced and exercised.
During times like these, we and our children have a heightened need for resilience. Below are activities for parents to do with children to teach them ways to develop resilient thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
- THOUGHTS: Teach your child to separate what you can and cannot control. Take a hula hoop or a jump rope and make a circle. When you think of something you CAN control, jump into the circle and think about what you can do. When you think of something you CANNOT control, jump out of the circle and practice acceptance. Model smaller ideas of what you can do that are within your control. Think together with your child about things you can control (your thoughts, your attitude, your actions). For example:
- While we cannot control the Coronavirus, we can control how we take care of ourselves and each other by staying home as much as possible, wearing masks when we’re out, and washing our hands when we come home.
- We cannot control when we go back to school or whether or not in-person school will need to suddenly stop again. We can control an attitude that supports the fact that we can do difficult things.
- ATTITUDE: Set your mindset up for resilience. Think back to another time when you or your child faced a hardship. Try to identify what they did to get through it. Remind yourselves that times of hardship and uncertainty never last. Likewise, times of joy don’t last forever either. You can teach your child that, as we’ve survived the past (x) days of quarantine, we can make it through one more.
- Teach your child that stress, challenge, and moods can be thought of like the weather. Sometimes it’s cloudy, windy, rainy, or stormy. Have them think through what we do to make ourselves comfortable and healthy during a storm.
- Create a ritual in which you all put on your imaginary rain boots and rain coats, open your imaginary umbrellas, and prepare to get through another day of stormy weather. This play interaction creates connection, uses humor, and facilitates a mindset of resilience for your child.
- ACTION: Cultivating a sense of both gratitude for what you have and service to the community can help people cope more resiliently with stress. Think with your children about people in need within your community. Invite your children to pick out some canned or nonperishable food items to donate to a local food drive. Check if any assisted living or retirement homes may be receiving cards, pictures, or notes during times when they may not be able to have visitors. Have your children sort through lightly worn clothes that no longer fit or may no longer be their style and donate them to a local homeless shelter. Look into wish lists set up at your local animal shelters or pet rescue organizations. Fostering your child’s sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging can greatly boost their capacity for resilience.