The unimaginable is continuing to happen. Summer is upon us and we are still in the throes of an unprecedented global pandemic. Thanks to our resident hero, Dr. Henry, and a number of factors that miraculously worked in our favour, in BC, we are the fortunate ones. Some of the structures we lived with until recently have been relaxed, however, we are not out of the woods yet.
This means parents are facing a challenging summer, to say the least. The fatigue and anxiety of four months of living in close quarters with our partners and our little ones are now being further exacerbated by summer months of not knowing how to keep our sanity.
So how do we do it? By building our resilience, and teaching our children to be resilient as well.
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from adversity. Thankfully, resilience can be learned. Here are a number of ways that we can help children develop resilience:
- Be positive – Help your children to see the positive in any situation. Make it a practice to express at least one good thing about every bad thing. Learning to be positive keeps kids’ brains and bodies healthy, their stress levels down, their energy levels up, and a smile on their face. Remember also that positivity is contagious.
- Maintain a daily routine – Children can tolerate stress better when they have structure to their day – a consistent, although flexible daily routine. Maintain regular mealtimes and bedtimes. Strive to have everyone eat nutritious meals and have enough sleep every day. Eat meals together as much as possible. Use that time to check in with one another and connect. Talk about the plans for the next day.
- Exercise – Release pent up energy and stay fit by establishing and maintaining a daily routine of physical activity. Go outdoors as much as possible, and follow online exercise routines on indoor days. Exercise is key for children (and adults) to move from states of heightened tension and anxiety to calm and rest.
- Model resilience – Remember that our children are always watching us. Much more than from what we say, they learn from what we do. Show them how to work through our own array of emotions. Acknowledge your own mistakes. Apologize when needed.
- Problem-solve – Teach your children how to figure out solutions to problems for themselves. Talk them through it. Work with them to come up with options and weight them until they find the one that works.
- Practice gratitude – Help your children learn how to express gratitude every day by asking them questions such as “Tell us something funny that happened today”, “What was something that made you happy today?”, “What was something nice that someone did for you today?”. Make it an evening family ritual, at dinner time or bedtime, to have everyone express their gratitude for the day.
- Talk about feelings – Self-regulation (controlling our behaviour, emotions, and thoughts) is an essential element of resilience. In order to self-regulate, we must be aware of our emotions and know how to express them responsibly. Teach your children that all emotions are ok. Create a safe environment for everyone in your family to speak openly about their feelings. Listen attentively to what your children are saying. Help them to sort out their emotions and choose healthy ways of dealing with them.
- Socialize – Use every means available to you to keep yourself and your children connected with family and friends, in the safest way possible. Support the family to stay physically distanced as necessary, and emotionally connected to loved ones and peers.
- Be of service – Having a purpose gives focus to children. Find ways for your children, and your family as a whole, to make helpful contributions. The options are endless, even during Covid-19. Get creative and involve your children in coming up with ideas of all the wonderful ways they can help neighbours, friends, and family.
- Self-care – Show your children from a very early age that if we get depleted, we cannot be helpful to others. Model good self-care by taking time for yourself, don’t overdo it, have lots of fun and laughter in your life, as well as quiet time for reflection and self-study. Encourage your children to learn how to do that for themselves as well.
If we teach our children even some of these things, their level of resilience will increase and they will learn to be cope in healthy ways through challenging times.