As the pandemic carries on, our coping skills are starting to unravel. For many people, this has become the ultimate emotional test. As we continue to maintain our distance from each other, not only have our social lives been halted, but our emotional support is wavering as well. And while we have been living this reality for some time, it is not getting any easier. In fact, it is getting more difficult, especially for children. In order to mitigate this emotional imbalance, it is important to help them feel more stable.
Understanding that feelings and responses to the same pandemic are going to vary from person to person is important. Parents need to take time to reassure their children that all emotions are okay and that what they are feeling is normal. There is no right way to cope. What parents can do is begin implementing the first four (of eight) parent tips to support their children’s emotional development during this time.
1) Practice Patience: While the situation is getting more and more difficult for everyone to deal with, children are greatly affected. Younger children may be more rambunctious and teens may be sleeping more. Whichever way your child is responding, it’s important to be patient with them and how they cope. Parents should also be patient with themselves and know that some days will be better than others.
2) Adjust Expectations: We’ve all heard it…”Make the best of this pandemic.” We have more “free time” now than we’ve ever had. School work can be finished in a short time and since there are no extracurricular activities going on, many parents expect that their children would want to learn new skills or set new goals. And while it sounds like a great idea, it’s just not realistic for everyone. Adapting to how children need to cope during this uncertain time is going to support them more emotionally.
3) Listen Thoroughly: Children express their emotions in many ways. Being attuned to their feelings and the way they are expressing them is important for parents to understand. Observe the way they react to situations and information, watch for non-verbal cues such as behaviors, and listen to their tone of voice. Spending time carefully observing their children will allow parents the ability to better support their children’s emotional needs.
4) Demonstrate Compassion: Everyone is feeling the frustration of the shelter in place order. And since children show this through their behaviors, it’s important for parents to show empathy and give more love and support to their children. Nurturing children through the ups and downs of our current reality will teach them empathy for others and help them feel more secure.
We are all facing uncertainty and a new type of stress. Children have less experience on how to deal with this type of situation. Since they have strong emotions but also have lower self-regulation skills, parents need to make sure that they are being patient, adjusting expectations, listening, and showing empathy. These things will help children feel supported emotionally and give them the space to process things in their own way.
Check back next week for four additional parent tips for supporting your child’s emotional needs during the pandemic.