The last couple of years have been stressful for everyone. Yet, this is likely to have been a particularly turbulent, confusing, and frustrating period for children. The pandemic created additional restrictions and challenges in their lives that they may find scary and frustrating. They’ll also see their parents are having to negotiate uncertainty which can impact their sense of stability.
Let’s look at some of the important areas of consideration when navigating this difficult situation with your children.
It’s only natural to want to protect your child from the negative influences of the world. However, there is a tendency for some parents to equate protecting their children with shielding them from information about the world. Unfortunately, this can have the effect of making kids feel isolated.
Build a culture in your family in which your kids are free to ask questions. Be explicit about letting them know they can ask you about anything they're unsure of or curious about. Importantly, be honest and clear in your answers as appropriate to their age.
It can also be worth just talking with your kids about these challenges and how they feel in a more relaxed setting. Take them to a local park or for a hike on nearby trails. Being in the open air can relieve some of the tension of the situation and their worries. Not to mention that spending time in nature can help kids process experiences they find traumatic or stressful.
Though your kids will likely have a lot of questions, you won’t always have all the answers, particularly in these uncertain times. Make an effort to discover the answers together, even if it ultimately leads to more questions. It shows you treat your kids’ questions with respect.
Access Wellness Resources
It is important to recognize there are resources to make your job a little more manageable. Seeking these out can give you and your child the tools to overcome the challenges you’re facing.
This can begin with some forms of play-based therapy and community engagement. Many towns and cities will have regular clubs and events to allow children to gather in the open air and manage their stress. This could be local sports teams, exploration groups, or art clubs. These types of activities give children a focus for their energy and give them some time away from the elements they may be finding difficult.
However, it’s also wise to prepare for the prospect that your child may need some professional mental wellness assistance. It’s not always easy to know what type of professional you should consult. Social workers and therapists are both psychological specialists, but they have distinct functions. The former tends to assist in the community and may help your child to overcome some of the ways stress affects their school, home, and social life. Therapists, on the other hand, are more appropriate for helping your child manage the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors they live with as a result of stress. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with the roles of each and preparing relevant contacts for the appropriate circumstances.
As a parent, it can often feel as though you’re having to help your child navigate stress on your own. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this just exacerbates the sense of isolation for both you and your child. But there are collaborators in your community you can look to for vital support.
For many families, childcare providers are among the most vital collaborators. There is increased demand for these services at the moment that often outpaces supply, the impact of which can be devastating to both children and the community. It’s essential to not resort to using unlicensed or oversubscribed providers, as this can lead to neglect and — in worst-case scenarios — abuse. Your time and options may be stretched thin, but it’s essential to put some research into finding the right provider to reduce stress on you and your child.
If your child is of school age, their teacher is a valuable collaborator. Take time to regularly communicate with them about how your child is coping both at home and school. They may also be able to alert you to early signs of emotional distress. Make sure this is a mutual effort, though. Offer them as much support as you expect to receive. You’re working together to give your child the best experience.
This is a particularly stressful time for a lot of people and children are no exception. Unfortunately, the presence of extended periods of stress can have damaging short and long-term effects on children. It’s important to adopt actions like effective communication, accessing wellness resources, and working closely with care collaborators. The solutions aren’t always straightforward, but helping your child navigate this time of stress will have an impact now and throughout their lives.