In these modern times our children are being faced with multiple challenges from COVID, war, technology screen time and unforeseen changes around them. This common theme over the past two years has presented a number of unique challenges for parents. Our children have developed earlier thoughts or exposure to ideals not often spoken about or needed to be addressed. The research has shown that children have been showing earlier signs of anxiety and stress related symptoms since the start of the pandemic.
Teach kids to recognize and name their feelings
When kids can effectively recognize and name their emotions, they’re able to connect those emotions to specific strategies that will help them move forward in a healthy way. For example, kids might recognize that they’re feeling nervous and know that talking to a parent or caregiver can help them relax, or that they’re feeling angry and that going for a run can help them clear their head. This sort of emotional management is a key aspect of resiliency.
Foster supportive relationships
Positive relationships often serve as a buffer for the rough stuff in life. While parents shouldn’t try to orchestrate their kid’s whole social life, teaching them how to have healthy relationships will enable them to do so on their own. Parents can teach kids about relationships by talking about how they choose friends, how they act as a good friend and how they handle conflict. And when parents have these types of relationships themselves, children notice. “Kids learn a lot about the world by watching their caregivers,” says Riley, “so it’s also important to try to model the sort of relationship we want them to have.”
Teach kids to ask for help
A resilient person doesn’t always bounce back from tough situations all by themselves. Asking for help is critical, and it doesn’t always come naturally, especially for kids. “Asking for help and support is an important skill for kids and adults,” says James, “but it can feel hard to ask for help for a variety of reasons.” Parents can help kids learn to ask for help by modeling what that looks like in their life, being open about times they’ve needed support and being receptive and supportive when kids come to them for help.
Help kids develop a range of coping strategies
“It’s good to have one strategy to help you feel better when you’re experiencing uncomfortable emotions, but it’s even better to have a whole range of strategies in case one is not working or not possible,” says Riley. Parents can offer suggestions like taking deep breaths, talking with a friend or going for a walk. As a child gets older, parents can ask questions, like, “What do you think would help you feel calmer right now?” to help them discover what works best for them when times get tough.
Give kids a chance to practice their life skills
“Every parent wants to protect their children from the hard things in the world,” says James, “and while that’s understandable, protecting them from every hard thing doesn’t allow them to develop and practice the skills they need to be resilient or effectively navigate life’s challenges.” While it might be tempting for parents to call the coach who cut their kid from the team or deliver the homework binder their child left on the counter on their way to school, parents should consider the skills their child won’t get a chance to practice if they step in every time.