Supporting Children’s Emotional Needs During the Pandemic
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 this for some time,it is not getting any easier. In fact, it is getting a bit harder, especially for children.
In order to mitigate this emotional imbalance, it is important to put things into place 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 these 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. However 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. Schoolwork 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 be aware of. 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. 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.
5 – Encourage Self-Discipline:
When irritation is the driving force of our feelings, it’s hard to do things exactly as we are expected to. These are the times, however, that coping skills can be extremely useful. Helping children develop ways to deal with their strong feelings can help them now and in the future. Parents should take time to prompt children to develop some coping skills and then compliment them when they apply them.
6 – Maintain Routines:
While our “normal” routines have been upended by the pandemic, we’ve been forced to create new habits. And although many children are continuing to adhere to the new routines, others have created habits of procrastination and crazy sleep schedules. Having days to do “nothing” is okay, but maintaining some sort of consistency in a child’s life is key in helping them re-acclimate to their typical routines once things are back normal.
7 – Utilize Technology:
Parents typically try to limit their child’s time spent on devices. Currently, doing this is not realistic. In addition to using technology to talk to friends, children are completing their schoolwork online. For children that are used to a traditional classroom, online school isn’t as fun. Finding ways to make learning fun at home will relieve some of the frustration children are feeling and build more motivation.
8 – Stay Connected:
Although we are stuck inside, there are still things that must be done. Anything from cooking meals, to cleaning the house, to work, responsibilities are constant. However, parents should utilize the extra time that they have to make stronger connections with their children by providing their undivided attention. It is also important to allow children time to virtually connect with their extended family and friends.
We are all human and our responses to our current situation vary. Some have hunkered down and sorted through their new reality in a way that has motivated them to complete tasks and put new goals in place. Others have become increasingly overwhelmed and feel like they have no control over their lives at all.
It’s important to note, however, that there is not a right or wrong way to respond to what we have been presented with. It solely depends on each individual person and how they cope.
And as parents are working to navigate their own emotions, they must also help their children manage their feelings. When parents normalize feelings and show empathy, children are more receptive to creative ways to manage the current situation.
Helping children establish behaviors that will meet their emotional needs while also giving them more balance in their daily schedule is important.
It will be a long time before we know the effects of this isolation. The good thing is that children are resilient. By implementing the 8 Parent SKILLZ in a way that addresses the emotional support children need right now, parents will help children come through this pandemic with strong emotional stability and a more positive outlook on future obstacles.
To learn more about the powerful Skillz childhood development program that uses martial arts as the vehicle for growth, or to chat with other parents in the Patchogue area about these challenges, join our Facebook group by clicking the button below:
Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide.
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology. She has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.