By Shelly Melia
Are you wondering what the emotional effects of the last few weeks will be on your children? Will they bounce back from the adversity, risk, and stress caused by the coronavirus? Can they “re-enter” their world without fear or anxiety? The fact is, some children will more easily recover while other children will have a more difficult time. The good news is that there are practical ways you can help your children develop the resiliency needed to move forward as the threat subsides. The following suggestions are taken from current research related specifically to children and resilience:
Nurture Your Child
- Consider the age and other developmental factors of your child and use appropriate language to describe and talk about the events in our world.
- Limit media exposure. Repeated exposure to an event may create or increase anxiety and fear for both children and adults.
- Recall times when your child has navigated difficulty in the past. How did your child react or respond to the death of a pet, a family member or face a challenging school experience? Build upon those experiences.
- Foster creativity and problem solving by giving children time and space to play, imagine, and develop their coping skills. Resist the tendency to micro-manage their time by implementing schedules that leave little room for the simple joys of childhood.
Connect to Your Community
- Talk about the efforts going on in your community to help people.
- Encourage children to help. Children cope better and recover sooner when they help others. Find simple ways for them to contribute. It may be as simple as making a card or sending a digital greeting to someone in need of care or concern.
- Be extra patient as your children adjust to school at home. Encourage them to stay connected to their teachers and school leaders.
- Emphasize hope and highlight ways their needs are being met by community helpers.
Maintain and Value Relationships
- Use technology/social media to connect with friends or other important adults.
- Embrace the efforts of schools and churches to maintain a strong presence in the community. Applaud the creative methods your child’s school and church are using to stay connected. Reciprocate in ways that are appropriate for your child (draw a picture, write a note, send a text, make a phone call).
- Stay engaged with each other as a family. Set aside times during the day to be fully present and connected as a family. Ideas: eat meals together, watch a movie, play a board game, etc. Consider implementing a technology time-out each day to provide opportunities for connection.
Lead Your Family
- Be gentle with yourself. Parenting through a pandemic is new territory without a manual to guide you. No parent will do this perfectly. Give yourself extra grace to navigate through this crisis.
- Monitor the content of your adult conversations. Children listen to adult conversations and may misinterpret what they hear or be unable to process information accurately.
- Give extra support at bedtime. Children may be more anxious at night. Spend a little more time than usual talking, cuddling, or reading. Start the bedtime routine earlier so children get the sleep they need.
- Make sure your child is getting enough rest, exercise, healthy food, and water.
- Maintain regular mealtimes and bedtimes, as much as possible. Amid disruption and change, children find comfort and security in structure and routine.
- Remember, children respond best in families where there are limits (rules and routines are followed) and relational warmth (love is expressed consistently and unconditionally).
Lean Into Your Faith
- Recall and retell stories from the past of God’s provision and protection for your family.
- Point out ways in which God is at work in your family and community.
- Be willing to talk through your child’s hard questions about God.
- Highlight characters in the Bible who experienced God’s comfort during difficult times
- Use Bible verses to instill hope and peace about the future.
- Pray together daily.
Dr. Shelly Melia serves as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Ministry, assistant professor of childhood education and program director for the Master of Arts degrees in children’s ministry and family ministry at Dallas Baptist University.