This school year is starting off with more COVID challenges. There are a couple things we, as parents, need to keep in mind to help ourselves manage the stress and not pass our anxiety on to our kids. The first-to remember is, modeling is the greatest form of teaching... so ANXIOUS PARENTS MAKE ANXIOUS KIDS. This leads to my second point... parents, you need to practice your own mental-health-self-care. Take time every day to talk to your closest friends, read, exercise, or engage in your favorite hobby. By recharging your battery you’ll be able to share your calm with your children.
Because your children look to you to understand how to respond to life you can use the current stress of COVID 19 to build resilient children. Teach your kids that they have the capacity to navigate the circumstances they are in if they apply... patience-and-problem-solving. Acknowledge that this school year is going to require them to be flexible and uncomfortable but that is all part of life. Reinforce-that, they have the internal strengths to manage what is going on and that you are proud of the courage they are showing during this very unusual time in our world.
The reality about stress is that we can't avoid it. One of the best ways to cope with stress is to reframe how you define it. As you discuss the impact of the COVID virus on your child's life... frame it as something you all can manage rather than something to fear. Limit your child’s consumption of the news and social media. Help them focus on their strengths, capabilities and things they have control over. You and your children will get through this and have the opportunity to learn and grow along the way.
One of the best ways to manage stress is to get organized. Parents...work with your children to plan their time. Make a plan for each day about when they will do their schoolwork, when they will do chores, when they will do hobbies or extracurricular activities, and when they will have down time. Also because adequate sleep is essential to stress management make sure your children have a regular and relaxing bedtime routine. Planning gives everyone a sense of control and that leads to lower anxiety.
One reality about COVID is that it gives parents a chance to model resiliency when we are faced with things beyond our control. Determine that you are going to use this time to help build coping skills into your children. Help them focus on planning, problem solving, exercising patience and keeping their attention on the things they can control. By helping our kids see themselves and capable problem solvers we will give them a skill that will set them up for success for the rest of their lives.
Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCCS, Executive Director