For most of us living in Ireland our days have become ones of monotony and isolation, with no access to friends, and limited engagement with family. If you find yourself working from home, you now not only have the normal challenges of meeting the work requirements and deadlines, but also need to juggle children, engage with home schooling, and manage the difficulties of helping our children transition through these strange times. This can be stressful for not only the Parent, but also for the children.
Often as adults we forget that children wonder; they read situations and they think long and hard about changes which they encounter. That is why it is vital that we try to maintain as much normality within the household as possible. Children can read stresses, they know if you feel tense, if you look or sound concerned; and if we the adult don’t take the time, or make the time to chat with them, then this inward wondering can cause built up anxieties which young children are just not ready emotionally to deal with. Telling a child not to worry, doesn’t work. We need to help our children become resilient, emotionally able, giving them the skills to bounce back from difficult situations and move forward. Encouraging children to be more resilient and manage stress and fear successfully in childhood, will ensure that they are able to cope as adults with what life throws our way. There is such a thing as over protecting a child, as O”Malley (2015) terms them “cotton wool kids”, and we need to stop and ask ourselves are we doing our children any favours?
One of the key factors in building resilience and maintaining stability, is helping the child to understand change; therefore, in the current climate it is of vital importance that we talk with our children, explain the change, tell them about the dangers of COVID and why we need to work from home and provide home schooling, but remember reassurance is key….. So reiterating all the time that normality will return, draw on the positive experiences, the time spent together, the value and importance of family and encourage them and your family to make the most of this time in the home. Make this a time to remember rather than a time to fear, or regret.
Another important strategy to promote and support resilience is to acknowledge emotions, say what you feel, rather than hiding behind a mask, and holding an inward battle with yourself. Encourage children to share their emotions, chat about how they feel, ask how they feel, discuss why that is the case, and help them understand how we can feel differently in this situation. For younger children explaining emotions is key, they might not always know why they feel the way they do. For some children and teenagers, frustration is a strong emotion, which can often be hard to put into words. Their behaviour might change, they may well act out, but not entirely understand why this is the case. So sitting with a child, discussing what they feel and why they feel that way, but also discussing possible solutions, other ways to express and share their anxieties or frustrations, rather than the outburst. That old saying a problem shared is a problem halved, works for children also…. and understanding why we feel a particular way, and that we are not the only one feeling this, can sometimes immediately make life seem more manageable. Remember a resilient child makes a successful adult, emotionally stable, secure and able to walk tall through life. As Peterson (2018) says you should strive to be the strongest person at your fathers funeral, and that is what we as adults should be working with our children to achieve, making them strong, resilient and able to cope with the trauma that life throws our way.. So talk about your concerns, ask for their views, encourage them to share how they feel, and explain to them why… and you will succeed in building resilience in your child in whatever situation.
References and Further Reading:
Masten, A., S. (2014) “Global Perspectives on Resilience in Children and Youth,” in Child Development, (85)(1): 6-20.
O’Malley, S. (2015) Cotton wool Kids: Whats making Irish Parents Paranoid? Black Rock: Cork, Mercier Press.
Peterson, J. (2018) 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Canada, Random House.