Supporting Our Kids During These Challenging Times
Trying to support our kids is a constant challenge of parenting. We always want to protect them and ensure their safety. The global pandemic we have been experiencing for the last year has precipitated more changes and challenges to our typical lives than most of us have ever seen before, certainly for our children. Child resilience is brought up to soothe our concerns and help us believe that our kids will be alright. Hopefully, most of them will be. However, it should not be considered a panacea. Adults, teachers, and other caregivers are also having a hard time. We need to acknowledge these challenges for our children. We also need to demonstrate to our children how we adapt to change, how we manage emotions, and how we feel safe in a time that feels so vastly different from what we have always known.
As parents, we should normalize the processing and release of our emotions. Feeling overwhelmed and burnt out is expected from time to time as part of being a parent. The pandemic has served to magnify these feelings. Letting our children see and understand what we are feeling, and how we handle and process our emotions provides them with a healthy model for how to recognize and process their own feelings.
Displaying empathy and holding space for our children’s reactions are other valuable tools that can help our children navigate these challenging times. When our children are sad or experience disappointment, we may want them to focus on the positive side of things. Positivity can be a useful tool but could wind up being experienced by our children as us trying to change, minimize, or “fix” their emotions. It can be very difficult for us to see our children upset. Emphasizing the “bright side” or silver-lining in a challenging situation can be a natural, go-to strategy for us to alleviate our children’s distress. However, in situations like the pandemic that have been chronic and out of our control, it can be helpful to let go of trying to alleviate our child’s negative emotions. Instead, we can create space for our children to experience whatever authentic and natural feelings they are having about the pandemic in the moment. We can also empathize with their feelings. Our empathy communicates that we understand and “get” what our children are going through, and that their feelings make sense given everything that has been going on during the pandemic. Showing empathy and holding space validates our children’s feelings, which allows them to fully experience their initial reactions in the moment and move on. This is particularly helpful when a situation occurs over an extended period as with the pandemic.
We will continue to change and adapt to the impact of this pandemic. If you look at the needs of your child and feel at a loss, remember to think of things that brought you comfort as a child. Take a step back and think about what you would need to feel validated if you were in their shoes.