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While the world turned upside down during COVID-19, parents, teachers, therapists, social workers, families, and community leaders have had the added responsibility of keeping children physically and mentally safe, educated through virtual learning, occupied with restrictions and cancellations, and also healthy and happy amidst overall uncertainty.
If you are reading this article, please pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Take this moment to honor how difficult it has been, and that your service to the children you love has really mattered. I invite you to breathe, in and out.
The ramifications of this past year for children, particularly around mental health, are still unknown, but of real and urgent concern. Children have been isolated, separated from extended family and friends, and have been thrown into new ways of learning and socializing with so much still uncertain, untested and unknown. Fear has dominated the larger ecosystem as we navigate sickness and loss of loved ones. And, in the United States, we've also experienced political division, the election, and devastating environmental disasters. Without the stability of school and extra-curricular activities, children have had to navigate a world where the adults who care for them are scared as well.
As adults, we strive to give children tools to navigate difficult times, but honestly, so many of us are muddling through. Here are a few areas that I suggest parents and other caregivers may prioritize as we find our way out of the pandemic and focus on healing and a sense of purpose with our children.
Safety and Stability
Help kids feel physically and emotionally safe. Many kids, unfortunately, do not have basic needs – food, a physical home, a loving family or community where they feel safe. Without the safety network of school, many kids are lost without the teachers, social workers and friends who are allies in their physical, social, and emotional wellbeing.
As a parent, you can support your family by prioritizing safety and stability in your own home to the best of your ability. Ask for help when you need it. This is the time to depend on your family and community.
Support others who are doing important work, whether it is your child’s teacher, a frontline worker, or the cashier at your grocery store. Many have stepped up to serve during the pandemic - gratitude goes a long way to help people feel seen and valued, as does the willingness to support another person by asking “How can I help?”
On the Chopra App, I share a grounding meditation that may be helpful to do with the kids in your life to feel the stability of the earth beneath you. Using breath, feet on the ground, and affirmations of place and purpose, is one way to physically feel more secure.
Tools for Healthy Living
This is a critical time to guide children to adopt healthy habits – to sleep on time, move every day, and eat healthy foods. Children can learn to breathe consciously, articulate their feelings (of sadness, fear, guilt, confusion, happiness), connect with others, and practice simple meditations. Remember, you are the role model they are watching to learn the value of such practices. Prioritize healthy living and mindfulness in your daily routine.
In my books, Just Breathe and Just Feel, I share numerous exercises for children, and the adults in their lives, to understand how the body and mind work, and how mindfulness and meditation help ease anxiety and support long-term health. I also invite you to explore the guided meditations for kids and mindful parenting on the Chopra App.
Create Space for Self-Discovery
The pandemic has created a unique historic moment for all of us to ask questions, set intentions and think of how we can be of service. My intent with my new book – Just Be You - is to honor children’s natural inclination to explore, dream, wonder, imagine, and think about the values they want to live by.
Children are living in a hyper-stimulated world where we often put too much pressure on them to achieve goals or define who they are early on – a soccer player, or a pianist, or an A student. If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is that the future is uncertain, and happiness is closely linked to relationships and a sense of purpose. Giving children space to embrace uncertainty, infinite possibilities, and a sense of belonging can give them the resilience and hope for a lifelong journey of self-discovery.
The book is structured around four questions my father (Deepak Chopra) guided my brother and me to ask when we were young:
Who am I?
What do I want?
How can I serve?
What am I grateful for?
These are the same questions often asked during Chopra Meditation because they offer us a simple yet powerful tool for reflection.
The gift of spiritual practice is knowing our Self beyond the labels, thinking about the qualities we seek in our life, and feeling of value and purpose through service.
Before closing, I invite you to take another breath honoring that in this moment, your intention to guide the children in your life is a form of service. It is important, of value, and has the potential for joy and purpose for you and your children.
As adults, we can role model acceptance, creativity, resilience, responsible behavior, and service. This is also a time that calls for unconditional love for our children. Being present with them, with honesty, compassion and understanding, will be a gift that anchors them in uncertain times that still hold the potential for joy now and beyond.
For more tools for the whole family, explore the Family Well-being category in the Chopra App. Help kids learn to use breath, the body, and affirmations to feel safe, empowered, and connected to the universe in Be You: Meditations for Grounded, Happy Kids, a four-part series with Mallika Chopra, available now.