School closures are taking their toll on parents and children alike. Building emotional resilience at this time is key to help us all through the pandemic.
With the sun’s rays entering the cracks of our windows, a new day begins. Too often our warm covers convince us to be still just a bit longer. Every day those brief moments of stillness and warmth seem to fade too soon as the weight of the state of our world presses down on us again.
In the United States alone, over 32.5 million households currently have at least one child under the age of 14 at home and in need of care, support, structure, and teaching, since their schools have mostly gone virtual. Parents continue to juggle their own work pressures, possibly caring for aging parents, infant care, and stress to maintain schooling goals for their families. According to the American Psychological Association, “Nearly half of parents of children under age 18 say their stress levels related to the coronavirus pandemic are high, with managing their kids’ online learning a significant source of stress for many.”
Home as Sanctuary
Our concerns and worry are normal, and to be expected. To help, we can strive for our own homes to be a place of sanctuary, real moments of calm and emotional safety for our children. Charles Dickens wrote, “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest configuration.” Since the kids are home, we would do well to remind ourselves of the power and beauty available in the familiar.
Using these four reminders in our homes, we can work to support our children’s emotional well-being, while making this time as meaningful as possible for them.
1. Set Aside the Pretense
There is power and clarity in being real. Our pandemic days can be confusing, boring, frustrating, taxing, and lonely. It affects everyone in different ways—moments of productivity mixed with moments of melting into the couch. While leaning on your children isn’t advised, speaking the truth about your own emotions during this time hits home. They will appreciate your honesty as they work through their own emotions about the changes to their daily lives.
Every day, with the rush of work schedules and having to log in for online learning, our emotions—and theirs—are pushed aside in order to function and progress, yet the persistent feeling of lacking normalcy reigns. We can support their emotional well-being while being stuck in the house by modeling the acknowledgment of what we think and feel.
2. The Comfort of Structure
Mental health professionals and educators are in agreement that having clear structure and expectations at home helps children feel secure. With clear structure, limits, and healthy boundaries, children know how “parents will react, [and this] also teaches them how to behave. Consistency means that we follow through with what we say we are going to do. It gives power to our words.”
As our kids are learning online, often missing their friends and connections, having a supportive structure to their day will help them better cope with all the changes coming at them. Structure during this time might look like setting the time aside to have breakfast together, devoting a quiet, organized space for them to work (set up with all supplies they may need), and even setting up short daily calls with their best friends. Dependable routines and behaviors will anchor their days.
3. Feed Yourself First
Dr. Deepak Chopra often says, “Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” By staying present with ourselves, our present need for calm, peace, better attention with work, loving-kindness toward ourselves (even simply acknowledging the need for a sip of refreshing water), we can aid our children in being present with themselves.
“Feed yourself first” means to give yourself the spiritual, emotional, and mental nourishment you need in order to model that for your kids. They watch everything we do, even if they don’t often comment on it.
With pressures from work and home, I had to turn back to meditation to calm my worries and lift the stress—even for a few moments. My five-year-old son now walks into my bedroom in the morning, sits on the edge of my bed, and puts his fingers in a meditative pose telling me, “Mom, it’s our meditation time!” It’s such a small but powerful mental shift; he saw me making just 12 minutes of time for myself to be still and wanted to join in the stillness and peace.
Now my nine-year-old daughter joins us too. When I model that it’s important to be calm, breathe, and drink water throughout our day, they try to do that with me. And when I am frazzled, snappy, and stressed, they see that too and often our energies match. Shifting my mental state helps us all. This calm mental space inside will aid them in getting through these days—those moments of peace make room for their learning.
4. Lighten Up and Move
My best friend shared that in a moment of trying to set up her home for their school year, her young children stopped her, told her to put her bathing suit on, and they had some water fights outside. She had a million things to do and the pressure of upcoming work on her shoulders, but the kids came in with a brilliant reminder to stop and just be! A simple water hose sprinkler brought much-needed laughter for both mother and children.
The American Society for Nutrition states, “For children, PA [physical activity] can lessen behavioral issues such as ADHD and help with concentration during schoolwork which is important now that they’re at home all the time.” Build up your children’s emotional well-being by stopping every now and then to move. In your home or outside, even going to get the mail can be a chance to stop and connect. Your bonds will continue to strengthen with the connection.
One of the greatest cellists of all time, Spanish composer and conductor Pablo Casals (recipient of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1961 from President John F. Kennedy) once said, “The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.”
His sentiment rings true during these trying times. It is so easy in the midst of the global stressors and family pressures to rush through the hours. But our children need us to take the time to stop—to look at them as the miracles they are and for the little (or teen) person that is right in front of us. Show them that they matter now, remind them that they are special now, and above all, allow all of you the gift of a deeper connection.
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*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.