In the past five months, so much has changed in our lives: working from home, homeschooling, classes online, businesses closed – and some have reopened, masks are worn, finances are tight, social rules have changed, some family members have been sick and recovered, and others have been lost. This is a time of great stress and uncertainty and here at home in the U.S., we are exposed and at risk to all of this. If we are feeling the effects of duress, what about our children? Are they seeing and hearing everything we do? Do they worry and feel acute anxiety as well? It would be wonderful to think we could buffer them from the frightening and unusually odd changes we have ourselves undergone, but children are perceptive. They listen carefully, notice our change in mood, and often pick up on stuff that we aren’t cognizant of. Sometimes kids “act out” or sometimes they may just seem “out of sorts” or moody, but this can be how stress presents for children and teens. And, if your child has a special need on top of all this, it can be tremendously difficult to manage him or her.
Never fear! The truth is… parents can help even during a time of great stress. We are our children’s first and most important role models for how to cope under duress. We can teach them about resiliency during uncertain times. The following tips can help guide you to support your children at this strikingly, unusual time.
● Allow moments of crisis to pass–and allow yourself to get support from friends or family members you trust before processing information / feelings with your child.
● Strategize with your partner – or an adult family member- about how and when to have a family talk as needed.
● Support each other–when one partner is down and out, have the other one step in to assist with daily schedules and kids’ needs.
● Give yourself and your children permission to feel and to label what they feel out loud.There is no right or wrong way to feel. Venting is healthy and normal at a time like this.
● Don’t be afraid of feelings- they come and go like waves on a beach. Observe them impartially and let them pass.
● Offer suggestions to your child for how you elect to cope with anxiety- take a walk, talk to someone you trust, do art, do yoga, meditate, bake, listen to music, dance, exercise,bike ride, pet your dog, write it down, be silly, laugh together, and take breaks from serious conversation now and then.
● Empathize- listen carefully to what your child communicates so you can respond in earnest.
● Pick important battles- arguing over small issues at home will create a tense environment which is not optimal as of now.
● Let your child know you love him or her and see that he is struggling. Reinforce you havean open door policy and he/she can talk to you anytime!
● Get help from a professional should concern grow and your child’s level of functioning decrease.