The Covid19 outbreak and resulting UK lockdown has undoubtedly tested our resilience and – with that – tested our ability to instill resilience in our children.
A quick internet search will tell you that the definition of psychological resilience is: “the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly”(1) So, in a nutshell, the ability to keep calm and carry on.
As most mums will probably know, this isn’t always the easiest life skill to crack, so – with that in mind – how can we help our children to ride out the Coronacoaster without feeling anxious, and keep a positive outlook on the future?
Here are six ideas that can help…
1. Practice gratitude and re-frame setbacks
The Coronavirus lockdown has resulted in some serious setbacks for lots of families, with many facing financial crises, job losses and serious changes in routine, and some even having to cope with the loss of family members or friends.
This has been ridiculously hard to navigate for fully grown adults, let alone children, so it’s understandable that kids will also be having a tough time processing 2020.
Maintaining an optimistic and hopeful outlook is one of the key pillars that resilience is built on, so creating an atmosphere where we focus on the positives may help children to re-frame setbacks and look for the happy moments in life, rather than focusing on the negatives.
One way to do this is to encourage children to list out five things that they are grateful for before they go to sleep. These can be simple things like family cuddles, more time together, a sunny walk, the flowers in the garden or a gift that a relative has sent over. Focusing on the positives and building a grateful mindset can help children (and mums!) to switch their thinking from negative to positive. You could even keep a gratitude journal and help your children to write down the things that they have enjoyed or cherished every evening.
2. Teach them to help others
Helping others is a delightful way to build resilience, as it makes children feel that they are part of the community and part of the world. It also helps them with responsibility, empathy and boosts their self esteem. (2)
Maybe you can help with a local food bank, deliver food to elderly neighbours or cook and drop off a cake or a meal for a relative who’s living alone?
Additionally, you could help to pick up litter from a local beauty spot or have a chat with someone who’s feeling low.
We all know that helping others helps us to feel better too, so this is a wonderful way to elevate mood in children – and promote feelings of inclusivity and community.
3. Help them to stay connected
Good friends help us to feel special, feel loved, make us laugh and provide support and comfort when required, and having some cherished connections in life is fundamental to our growth as human beings.
Children who have been off school since March will undoubtedly be missing their friends, so speak to the other mums and arrange some socially distanced play dates outside, or let the kids chat on Zoom or Skype a few times a week.
No doubt our mummy mates will have pulled us through some dark times over the last few months, so encourage and value your child’s friendships too.
4. Encourage them to talk about their feelings
Giving children a safe space to talk about their feelings is crucially important. We all know that keeping feelings, anxieties and worries hidden within isn’t good for us, but discussing our emotions and being able to express them without judgement can make a huge difference to our wellbeing.
Encourage children to express their fears, worries and problems, so – as a family unit – you can help them to work out solutions and feel happy again.
Proving a space such as this means that kids will always feel comfortable reaching out to you in times of worry and uncertainty, and in turn, this will help them to stay resilient to life’s issues and situations.
5. Let them know that negative things will pass
It can be so easy to “catastrophise” and think that dark times are here to stay, but – in a nutshell – they aren’t. Hard times almost always pass, and keeping a positive and hopeful outlook can hugely help children (and mums!) with their stress levels.
Try to foster and encourage optimism in your children. Using the Covid19 situation as an example, you could do this by chatting about the things you can do together when lockdown has been lifted – trips you will go on, places you will go to, and people that you will reconnect with. Celebrate the small life wins and teach the children that, although things can seem bleak, they will change and they will get better.
6. Stick to a routine and create calm
Lockdown and the subsequent life changes have probably equalled a total routine breakdown for most families, and – although it can be hard to stick to a strict schedule when the days all blend into one – you can implement a few daily touchstones that will help children to feel more in control.
You could get up at the same time, and do some family exercise before having breakfast, set a specific time for lunch and for a walk, and keep bedtime to the same time every night. You could even implement a Friday night movie night where you all sport onesies, check out the latest movie on Netflix and order a pizza!
On top of this, create times for the children to focus on self care. A nice bath with loads of bubbles once or twice a week, an hour of quiet reading in a little bedroom tent with fairy lights every afternoon, relaxation and mindfulness sessions… Things like this will help them to understand that they are precious, and their mental health is just as important as their physical health.
What are your tips for helping children with resilience?
(1) de Terte, Ian; Stephens, Christine (2014). “Psychological Resilience of Workers in High-Risk Occupations”. Stress and Health.
(2) Teaching children to help others is an effective way to promote responsibility, empathy, and self-esteem” (Brooks, 1994; Werner, 1993).