How to Help Our Kids Deal with Stress In a Positive Way

kids stay calm during stressful situations like Covid-19

Teaching our kids to handle stressful situations is vital for their emotional development. During these trying times, it’s especially important to help our kids deal with Covid-19.

I was telling my almost 9-year-old nephew that the “19” in COVID-19 stands for 2019 —the year the virus was identified. He responded in a tone of disbelief, “So you mean this virus has been around since last year?” Once again, I was in awe of how children can sometimes process information. 

Therefore, in this moment of social distancing and physical lockdown for an indefinite period with our families, we are spending more time than ever interacting with, teaching, playing with, and listening to our children.

Initially, there was a sense of anxiety, especially for those of us who are used to leaving for work first thing in the morning and barely finding those few precious minutes in the evening to talk to our kids between dinner, homework, bath, and bedtime. You might wonder,

“What am I going to do with these kids from dawn till dusk? I can’t even take them anywhere to let them play and get tired! How can I get any work done from home when I’m running a daycare all day?” 

If this sounds like you, it’s perfectly normal, and you’re not alone. We usually depend on the other members of our “village” to structure time with our kids every day —from teachers to after school care to coaches and so on. And though change is hard for everyone, this sudden and unexpected opportunity to spend every waking moment with our children has the potential to positively impact their lives.

If we play our cards right:

Our kids will learn how to respond to turmoil by watching us calmly.

Our children will gain strength and a sense of familial dependability.

Our babies will grow up confident and secure, knowing what they’re saying is heard.

We must keep calm ourselves

Your kids will learn to as well

It is important to remember that our emotional responses and stresses are easily noticed and internalized by our children, no matter how much we try to hide them. If we are pacing back and forth worried about possible COVID-19 exposures, and how to get groceries and household supplies, chances are our children will become anxious as well. Toddlers may start throwing tantrums or become clingy. Young kids may start bed-wetting or want a parent to lie down with them at night. Older kids may act out in anger or withdraw into their rooms. 

How to Help Our Kids Deal with Stress In a Positive Way

  • First and foremost, take a deep breath. Take as many as you need to calm yourself. Relax your nerves with positive visualization or a warm soak with bath salts. It’s acceptable to take some time for yourself every day! This will help center and energize you.
  • Take a few minutes to make a list of goals for your day or talk to your spouse the night before to make sure you are both on the same page.
  • Try not to keep the news running in the background all day long. Constant updates and changes can set our nerves on edge. This applies to our children as well. They may not be able to understand the news. Take some time every day to talk to your kids about what’s happening in the world around them. 

Create Structure to encourage good behavior

Child psychology confirms children respond well to structure and predictability. If a child begins to feel like the rules & boundaries are always changing, we’ll soon have on our hands an out of control child who’s always testing the limits; and that will not serve our purpose. Not now, not ever! 

Set a daily routine

Start with the same wake-up time and end with the same bedtime. Set blocks of time to help you plan better. Use a phone alarm to set timers. This way, you can program your chores and breaks productively. Everyone will focus until the bell rings. Here are some of the suggestions I give to my patients.

Help Our Kids Deal with Covid-19

Quiet time 

Set blocks of quiet time during which everyone can sit down together to get work done —everybody will be freshest between breakfast and lunchtime. Preschoolers can color or draw, school-aged kids can work on their online assignments, and we can get some of our office work done during this time. Younger kids will need a break every 20-30 minutes while school-aged kids may work 45-60 minutes before needing a break. 

Indoor time

Schedule time for indoor fun. Play a different family board game or card game every day.

Outdoor time

Set a time for outdoor fun. Burn energy by kicking the ball in the backyard or playing handball against the garage door. It’s ok to go outside or to the park as long as we’re maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others. This is crucial to help our kids deal with Covid-19 by focusing on prevention.

Screen time

Limit screen time. I recommend trying ½ hour blocks of time scattered throughout the day using the phone or kitchen timer. Break up the time for cartoons with some dance videos. Young kids may enjoy PBS Kids educational content. Make sure to monitor what the children are watching on YouTube or what our teenagers are doing on social media.

We may set a time for our kids to video chat with friends whom they can’t see in person. It’s ok to bend the screen rules now and then with family movie nights. It’ll help keep that stress levels down!

Meal time

Firstly, sit down for meals as a family. When will we ever get the chance to eat EVERY meal together as a family? Leave the smartphones in the other room while you’re eating. Be sure to turn the TV off. Spend this time talking about fun things, telling funny stories, or just savoring the homemade meal.

Secondly, don’t forget to thank the chef who’s on super-duty right now and for everyone who’s home all day! Involve the kids in things like planning, prepping meals, snacks, setting the table, emptying the plates from the dishwasher, and folding laundry.

Thirdly, working as a team makes children feel good, lightens our load just a little, and reinforces that we’re all in this together.

Nurture their Inner Being

Listen to them!

Share some positive talk before bedtime. It works wonders for the self-confidence and sense of security in our children! 

Help Our Kids Deal with Covid-19

Let each child share three things they are happy about for the day. It could be something that made them laugh, winning a board game, or meeting a fantastic goal. We can do this either as a family or by rotating one parent with one child on different nights.

So, as parents, we can use this time to listen to what’s important to our children. We can gain insight into their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. We can also use this time to let them express their fears/concerns again. Some children who are a bit more pensive or anxious may be continually processing the day to day changes in their world. 

Moreover, after we’ve listened to our children, responded to their questions, and made them content before bedtime, let’s tell the child about one observation the parent made during the day that made them proud of the child.

Therefore, allowing our children know we’ve been watching them and are proud of them makes them, in turn, proud of themselves. They are now more enIt keeps them engaged and connected to us and to the family unit as a whole. 

Conclusion

We didn’t expect COVID-19 to take over our world and completely turn it upside down. We couldn’t have imagined how our lives would change overnight.

However, we can certainly respond to the situation, look for the positive amidst the chaos, and count it as a blessing for this opportunity to FOCUS ON YOUR FAMILY.

In summary, let’s take this time to strengthen our children and help our kids deal with Covid-19 in a positive way for the sake of a brighter and more promising future.

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