Building Resilience: Supporting Positive Coping
Supporting Positive Coping
As this pandemic continues to unfold, regularly check in with your child to see how they are doing emotionally. Listening without interruption can be a powerful tool. Some kids may need help in expressing how they feel through other activities, like playing or drawing. Play with your child by doing things your child wants to do. Let them take the lead and follow along. You can encourage your children to express themselves through storytelling, drawing, or other creative activities. Young children may not know a lot of words to talk about emotions, so offering them words, such as “It’s normal to feel sad or scared” in response to what they are saying can be helpful. Encourage older children to ask questions and share their feelings with you. Teenagers who share their emotions with you are not always looking for solutions or reframing of their concerns. Avoid comparing their problems with those of others. Listen to their frustrations and rephrase what they are saying to validate their emotions. Ask them how you can be helpful in supporting them. For more information on how to talk to teens, visit this link.
Remind your children that although we do not have all the answers, you and your family are doing everything they can do to stay safe. The goal is to reassure your child without making them promises that you cannot keep.
You can help your children learn about feelings and about coping with strong emotions. For young children, we “co-regulate” their feelings and behavior throughout childhood as they learn to regulate themselves. They often need us to label their feelings for them or help them figure out their feelings. At a time when they’re calm, you can talk with them briefly about different things to do with feelings (for example, teach them how to blow out “dragon fire” breaths when angry to help get the angry feelings out). Then later when your little one is angry about not having something he wants, you can empathize (“I know, it’s so hard that it’s not time to play with that, but I know you’ll be able to do it later”) and then encourage him to try blowing his dragon fire breaths to feel better. Read moreabout helping young children cope with feelings.
There has never been a better time for families to work together to practice coping strategies. Deep breathing can be a helpful technique for people of all ages. Sesame Street has an excellent video about belly breathing geared towards young children. Feelings charts can be helpful particularly for younger kids to put a name to the emotions they are experiencing. A website called “Stop Breathe Think”provides excellent resources for mindfulness and other relaxation techniques to use when kids feel distressed.
Note: Mental health is always important, but during times of crisis it is paramount. The following guidelines are designed to support you in finding ways to cope, understanding how to practice self-care, and nurturing your connection with your child. Building Resilience: Parenting During a Pandemic is a joint effort between Louisiana Children's Museum and Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.
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