3 Simple Ways To Support Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being During Unusual Times
Mommy / Daddy am I safe? Are you safe? Who is good? Who is bad? Where are my friends?
Children are inevitably curious–they will ask complex questions and it’s important to know how to respond and support our children who face significant disruption in their lives.
Studies on the after-effects of earthquakes, riots, and disease outbreaks have shown that disasters can have severely undesirable impacts on children’s educational attainment and mental health.
Here are some tips to help support your child during these times:
1. Create a sense of safety and openness
A disruption in a child’s routine causes children to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, it’s really important to create a sense of safety. Focus on being protective and reassure them that they are safe.
Here are some ways you can use reassuring language with your child:
“I don’t know exactly what is going to happen but we’re together, I love you and I will keep you safe.”
“We can’t see grandma and grandpa right now, but we can Facetime with them. They love you so much and are always here for you!”
It’s important, to be honest with children and clarify any confusion by providing them with basic simple facts while still reminding them to just be children. For example:
“This is a hard time for mommy and daddy too but don’t worry you enjoy being a child.”
Even if you don’t know the answer to some of their questions, being authentic about it will create a sense of trust between you and your child. Check-in on your child’s feelings and give them the green light that they can come to you and share their thoughts and emotions.
“How are you feeling today?”
“Do you have any questions for me?”
“Sounds like you have some feelings about… tell me more”
Give your child a platform to freely express themselves. Preschool teachers do it all the time and it helps create a sense of safety and openness in the classroom. Don’t fear talking about race with your child. Talking about race with children creates more positive attitudes about people of different races and reinforces the feeling of openness for your child.
2. Inspire your child. Practice inclusion and kindness
You are your child’s biggest role model. Practice inclusion in your daily interaction with the world–your child is watching you! Build a foundation of love and equality for your child through your positive actions.
It is also important to enlighten your children about the good in the world during this time. Practice acts of kindness and include your children in the process. For example, write a card or bake cookies for family members. Another great gesture is writing a card for local nursing home residents, as they are not able to see their own family right now. Practicing acts of kindness will help your child focus on the positive side of things.
3. Make time for laughter and positive routine
Encourage positivity and routine by playing fun games. Let your child see you laugh and be silly, getting creative and providing a light and fun child-centered environment that doesn’t revolve around the current state of the country is extremely important for the well being of your child.
If your toddler is not back to their preschool routine and environment, create classroom-like stations in your home. This will encourage your child to freely explore and be stimulated. An Art station with crayons, paper, glue, and glitter. A Pretend Play Station with costumes, dolls, pots, and pans. A Sensory Station with some buckets with rice, leaves, and branches.
Provide a sense of consistency and normalcy and set aside time each day to do so. Create a safe haven of love, joy, and playfulness for your child.
Below are some great resources.
Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents (Amazon Book Link)
Raising Race Conscious Children
Routine Shut Down and Its Impact On Children