Helping Kids Cope in Uncertain Times
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
It is no surprise that there is an increase in global anxiety and stress for many people because we are dealing with a worldwide pandemic. I have been feeling an increase in stress myself. Last week I started feeling physically ill, and I could feel my mind spiraling into anxious thoughts and my body tensing up with all of the “what if’s” and I am a therapist who is trained at coping with feelings! Fortunately, I was able to do a virtual doctor’s visit and I was placed on an antibiotic and am feeling better now since it was a bacterial infection that responded well to treatment. But I am still worried. I am worried about the people I know that I’m hearing about daily that are becoming sick.
The Mind Body Connection
In Western society we often think of our mind and body separately and split them but the reality is they are extremely inter-related. For a minute, imagine holding a lemon, then slicing it, and taking a big bite of it. What happens when you visualize this? When I imagine this, my mouth waters! This is just a small example of how our minds and bodies are inextricably connected.
Because of this mind-body connection, I feel like it is my responsibility, during this time of unprecedented crisis, to try to model calm and practice ongoing self-care. By taking care of my own mental health, my physical health and immune system will also benefit. In addition, my children will see me practicing these behaviors and they will be more likely to follow suit. Children are like sponges and the old fashion “do as I say, not as I do” mentality doesn’t work with them. We can tell a child to do something but they are more likely to do it when they see us practicing it ourselves.
I truly believe one of the best things we can do for our children, as parents, is to model healthy self-care and coping skills for them. In the words of Jon Kabat Zinn, “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” As we have seen with this situation, life can throw us completely frightening situations, many of which are out of our control. What we can control is how we respond to these difficult situations.
I don’t want my kids to remember me acting panicked and irrational. I want my children to remember that their Mom was resilient and acted and coped quite well in the face of a crisis. One day, I want them to be able to tell their own kids and grandchildren that their Mom made the best out of a very difficult and stressful time and acted with kindness, compassion, playfulness, love and helpfulness.
Modeling calm and practicing self-care doesn’t mean that I don’t allow myself to fully experience all of my feelings. Trust me, I have been crying every day. I feel sadness for all of the people and their family members that are sick and dying daily. The people who have sick family member's in hospitals and can't go to see them because they are quarantined themselves. I feel anger and fright for the healthcare workers that are working without the proper protective equipment that they need to stay safe. I feel worried about my students that I got cut off from unexpectedly with the school closures…
I give myself permission to FEEL all of these feelings each and every day. I know that all of my feelings are okay, and if I try to resist them, they will only persist and cause me other problems.
To help you model and teach your kids some healthy coping skills in this difficult time, I am going to give you a copy of a free printable with 5 coping skills that you and your children can use! You can find this in my Free Resource Library (subscribe below for the password.) The 5 coping skills are drawn on a printable dice and there are directions for each of the coping skills explaining how to use them. Print, have your kids color and construct the dice and then roll and practice the coping skills together!
I've also included a blank dice that you can have your child draw or write 6 different happy, helpful thoughts that they like to think about. I would encourage you to also create one of these dice for yourself too! You can explain to your children that this is helpful because your thoughts control how you feel, which impacts how you act. So if you change your thoughts, you can change your mood!
I also encourage you to schedule relaxation time everyday for your family. These dice and coping skills would be a great tool to use during that relaxation time. Please see this link for more information about my family's school closure schedule to see how we schedule relaxation time daily. I didn't include my own schedule here but I am making time to be creative and make art everyday and practice yoga for uncertain times.
I’ll be sharing more information on how both children and adults can cope with this stress. I have started compiling some resources here and also have this list of apps for stress relief.
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Scroll down to the bottom of this page to access the free resource library!