By Azlen Theobald, PsyD, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Neuropsychology
Uncertain times have meant increased anxiety and even evidence of depression in kids. Looking at some of the positive outcomes these times have brought, here are some important life lessons kids have learned throughout these several weeks.
Lesson #1: How to live with uncertainty.
In a matter of months, kids’ worlds have been totally upended by COVID-19. They don’t go to school or daycare, they don’t see friends, and in many urban areas, they can’t even really go outside. None of the grown-ups in their lives can give them any answers about how or when this will all end, because everything is uncertain. But developmental research has shown that learning to live with discomfort and uncertainty is part of becoming a positively-adjusted adult.
Lesson #2: How to be resilient.
While there’s plenty of evidence that some kids are struggling right now — and that absolutely should not be dismissed — experts say that children are remarkably resilient. This is a great time for parents to help kids lean into that, and to appreciate their own abilities to bounce back. Children are very resilient, and while parents can certainly allow them room to feel discomfort, they can acknowledge that they, too, are feeling wary and stressed. Parents can then model coping skills such as going for a walk, talking to a friend, or simply meditating for a few minutes. Reinforcing your child’s problem-solving skills can also help foster resiliency.
Lesson #3: Your child is so much more than school and extracurriculars.
Kids are more scheduled than any other generation before them. This is a unique time in their lives where they can just relax and recharge. This is also a great opportunity for them to learn something new like how to play chess, how to knit, or how to even take up a new hobby like cooking or playing an instrument. Parents can use this as an opportunity to tell their child(ren) how happy you are to have that time together, and how much you value your connection with them (even in those stressful times).
Lesson #4: How important their role is in your family.
When everyone is busy rushing out the door to work or school, your child may lose sight of their own role in the household. Now is a good time to make it clear that your family — whatever shape it might take — is a team, and they are an essential part of it. Ask your little children to help out with minor chores (sweeping floors or picking up toys). Older children can be given more responsibility. For example, they can help with making parts of meals and helping with laundry. Make sure to continually reinforce how helpful and important they are to the family.