It cannot be denied that the current pandemic situation is the very definition of “trying times.” With all the uncertainty flying around, it’s easy for adults to be anxious, imagine what it must be like for our children. But, resilience and endurance are excellent traits that can be modeled to those not yet experienced in challenging life situations.
Several of my more recent posts have been dealing with fear, and how we can ease our worried minds. Children tend to be more sensitive to what’s going on in their environment and, especially to what the adults around them are saying and feeling. Below are a few tips on engaging with children–and adults–during stressful situations.
Talk openly about your feelings and invite them to talk about theirs: Children need to know that what they’re feeling and thinking is normal and that they can lean on their elders for wisdom and support. Above all they know that they are loved and that you will get through this together.
However, if your anxiety has sent you off the rails, it would be best to talk to them when you are calmer and can be open to whatever they have to say. Get guidance, if you feel you need it or have a good friend offer you calm reassurance before engaging in a conversation with your children.
Turn the experience into an adventure: Children love adventure. One of their best qualities is to look at the world through curious, innocent eyes. This is a trait we, as adults, would do well to learn from our children.
Join them in writing, drawing, painting rocks, or making a scrapbook concerning the things they see going on around them. Ask them what they think should happen or how they could help. Make it fun. If they can’t play with their friends, maybe they can video chat with them or better yet, have them send a letter or a card like you might have done when you were younger.
The curious mind is a creative mind and a creative mind finds unique solutions to challenges!
Tell stories: Tell your children stories of challenging times that you faced when you were a kid and how you dealt with it. Invite them to tell you their stories. It’s okay if the stories are made up, all stories tell us something about ourselves.
Have them draw pictures or make a video to go along with their stories. Start a group where they can share their stories with other kids. My grandson once drew a whole story onto a rock and then regaled me for twenty minutes about what all the figures meant. It was quite an adventurous story!
Go outdoors! Fresh air, exercise, and sunshine are the best medicines. This goes for the adults, too. Take the adventure outdoors. Teach your kids to be observant. What critters or plants or rocks do they see? Have fun looking them up and identifying them.
One of the best adventures I had with my grandchildren was to have them make their own Plant ID books. We went out and gathered a few common herbs–just a few leaves and/or flowers, then pressed them between layers of newspapers. I asked them to have a conversation with the plant and see if it had anything to tell them. (Their answers were amazing!) After the plants were sufficiently dried we glued them into a scrapbook with notes on what they might be a remedy for.
Later that summer one of my grandson’s friends got stung by a bee and he said, “Here, let me get you some plantain!” He had his friend chew the leaf and press the paste onto the sting. Within minutes the pain was gone.
NOTE: There are many SAFE uses for common plants. Get a book on medicinal plant identification or go to Eat the Weeds.
Above all, teach your children the value of treating Nature with gentleness and respect.
Learn something new: Learning is an excellent diversion from stressful situations, especially hands-on learning. Teach your kids how to plant a garden (you can easily grow food in a pot), cook a meal, how to make a campfire, do the laundry, perform simple car maintenance, balance a checkbook, or any other practical life skill they may not already know. YouTube has an unlimited supply of How-To videos. Productive activities build confidence and assurance that anyone can manage during difficult times.
Create Routine: Like everyone, your family’s lives have likely already been disrupted by this pandemic. With so much of the future unknown and uncertain, routine helps to create comfort and reassurance, that there is something tangible we can count on. Even keeping simple things like meals and bedtimes on a regular schedule will go a long way to soothe your children’s minds. If you cant stay at home with them, let them know you’ll be checking in regularly to see how they’re doing. Perhaps a trusted neighbor or family member can also check in to see how things are going or just to chat.
Pray or Meditate: Studies have shown that prayer and meditation are wonderful practices to calm and soothe. Anyone who regularly engages in these practices can verify these findings. Simple mindfulness can steer the mind away from anxious thoughts and toward inner peace. Trusting in a power greater than ourselves teaches us to let go of things we annot control and lean into quiet acceptance. When the mind is calm, we can more clearly hear our inner wisdom and know the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
These are just a few suggestions to keep your children engaged, relaxed, and open to possibilities. I’d love to hear your ideas.
Blessings and Prayers for Peace,