Many of us have kids at home now that schools and day cares have shut down due to CV-19. So the how do we all move positively through these times, is a question in many of our minds. The first thing I urge you to consider is your mindset and the impact it has on your children and family as a whole. Remember your actions, speak louder than your words, there are little eyes watching us and we need to model healthy behaviors for them. When you encounter challenges yourself, model the same language and attitude you’d like to see from your child. So I have been trying to show my children it's not about waiting for the storm (Virus) to pass it's about learning how to dance in the rain (find the silver lining in all this chaos).
It's so easy in times like this to wear our emotions on our sleeves and be reactionary, as everything is moving so fast. I know many of us are overwhelmed and stressed to the max, but what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, open-mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested. So we have to pause and question our thoughts and actions and take the time to respond responsibly. We can't control how we feel and the emotions that occur but we can control how we think and act. I have found peace in focusing on the things I have control of, in these times of great uncertainty.
Clarity Equals Peace
I've found setting the expectations for the day super helpful in our house. So the night before I set out the morning checklist for the kids, that way when they wake up they can confidently self direct themselves and feel independent. This boosts your child’s feelings of confidence and capability by allowing them to do age-appropriate tasks on their own.
This may include getting dressed, picking up toys, preparing foods like cereal or toast, making the bed, or other chores, depending on your child’s age. Yes, it’s often faster for us to do these tasks ourselves as parents. But being patient and letting your child master these skills independently shows them that they can do hard things. This also is a blessing in disguise, as it gives me (the parent) the headspace to be positive (as that takes energy at this point) and then I can calmly get things going for the day. Then we put together our goal for the day, it's fun to see what they come up with. This helps give us clarity throughout the day when we stray off coarse, I can say is that helping us .... do blank... that we said we wanted to do today?
Praise Provides Positivity - Which Builds Confidence and Self Worth
When I am stressed it's so ease for me to overreact or ignore (neither of which is helpful with kiddos around) so it takes energy to take time praise our kids. But this is sooo important in building you child's self confidence and self worth, which is an essential foundation for health, happiness, relationships, success, and achievement. We know that children thrive on healthy, positive connections with others. Research shows that children’s relationships have an enduring impact. Early connections to caring adults mean higher self worth, achievement and better mental health even in adulthood. So I then realized with praise you are reinforcing things, so it was important to determine what behaviors were good to praise and which weren't. So I try not to make a big deal about being smart or not making mistakes or for things that come naturally. Rather I try to praise the following: persistence, hard work, progress, learning from mistake, rising to a challenge, and effort. I try to say things like "your effort really paid off on that project, it came out great" or "what a creative way to solve that problem, I know it was challenging."
Growing Through The Hard Stuff - Instead Of Letting It Hold You Back
If troubles come up that can't be shielded from the children, I talk through the emotions with the kiddos. It's normal to have things cause you to be emotional, and it's natural for things to be hard from time to time, but it's important we work through those hard uncomfortable things. I go on to explain that our brains are like muscles; when you learn, your brain grows, the feeling of being hard is the feeling of your brain growing. As parents, our instinct is to rush to the rescue when our children struggle. We want to say, "Don’t worry! I’ll fix it!" or "No problem, I can help with that." In the long-term, however, this "helpful" behavior only hurts our children. If we instead let our children struggle, then empower them to persevere, we can raise resilient children who are ready to take on the world. I often find it quicker and easier to just show the kiddos how to do something but in the long run they aren't really learning the important skill of persevering over that struggle they were having. So that means I really head to be mindful of the instinct to just get things done and just fix everything, as that's not serving the kids. So challenge your children, ask them questions: "what mistake did you make today that taught you something?" " what did you have to try hard at today to accomplish your goal?" "what new strategy or method did you try?" or "what challenge did you have today that when you didn't give up you were able to accomplish?" I also try to encourage the kids to keep at it, when they want to give up with the following: "let's see if there is another way we could try that?", "don't worry if you make a mistake, mistakes help us improve, as long as we learn from them", "what can you learn from what you have tried that hasn't worked, look you are now that much closer to figuring out what does work."
Problem Solving Basics Can Help Us All
I've used these problem solving steps with girl scouts for years but recently found it helpful at home with the kiddos as well. In addition to brainstorming and asking the child open-ended questions, you can directly teach problem-solving skills. Teach a simple process like the following:
Step 1: What am I feeling? Help the child label how he feels about the situation. Understanding feelings diffuses their charge, allowing your child to step back and focus on the bigger picture.
Step 2: What’s the problem? Ask the child to describe the problem. In most cases, ensure that the child is taking responsibility for his role, rather than pointing fingers.
Step 3: What are the solutions? Brainstorm potential solutions. They don’t have to be “good” ideas; you will narrow it down later.
Step 4: What would happen if…? Discuss what might happen if your child tried each solution. Role playing is also appropriate at this step. Is the solution safe? Is it fair? How will others feel?
Step 5: What will I try? Have the child choose one solution to try. If it doesn’t work, discuss WHY and choose another. Encourage the child to keep trying until the problem is solved.
Use this process consistently, and remember to model it too.
Wash Away The Negativity
We also started making bath-time, a de-stress time, helping our child “wash away” negative thoughts using a bath bomb. At the root of most negative self-talk is fear. So I think we so much fear being conveyed in the world at the moment the impact is real on our children. We have begun to been review the day and write a self-defeating thought or two on a bath bomb. For example: "I'm bad at math" or "I'm a poor reader". Then have your child throw it into the tub and watch it dissolve. Discuss the idea that feelings and frustrations come and go. When we dwell on negative beliefs about ourselves, we bring ourselves down and limit our ability to try new things, face obstacles, and persevere. So by showing we can wash away these negative thoughts we often are washing away fears as well and creating a sense of peace. For instance, if your child’s negative self-belief is, “I’m stupid,” perhaps she is afraid of performing poorly at school or being teased for not understanding the material. Talk about such fears, help the child come up with strategies and a plan, and/or find a way to re-frame your child’s negative self-talk into something more positive. This routine has helped decrease the stress of our nightly routine as well because we are all starting from a calmer state. But I soon realized we could use this trick throughout the day on the bar of soap and as you scrub the soap bar the words wash away as well.
Patience Is A Virtue - Slowing Down, So We Can Power Up
So I'm not sure about you but in this family we like to check things off our to do list and then reward ourselves with something we enjoy. However, I've recently notice that is causing us to rush through our work and the quality of our work is decreasing. So we have had to work on slowing down, to speed up. We have learned by slowing down, setting the right attention and intention by being present and directing your energy on the thing we need to focus on, we have actually been able to accomplish more. Because we are getting it right the first time, have less chances for error, and have to go back and correct things less often. Slow down now and you will move faster, further and with greater ease later. Slowing down helps you see information, patterns and issues that were previously overlooked. First we have to develop the skills and the habits to move faster in the future. We have also realized this applies to our health too... taking a few extra moments to wipe something down before and after use, helps us in maintaining a safe environment. So don't forget to slow down and give yourself time to respond correctly, this also prevents actions you regret.
Recap - Model the Attitude You Want to See
Many of us are struggling right now (as parents, as individuals, as business owners, as employers, as employees, as community members, etc.) but it's how we respond to these challenging times that will set us apart. Will is be easy... no... will it be worth it, yes. The strength we gain from the triumph is key. When I stopped questioning why this is all happening and instead questioned how could we (as a family) learn from this, everything shifted. It’s all about the willingness to struggle and keep going. The good news is that this essential ability can be taught! Who knew this would be a teachable moment, modeling how to get positively through real time struggles. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to teach this valuable lesson to our children: Let them struggle. It isn’t easy, but with the ideas and strategies shared here, you can equip your child and yourself with many useful skills and tools along the way. Make the shift from “I’ve got this!” to “You’ve got this!” and your resilient, problem-solving, and gritty child will thank you.
So what ideas do you have to surviving this long stretch of the kids being home during these trying times? I'd love this to be a collaborative effort.