Teach kids to embrace the highs and lows of this pandemic

  • While sheltering in place, take time to consider the opportunity it presents to spend time with your family.

    While sheltering in place, take time to consider the opportunity it presents to spend time with your family. Stock Photo

 
By Timothy A. Nelson
Amita Health
Posted4/12/2020 7:00 AM

This past month has brought amazing challenges -- social distancing, online learning, working from home and lots and lots of time stuck in the house.

Though you might be tempted to look at all you're losing, don't forget to take time to consider opportunities this response to COVID-19 may be presenting you, as a parent, as well as for your children, said Jacqueline Rhew, clinical consultant for Amita Health Behavioral Health Hospital Hoffman Estates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This is a time in history, a time that, probably sooner than you think, will be written about in history books and looked back on by your children," Rhew said. "Make sure you look for the opportunities it presents."

Rhew said challenges like this create an opportunity to promote emotional wellness and resiliency in your children. You may be working from home yourself, but you're probably also your child's substitute teacher and even therapist. So, it's important to help your child see the good and the bad.

Kids are missing out right now, she said -- they're not able to hang out with their friends or go to birthday parties or even attend their graduations -- so listening and allowing them to ask questions is key to helping them cope. Showing enthusiasm and relating to what they're sharing will help.

"Tell them, 'I'm really excited that, even though we're in this period of social distancing, we get to spend more time together,' " Rhew said. "Show them you're getting to do things that, normally, you wouldn't get to do. You're going to look back one day and appreciate all these opportunities you had to spend time with your children."

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Rhew said it's important to build structure and stick to a routine through this strange period in their lives, even if it's simple. Structure will help your child feel a bit more normal in this abnormal situation we find ourselves in.

"This is the chance to really connect with your child," she said. "You can get connected and find out what they're passionate about and really be present with them."

Rhew recommends making time for:

• Teaching children self-care and independence.

• Building a sense of responsibility by having a task to accomplish each day.

• Showing compassion for those who may have a more difficult time than them.

• Building relationships, even while social distancing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Growing their creativity.

• Creating fun and making memories with games, craft, experiments and baking.

Another important lesson for your children at this time is to recognize and name their emotions, she said. And let them know what they're feeling is OK.

"Let them embrace what they're grateful for and let them know there will be highs and lows and how we really embrace both," Rhew said. "They may be missing out on milestones like school dances or graduations. As a parent, you might want to say, 'Don't be sad,' but that sends the message that it's not OK to have that feeling. Empathize with them. Sit with them. Feelings aren't good or bad. They're just feelings. But by recognizing them, we can begin to embrace our reality and the situation we're in."

This is a time of challenge and there is no perfect parent, she said.

"We're doing the best we can," Rhew said. "This is uncharted territory for all of us and you can only do your best. And there are going to be periods when you're frustrated. Take a breath. Give yourself a break. Your kids don't need you to be perfect -- they just need you to be there."

• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health.

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