In the past few days, we have all experienced a drastic change in our normal daily routine. Being at home 24/7 is challenging, not just from an organisational point of view, but also emotionally. However, in every crisis, there is an opportunity, and now is a good time to build emotional strength in your kids.
Being mentally strong is not about suppressing emotions, being unkind or defiant. On the contrary, it is all about being able to acknowledge your emotions and thoughts, learning how to manage them, and then, take positive actions. Mentally strong kids are resilient, courageous and self-confident to tackle problems, bounce back from failure, and cope with hardship.
Here are 3 things you can do to keep your kids emotionally strong during this time at home
- Talk about feelings – emotion recognition and labeling emotions
We are all having a big range of emotions, feelings, and thoughts at this moment and kids are not an exception. As busy parents, it is easy for us to say to them “Quit worrying” or “It’ll turn out fine”. However, the best way to approach this is by having open conversations and daily checks-in. We know that getting our children to open up is not easy. Start by telling them how you feel, use examples of what you have seen or heard together, and create a safe zone where you can talk. The most important thing, give them space, be empathetic and gently guide the conversation.
When talking about feelings, help them to recognise their emotions. Depending on the age of your child, incorporate different and more complicated emotions. Your 7-year-old could say they are feeling fear whilst your 10-year-old could talk about being overwhelmed or frightened. A wheel of emotions is a good tool to have to recognise and label emotions. Importantly, don’t assume or label your children’s feelings. Instead of asking “Are you feeling sad?”, help them to label their own emotions by simply asking “How are you feeling?”
Once they have labeled their emotions, avoid saying “Don’t be scared” or “That’s not a big deal”, that only teaches them that their feelings are wrong. Instead, validate their feelings saying “Thanks for telling me this, I understand your feelings and it is normal to feel like that with all the things that have been happening” and teach them they have choices on how to deal with their feelings. With the right support and guidance, the struggles they are experiencing now could help them to build emotional strength.
- Organise your day – bring structure, responsibility, and socialisation to the day
These times require the best of your own organisational skills. One of the problems you will encounter is that the family dynamic has been changed. Your children are used to being with you during weekends or afternoons, but now you need to share space during moments that should be work or school time. To help you and your children to keep your family dynamic, organise your day in work and playtime slots. Remember that your children are used to that system at school. To help your child keep socialising, organise remote sessions with their friends. Talk to their parents and schedule time together through video channels. This structured system will help them to build personal responsibility around work/playtime slots and also will help them to keep up with their socialisation skills. At the same time can you keep up with your own work responsibilities.
- Do activities with them – parent-child interaction is key
This is a perfect time to engage in social and emotional activities with your children, improve your connection and have fun together. One example of activities you can do with your children at any age is to explore their storytelling abilities. Create a drama set, define the characters, write a script, and work together to make a powerful story. If your child is not feeling too comfortable in the limelight, they can have a behind-the-scene role, like set design or costume. Another activity could be to engage in art together. They might like to draw and paint, but what about sculpt? Take a look at existing art pieces in the world and try to reproduce them. All these activities will help you build your child’s emotional skills but also motor and cognitive skills.
Finally, be a role model. Showing your child how to be mentally strong during these times is the best way for them to learn from you. Talk about your own feelings, and how you are managing them. To help them self-regulate, you can tell them how you are feeling tired or worried and you are still working or cooking dinner for the family. At the same time, allow them to participate in family activities to foster personal responsibility e.g.: ask your 6-year-old child to set up the dinner table or your 11-year-old to help clean the house.
We know that this is a challenging time. Embrace uncertainty and take the opportunity to tighten your ties, strengthen your relationship and improve your family’s emotional wellbeing. In every crisis, lies the seed of an opportunity.
We are ParentalEQ – a parenting platform to raise emotionally strong kids. To know more, download our app in the App Store or Google Play here.