Things You Can Do to Help Your Kids Navigate the New Normal
Our kids have had to deal with a lot of changes over the past year. Some of which are good—spending more time with mummy and daddy—while others, like staying away from grandparents and friends, have taken a toll on some children’s zest for life. Here are 6 strategies you can use to help your kids navigate the new normal with calm, courage, and compassion.
1. Help your kids by focusing on what you can control.
There’s so much going on in the world right now, one minute what’s up is down and the next… up turns into west. We can’t really control the changes around us but what we can do is provide our kids with a safe space, more commonly referred to as home.
Try to keep the TV and news media off to reduce exposure to the unpredictability of current events. Avoid talking openly about sensational stories, minimize the use of phones and computers when you can, and encourage more one-on-one interactions.
2. Rely on routines.
Creating a predictable routine for your child can make the world feel more stable again. One way to do this is by having a family visual calendar where your kids can also add their schedules and edit accordingly. Try to keep regular times for meals, academics, and family activities. If schools resume online, in-person, or a combination of both, add the details to your calendar and let your child start online classes at the same time they would on a normal day.
Keep a routine for your adult self too—you’re probably already overwhelmed from the months you’ve spent splitting your attention between childcare and work. Appointments to go to your kid’s dentist to have braces attached or a prearranged visit to the ophthalmologist can easily fall through the cracks. Writing all your to-do lists in one place can help you and your kids organize your days, creating a higher tolerance for unpredictability.
3. Set up one-on-one sessions of worry time.
Just like with everyone else, telling a child not to worry only makes them worry more. Sadness and stress are normal human emotions, so validating those feelings is the first step to creating a healthy way of managing them. In fact, set up a 10-to-15-minute session every day to try and suss out what’s going on in your child’s big beautiful head.
Encourage your kids to talk about what they’re going through at school, what they’re seeing on TV, or hearing from other kids and teachers. Ask if they have any questions. Sometimes children personalize situations such that when a traumatic event happens on the other side of the world, they worry about their own safety. When that happens, reassure them and try to place the situation in context.
4. Help your kids by carving out 10-minute breaks for yourself.
The secret to a happy child is a happy mom. If you’re having a hard time dealing with the new normal and feel like you’re failing on all fronts, don’t beat yourself up. Set 10-minute breaks sprinkled throughout the day to remind yourself you’re doing the best you can and practice patience until the stressful situation resolves itself. If you need to hide yourself in the bathroom and watch reruns of “Friends” as the kids host a dance party on Zoom, do so without guilt. After all, you’re setting a great example on the importance of self-care.
5. Follow your child’s lead.
Children have a knack for letting you know what’s on their minds without actually saying it. An 8-year-old may reach for your hand every time they see someone in uniform while another worries whether he’ll get new shoes before Little League starts. From their behavior, questions, and observations parents can pretty much guess what their child is thinking. Use that insight to drive the conversation during your one-on-one session.
Explore your child’s fear of police officers, it may be they just heard about Breonna Taylor in school and are concerned about the BLM marches. Allow your child’s questions to guide the conversation, it’ll help you understand what they’re stressed about and what exactly they need you to reassure them of.
6. Help your kids by trying to help someone else.
Trying to help others doesn’t just make the world a better place, it also makes you feel better. Social distancing has pretty much limited our more energetic children from participating in volunteer activities in the community, but all hope is not lost. Empower your kids to realize they can still make a difference in a world that might appear scary and unpredictable.
If your child loves arts and crafts lessons at school, help them make cards for their friends who are quarantined at home with a parent in the hospital. As a family, you can also put together a care package for a healthcare hero in your neighborhood or leave a batch of homemade cookies at an elderly neighbor’s front door. A sense of accomplishment can help your kids feel like themselves again… even just a little.
Kids are a resilient, lovable breed but even the best of us needs to hear the words, “Everything is going to be alright,” at least once in a while. Remind your children that even in these uncertain times, one thing remains constant—your unconditional love.