Do your children have emotional resilience?
There are many parents doing particularly wonderful things for their children at the moment. Parents are keeping their children fit with Joe Wicks. Home schooling, painting rainbows, reading, writing, and creating other works of art.
But we would also like to encourage parents and carers at this time to consider their children’s mental well-being, their emotional resilience.
Here are just a few ideas for you to emotionally and mentally support your children through these difficult times.
Day one – Patience
Learning to have patience is a great skill for anyone to have. And everyone’s will be tested in this time of lock down. You can teach your children that patience is an important quality to help you whenever things are hard. Teach them to keep trying and be prepared to start again if needs be. For this lesson consider getting them to build a card tower, two cards leaning side by side, and then adding another two. And then putting one on top until you have used all 52 cards, or a tower of blocks, or do an age appropriate jigsaw. Explain what quality it is that you are growing and praise them for the specific accomplishment
Day 2 – Courage
Courage is like a muscle. It needs use to stay strong. Think with your child about something they find a bit scary, say spiders for example. Try looking at one in a picture book, or finding one in the garden and touching it. Go gently with courage. Build and “ladder up” their ability to deal with the scary thing in small steps. Try getting them to taste something they are not very keen on and show them how courageous they were in trying a little of it. Talk to them about how they feel inside when they are a little scared and how it feels after they have challenged their fear. Always stay calm and don’t let them be concerned if they didn’t achieve it, go back to the idea of patience from day one.
Day 3 – Feelings
Talk with your children about feeling scared, how it feels in their body, (butterflies in the tummy, shaky etc) and how our bodies often talk to us. Think about how your tummy feels when you are hungry and what noises it makes. Feelings are not good nor bad, they just are.
We can allow our bodies to talk to us because they can tell us to do something useful – to eat some food if our tummy rumbles or to use our courage if we are scared or sometimes, if appropriate, to run away.
Talk about how scary also feels similar to excitement, like when you go on a fairground ride.
Today draw a picture of scary and what your body feels like.
Sad – use the same ideas to talk about how you feel when you are sad. Talk about how sadness is OK too. If we have a cry or feel sad for a while we will soon come out the other side of it. Draw sad.
Angry – talk about how angry feels like and what makes us angry.
Make a volcano out of play-doh and have fun smashing it. When we are angry, we can find lots of ways to use that feeling, running, bashing a cushion, building a play-doh volcano etc.
Day 4 – Bounce back
Similar to day one, patience building, learning to be comfortable with failure and to bounce back also builds emotional resilience.
Today try walking along the edge of a plank on the ground in the garden. Start again if you fall off.
Or, if you don’t have something like a plank, put some paper stepping stones down. Move them further apart each time your child completes the course. Each time they fail to make a step get them to start again getting from one to another.
Alternatively draw a complicated maze for them. Get them to start again each time they come to a dead end.
Explain to them that bouncing back makes us stronger. Failure is good as it teach us to find a different solution.
Day 5 – Curiosity
Teach your children to be curious about the world and about themselves, get them to wonder why………
Use something in nature – I wonder why this floats and this doesn’t, I wonder if ….. will float?
Wonder why about things but don’t ask why questions about people. Why questions can seem judgmental. For example, why did you do that?
Instead you might say I am curious how you felt when you did….. Or I am curious what lead you to….
I am curious about how you feel not going to football training anymore? Rather than, why did you stop going to football training?
Use this time of lock down as a precious chance to build all the real qualities children need in life, values and ethics.
Uncertain times for children
It is very likely that in these uncertain times children of all ages may feel anxious and this may display in a variety of different ways. These displays might include bed wetting, nightmares, bad dreams, staying close to you, clingy, angry listless etc.
Firstly listen to their fears spoken and unspoken and validate their feelings. It is OK to feel anxious, upset, angry, sad etc.
Think of what we can do to help children past those feelings. Encourage your child to ‘act them out’ doing a puppet show or with their teddy bear or draw them out. “Lets draw the scary monster” and then, “imagine the super powers you might have to banish the monster.”
How to teach your child mindfulness
Teach your child mindfulness. Even small children can learn to sit still for a few seconds. Children, over the age of 4, tend to be able to sit for about 1 minute per year of their life – (i.e a 5 year old should be able to sit still for 5 minutes). Put a timer on and make them sit on the floor crossed legged and just breath deeply from the belly for fun.
Or get them to lie on the floor with their eyes closed. Ask them to imagine that they are on a magic carpet ride. Tell them that the carpet is going up, up, up above the house/flat, above their worries and fears. They are floating high, they can look down and see all the trees and houses below them yet they know that they are safe on their magic carpet.
Then gently bring the carpet down and tell them to imagine meeting their friends. They can imagine playing or having a picnic in a meadow or some other thing that makes them feel happy.
After a time bring them back on the magic carpet up, up, up again and flying back home. When the carpet gently lands welcome them home and tell them that they are loved and safe and can go flying on their carpet again some other time.
By trying out some of these techniques and work on them you can help your children to build strong emotional resilience which will help them over come challenges in the future.