What Our Kids Need to Be OK.
Applying lessons from pandemic research to help your kids thrive.
Hi, Practice families.
Last week, I was walking my younger son to daycare when he suddenly looked behind us, then darted off the sidewalk, hollering “PACE! PACE!” Confused, I turned around to see what he had seen– and there was another person, coming down the sidewalk toward us.
When I realized that my 22 month old has been watching, listening, and absorbing as we navigate a six foot bubble around other humans (and frequently prod our older son to give other people space!), I was half proud and half horrified. Life in the pandemic has had such an impact on what our kids are learning about the people and the world around them, and– once we make it through this– we are going to have some undoing in front of us, some new lessons to identify and teach with intention.
In the meantime, how can we as parents best support our own kids in making it through? Well, research on kids and teens weathering the pandemic (e.g., here, here, here, here) can give us some pointers– both about things that we as parents can try to avoid or prevent AND things that we can try to offer or amp up on our kids’ behalf.
What seems to be harmful to kids’ mental health or well-being? Challenges with online school. High workload and/or unchanging expectations for academic achievement. Lack of space/privacy. Lack of a regular schedule. Reduced sleep. Social isolation. Family conflict.
And what seems to be helpful? More time with family. More time with friends. Reduced pressure from school and activities. More time to relax. More sleep. Consistent and predictable daily structure and schedules. Parents who are also working to meet their own mental health needs.
I’m writing this not to give you more things to worry about or to tack on to your list of things to do– but to highlight for you some factors influencing our kids’ emotional well-being that are (at least sort of!) within our control as parents… even during this time that so many things are out of our hands. If you’re feeling worried about your kids, pick something– just one thing– of that list of protective factors where you think there might be a little room for change, and try to make a shift for your child/family this week.
P.S., just a reminder that we are working on some new programming for parents– if you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to give us feedback about what you as a parent need/want in this moment.
P.P.S., A few more on-topic worthwhile listens/reads:
- This episode of Janet Lansbury’s Unruffled podcast (targeting parents of toddler/preschool-aged kids), “Pandemic Parenting: Will The Kids Be OK Socially?”
- This episode of Lynn Lyons’ FlusterClux podcast (targeting parents of older kids/teens), “COVID fatigue and The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety”, especially the intro on COVID fatigue and her point that we are all impacted by all of our experiences– so yes, the pandemic will impact us (and our kids!) but that doesn’t mean it will be terrible or catastrophic.
- It’s OK if Your Kid Doesn’t Learn to Read This Year (HuffPost). Or this post from writer Christine Derengowski, on her new mindset about managing online school.
- For those of you with pre-teens/teens who are really struggling, How to Help When Adolescents Have Suicidal Thoughts (NY Times).
- The CDC’s COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit (for parents of kids aged 0-24!).
- Most of our team is reading this book right now (note: Amazon affiliate link!) and appreciating the shift in perspective about what challenging times may have to offer us. “We must stop believing that these times in our lives are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. We most stop trying to ignore them or dispose of them. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.”