Tips for Helping Your Kids Cope with Sudden Changes This School Year
We’re all learning new coping skills this year.
Raise your hand if you’re feeling more than a little overwhelmed. Yeah? You can’t see us, but our hands are in the air, too. There’s no denying that this has been an incredibly challenging and stressful year. If you’re a parent, you likely feel an extra weight on your shoulders as you navigate what this season looks like for your family and learning to cope with all the changes.
One of the biggest hurdles? Managing the new school routine, or lack thereof. As new policies, procedures, and platforms are introduced, the newness and uncertainty can generate some pretty big emotions that their tiny minds and bodies just aren’t used to.
Today, we’re sharing a few ways to help your kids cope with all of the changes being thrown their way. One step at a time, you can work through these issues and come out stronger on the other side.
1. Create a routine.
It seems like nothing is set in stone these days, right? Just as soon as you get used to one plan, it’s erased and another takes its place.
While you might not be able to control some of the big-ticket national issues, you can establish structure in your own home. Where you can, try to create a routine that your children can stick to every day. This can help provide them with a sense of security and comfort, especially when everything else seems so erratic. As you plan your schedule, remember that this doesn’t need to become an additional stressor.
You might not be able to allocate an activity for every hour of the day, and that’s OK. Focus on what you can do and allow the rest to fall into place.
2. Keep up good habits.
By the end of the day, your kids might be so exhausted that brushing and flossing feel impossible. Or, they’re bouncing off the walls and it’s equally difficult to wrangle them into the bathroom.
Still, it’s important to maintain these healthy habits. Oral hygiene is critical to their overall health and can help them ward off disease and illness. It’s also another tiny way that you can establish routine and order in your home when they need it the most.
In addition to scheduling their regular dentist visits, make sure you’re up-to-date on their doctor’s appointments as well!
3. Praise their efforts.
When tensions are high, it’s easy to snap or say things we don’t mean. For instance, you might get visibly upset when your child skips a problem on their online math assignment or fails to bring their plate to the sink after dinner. There are so many things you’re trying to balance and juggle, it’s understandable. But perhaps a change in point of view will help.
If they’re not the shining example of a model kid all of the time, that’s a good thing. It means they’re growing and learning how to find their place in the world. Instead of being upset with them for something they forgot or didn’t do, remember to praise them for the things they do well. Focus on what they have done and done well. Throughout the day, kiss their brain and remind them how smart they are. Reassure them that they don’t have to get it right all of the time, because you don’t either.
4. Create a bedtime structure.
How often do you lie in bed and worry about tomorrow? When things don’t feel quite right, your children often do, too.
That’s why it’s critical to create a special, comforting bedtime routine that can send them into dreamland securely. For your family, that might mean a warm bath and straight to bed after brushing and flossing. Others might add in a snack, tooth brushing time, and a few stories.
Either way, find a setup that works for you and stick to it. With so many changes happening all around them, this can be a time of day your children look forward to with great anticipation.
5. Read comforting books.
Sometimes, storybook characters simply say it better than we can. They also speak in a language that children can understand. That’s why it helps to find age-appropriate books that speak on the feelings they’re processing.
Whether your children are five or 15, there are board books, easy readers, graphic novels and chapter books that touch on subjects of anxiety, confusion, anger, and worry. This list of books was specifically curated for children coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
6. Take breaks.
You don’t have to do it all at once, and your children don’t either.
As much as your current setup will allow, try to take frequent 10 to 15 minute breaks to breathe deeply and settle your spirit. Maybe this means putting away the screen, pouring that eighth cup of coffee, and playing your favorite song on repeat.
Meanwhile, give your children simple activities that they can do during their quiet time. This might be a set of coloring books, an old-fashioned CD player pre-loaded with their favorite tunes, or a few books to browse.
7. Be a sounding board.
We weren’t made to hold all of our emotions in. This is especially the case for the tiniest ones among us!
Researchers show there are actual health benefits to crying. It helps us detox, self-soothe, release pain, and restore our emotional balance. That said, have you noticed your little one stifling a few tears lately? If so, encourage them to come to you and let it all out. Be a sounding board for all of their emotions, bad or good. Remind them that they are safe, smart and loved beyond measure. Then, look in the mirror and tell yourself the same things.
8. Act it out.
Sometimes, your children might have a hard time articulating exactly what’s making them so upset. They know something is off, but they just can’t put their finger on it.
This is where it can be helpful to stage a little performance. Using simple dialogue and memorable characters, invite them to share what they’re feeling through a theatrical play.
If they’re old enough, let them write their own script and give them full creative freedom on the storyline. Otherwise, you can write the script for them, making sure to keep it lighthearted and full of open-ended questions so they have plenty of time to speak.
9. Give them your focus.
Your kids can sense when you’re pulled in a million different directions. When they know they’re not getting your full focus, it can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and dread.
If you’re not with them all day, try to focus intently on what they’re saying and doing when you are together. If you find that your emails or social media apps are too distracting, there are app-blockers you can install to temporarily block access and turn off notifications.
If you’re with them all day, carve out specific times of the day where you’re focused completely on them and they’re focused entirely on you. Create moments of connection throughout the busy day.
10. Limit the news.
Yes, it’s important to stay informed. However, keep in mind that children might not be able to process everything they see on the news.
Some of the images and dialogue might be too advanced for their little ears, so use caution and only listen to segments that you know are child-friendly. Then, catch up on the latest updates when they’re away learning or playing. This is a great way to help you break your own news habit, as around-the-clock coverage can take a toll on your own mental health.
Help your kids cope one day at a time.
Helping your kids cope with the changes around them might feel like an impossible feat, especially if you’re struggling to stay afloat yourself. However, although this might be one of the hardest times, it can set a firm foundation for intentional, family-focused living.
As you implement these 10 tips, remember to give yourself plenty of grace. You’re doing a great job and your kids will thrive and grow through this. If you need anything from our office during this time, don’t hesitate to give us a call.