Life after lock down- how can we build children’s resilience?

Life is moving on from lock down and with this we are facing new challenges. How do we help our children move from being in the protective bubble of home and in to school and the wider world? I’ve heard many parents say they’ve been surprised by their child’s ability to adapt to new circumstances, but an equal number who have seen a lot of worry and distress in their child’s response. Resilienceis a word often used to capture this idea of coping- sometimes described as an ability to bounce back from adversity and learn new skills. Some people appear to have this trait in abundance, but the good news for those who don’t is that it can be learned. The impact of Covid 19 will be around for some time to come, so what can parents do to help?

One of the most important things which helps is to accept the way our child is responding and not try to wipe away negative or difficult feelings. We sometimes do this out of fear of making the child feel worse or because we can’t bear to hear their distress, but all this does is suppress feelings which need to be expressed. As Marshall Rosenberg says, “…all human beings, when they’re in pain need presence and empathy”. So actively listening to children is key- giving eye contact, listening to the feeling and content of what they are saying and asking questions to express our interest. Many children may not show their distress in words and so we may have to try to work this out from their behaviour. Underlying all human behaviour are both feelings and needs. What is our child trying to express to us? Feeling heard and understood helps all of us feel accepted for who we are.

We know only too well at the moment that life is unpredictable and that we can get things wrong. Being able to show our children that it is OK not to have all the answers and that we can try to repair any breakdown of communication is another way of fostering resilience. It helps children realise that a person can make mistakes, still be all right and take responsibility for trying to make amends. Everyone is feeling more stressed and overwhelmed during this period of such uncertainty, and so miscommunication and frayed emotions are more likely. We need to show our children that we can apologise if we make mistakes and take steps to put things right. This will allow them to model a positive way of interacting which allows us to be fallible and not feel ashamed when we mess up. Mistakes truly bring an opportunity for learning to do something differently and become more resilient. Coping with new ways of doing things and somehow still thriving is a challenge for us all moving forwards!