Want Resilient Kids? Practice Resiliency

Parents frequently approach me with questions about how to help their children address their emotional needs, especially during this pandemic. My answer is simple; Do you want a resilient child? One who deals with adversity and bounces back? One who takes changes in stride? Cultivating resilient children starts by being a resilient parent.

Life Has Become Difficult
Currently, you are in the gauntlet of parenting. For most of us, under non-covid circumstances, we sometimes try to work like we aren’t parents and try to parent like we don’t work. However, the two worlds have collided, putting an immense amount of pressure on parents who are trying to balance family, work, finances, their children’s education, health, and safety.

Child Play Therapy Office At Ally Psych In Bucks County PA
This pressure is even more pronounced for single parents, parents of children with health complications or special needs, or those that have the additional role of caring for an eldering person in their life. What some may have initially anticipated as short-term adjustments in work and school schedules has turned into long term changes. When we are stressed, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. However, our bodies aren’t meant to permanently function in this state. Parents these days have to alter work schedules, sometimes at the drop of a hat, to accommodate the changing school schedules and needs of their kids.

Take Care of Yourself
If I asked you how you’re doing, you’d probably start by giving me a polite response of “I’m fine. It’s fine. We’re all fine”. However, I’d see the exhaustion in your eyes. I’d hear the heavy sighs. You’re probably stressed, and with good reason. Many of your support systems you’ve come to rely on aren’t readily available. All of a sudden you have to simultaneously work and make sure your children are learning, or if they work outside of the home- worry about bringing COVID back to your loved ones. Many of the parents I see put their children first- stating “as long as they’re fine, I’m fine.”

Take a minute to stop and think; are you really fine? When’s the last time you sacrificed sleep to get chores or extra work done? How many meals have you eaten this week while standing or in the car? Maybe you started a meal and got up half-way through. How many cold cups of coffee are left around your house because you were unable to finish them after your children pulled you away? When someone asks you what your hobbies are, do you respond, “sleeping,” “showering,” or “I don’t even know anymore”?

Dr Jennifer McLaren – Child Therapist At Ally Psych In Bucks County PA
Check In Time
I want you to take this moment to check in with yourself. How is that tension in your neck and back? Is your mind constantly racing about that list of things you need to accomplish? What best describes your current state; are you surviving, getting-by, or thriving? We enter survival mode when we aren’t giving our body it’s essential needs (e.g. sleeping, eating, exercise, and physical comfort from others). We are only “getting-by” when we are meeting our bodies most basic needs but still feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day frustrations or are just running through the motions. Or are you thriving?

Thriving is when you’re living your best life; you can take a problem and tackle it with clear judgement and your physical and emotional needs are met. When you’re thriving, your emotional cup is full and ready to best support and provide for your kids and other loved ones. Unfortunately, most days, many parents are hovering between “survive” and “getting-by” and our children pick up on this.

Build Resiliency
One key factor to building resiliency in children is to have an emotionally responsive caretaker. It’s hard to fill up our child’s emotional cup with positivity when we are running low ourselves. We often strive to teach our children kindness, but fail to show ourselves the same kindness. Do we want our children to grow up thinking that being burnt out from work and family is the best way to live? Because of the pandemic, the balance in our lives has been dramatically diminished. Allow yourself some time, for your children’s sake, to tip the scales back in your favor, even just slightly. We frequently ask our children how their day was, but how often do we ask ourselves the same question? Ask yourself, “Am I in survive mode today or am I thriving?”

Time To Thrive!
It’s time to start moving that needle more towards thrive. You may be asking yourself,, “how can I possibly add anything else into my schedule?” Start reclaiming that balance one moment at a time. This may be trying to carve out 15 minutes to workout or go for a walk on a nice day. It may be saying “no” and drawing boundaries around your time. It may be forgiving yourself if you’re blaming yourself for disappointing others.

Now use this moment to take a deep breath. Give yourself a few extra moments on that exhale. Now take another. If you need a few more, take them. Reclaiming our balance starts with baby steps which could simply be one breathe at a time. Those dishes will still be there, as well as those work emails. By cultivating resiliency in ourselves, we will be more equipped to deal with our children’s social-emotional needs and better able to help them develop resiliency within themselves.