Dr. Ducharme’s Blog June 1, 2020 Helping Kids Increase Resilience

June 1, 2020
Dr. Elaine Ducharme
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We continue to live in very stressful times.

Even as numbers of Covid cases drop in many areas and the country begins to open up, we are faced with new challenges. Many are worried about going back to work and how they will entertain their children during the summer when many camps are closed. Some are ready to eat outside at  restaurants. Others remain scared to go out of their homes. On the other hand, most are ready to get haircuts!

 

Children are also struggling to deal with many changes during this difficult time. For many, if not most, home schooling has been stressful. I am hearing a lot of kids saying that can’t wait to get back to school! They can also be faced with lots of other problems, including divorce, violence in the home, bullying in school, girlfriend/boyfriend issues and the everyday issues connected to growing up. In order to survive and actually thrive in spite of these challenges they need to be resilient.Resilience is the ability to bounce back, to adapt to adversity, tragedy, threats and even routine stress.

Some kids just naturally have this skill. Difficulties seem to bounce off their backs or spur them on to do better. Other children seem to crumble in the face of adversity. They end up feeling victimized and anxious. The good news is that resilience can be learned. It is a skill like any other. And practice really helps just like when we want to strengthen our muscles. 

The American Psychological Association recommends the following ideas for you to teach your child:

  1. MAKE CONNECTIONS: Teach a child how to make friends, including the skill of empathy and understanding things from another person’s point of view. Involve your child in some activity that encourages team work and friendship.
  2. HELP OTHERS:  Kids who feel helpless or isolated can be empowered by helping others. Older children can be allowed to go to a younger classroom and help out or read stories. Age appropriate volunteering is wonderful at building self-esteem and resilience.
  3. MAINTAIN A ROUTINE: During periods of stress, structure and routine really help kids feel comfortable and safe. Morning and bedtime rituals are very important for children. They impart a sense of control.
  4.  LIMIT TIME ON ELECTRONICS/SOCIAL MEDIA. Hang out with them and teach them about basic interactive communication.
  5. RELAX AND TAKE A BREAK: While it is important to stick to routines, endless worry can be counter-productive. Help a child focus on something besides what is worrying him or her. Be aware that what a child is exposed to can be troubling, such as information heard on television, the Internet and even adult discussions.
  6. TEACH SELF-CARE: Set the tone by taking care of yourself. Help your child understand the importance of healthy eating, exercise and rest.
  7. SET GOALS AND MOVE TOWARDS THEM: Try to get your child to set realistic goals and action plans to achieve them.
  8. TEACH THEM TO WALK STRONG AND TALK BIG: This is really important in a world  where bullying is quite common. Teach them to walk confidently with theirhead up. Let them practice saying “stop it” or “that is not nice” in a strong voice that means business. Bullies are more likely to pick on kids than seem weak and unable to defend themselves.

If your child continues to have difficulty with managing anxiety and stress and adapting to changes, talk to a psychologist trained to listen and help your child develop these skills.