Many kids are going to be nervous with their ‘normal’ is gone and anxiety and uncertainty will be some of the most common emotions. So, how can you help?
“Lead with calmness and grace,” explained Lindsey Tidrick, Tuscarawas County Counselors Association President and K-12 Counselor at Strasburg-Franklin Schools. “Students feed off of what we as parents are doing, saying, and feeling.”
Tidrick explained that the disruption of their schooling and the protective factors that school offers are some of the biggest concerns for those in education. She stressed the importance of parents and guardians recognizing that when activities our children love and count on are taken away, there can be negative side effects on their emotions and overall well-being. “We need to keep their routines as normal as possible,” she said. “They need to be playing sports, dancing, singing in a choir, or any activity that make them happy.” Tidrick noted these decisions being taken in an abundance of caution and that some activities are being restricted in order to keep children and staff safe, but it’s important we all recognize the void many of these changes may leave in our children’s lives.
So, what can we do as parents? How can we support our children during this difficult time?
- Lead with calmness and grace. Tidrick encouraged parents to remember that little eyes are always watching and that it is important we lead by example, especially when it comes to how we handle stress and uncertainty.
- Stress to your child that patience and forgiveness are important. Tidrick explained that grading may take longer and tasks that were quick and simple before may now take longer. It’s important to make your children aware of these changes and help them learn to be patient and forgiving.
- Consider how you are framing the upcoming school year. Tidrick explained that talking about what’s to come in a positive way will help them get excited about the future, which she says goes a long way.
- Respond to your children genuinely and never discount their feelings. Tidrick indicated that when your child comes to you upset or asking hard questions you should stop what you’re doing and concentrate on them. “They need to feel heard and understood,” she added. “Many times when a child is anxious or scared it comes out as negative behaviors, so keep an eye out for that too. Then, you can work together to come up with coping skills that will make them feel better. “
- Be sure not to scare them. Much of the news coverage leads with words such as death, dying, and sick. Tidrick explained that for children, those words are scary. She encouraged parents and guardians to stay positive and look for fun activities to do together that keep them busy while creating fun family memories.
As for red flags that may indicate our children are struggling, Tidrick notes an overall change in their attitude or demeanor. “As a parent, you know your child best. Keep an eye on them and follow your gut. If you think something is off, set time aside, without distractions, to have one-on-one time with them,” she said. However, Tidrick noted too much pushing can actually backfire. “Try asking about their classes, their favorite teacher, or another abstract topic to get them talking.”
Tidrick also acknowledged that parents and guardians are also facing a tough road ahead. “As a parent, you can’t take good care of your family if you aren’t taking good care of yourself,” she said. “If you can take time at the start of each day to make sure you have your game plan ready for the day it makes a huge difference!” She recommended taking a moment for yourself to have a cup of coffee, go to the gym, or another activity that allows you to focus on you and just breathe.
Additionally, Tidrick explained that having a support system is key. “As parents, we also need to talk and vent and we don’t need our children to hear our fears, [which] it’s completely normal to be scared right now. Having a group that you can go to either in person or online is important. And, don’t forget about your spouse too. Schedule a date or time to talk with them and check in with each other.”
Overall, Tidrick explained, “If we can take away from this experience anything, it is to lead with grace and love while…while also bettering our hygiene!”