Helping Your Children (and Yourself) Cope with Crisis
Stress is a normal part of daily life. However, the entire world is now going through a period that cannot be viewed by anyone as normal. Our daily routine has come to a halt, our health, financial security, and our personal freedoms have become uncertain. If we are challenged to cope with these drastic changes, how can we help our children?
Take Care of Yourself First
You set the tone for your children. How you handle the situation creates the basis for how they will cope. Recall the message you have seen so many times prior to take-off: “If the cabin loses air pressure, oxygen masks will drop down, put on your own and then help those around you who need assistance.”
So how do you take care of yourself?
a. Find an effective outlet for addressing your thoughts and feelings (talking with a life partner, close friend, or counselor; personal journaling, blogging; other written expression and artwork).
b. Develop a healthy perspective on what you are going through. Use the letters from RAIN to process what you are experiencing. (The following is from Lidia Zylowska, who presents Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a tool for coping; https://lidiazylowska.com/).
- R=Recognize what you are thinking and feeling at the moment: What is happening – how has your life been disrupted? How uncertain you are about the present and the future? What are your worries and fears? What has happened to your daily routine – how you are spending your time?
- A=Accept and validate what you are experiencing; this does not mean that you are happy with the new reality, but you accept (as opposed to denying) that it is what it is. It may get worse before it gets better and will, therefore, require planning, and action steps to cope with it in a better way.
- I=Investigate in greater depth how it is impacting you. How does the loss of your daily routine impact you? Not having to wake up early to get out on time for work or school may feel like a vacation for a few days, but even during the best of times, vacation days are more successful when there is a daily routine or schedule so that you know what to expect. Are you spending more time plugged into social media and news? Are you eating and or drinking more than usual? Are you sleeping well? Are you binge-watching Netflix?
- N=Not identifying with the way you are acting and feeling. This is not who you are, but rather how you are coping with a serious disruption to your reality. Your current situation and your reaction to it does not redefine who you are.
The RAIN metaphor can help you realize that you do not have to be washed away by the flash-flood, you don’t have to drown, but you will get wet. Use this new awareness to redefine or re-establish your values and goals and how to remain on track during these challenging times.
c. Engage in meaningful activities which replicate the activities you were engaging in before (a daily routine which includes work, play, study, food preparation and nourishment of body and soul; family and social interaction (perhaps via Skype); productive activities related to vocation and hobbies; volunteering to assist others; individual and communal prayer; read, listen to, and watch stories of people successfully dealing with adversity). Limit social media and news streams to pre-designated times and focus upon how you can be inspired and how you can help others cope better.
Now, Take Care of Your Children
a. Find an effective outlet for addressing their thoughts and feelings. Start and end each day with an opportunity to check in with each of your kids as to how they are feeling and what they are thinking. With younger children, this can be through simple emojis or drawing, with older children you can use a simple rating scale (1=feeling down; 2=normal; 3=great) ask what makes them feel that way. With more mature children, encourage journal writing. This can also be accomplished with younger children, by letting them talk while you transcribe their words into a journal which they can then illustrate.
b. Develop a healthy perspective of what they are going through. Teach mindfulness meditation as a tool for dealing with stress and other difficult feelings. Help your children to articulate a healthy perspective of what they are going through. http://www.stillquietplace.com/
c. Engage in meaningful activities which replicate for your children the hopefully healthy activities they were engaging in before (a daily routine which includes work, play, study, food preparation and nourishment of body and soul; family and social interaction; productive activities related to exercise and hobbies; volunteering to assist others; individual and communal prayer; read, listen to, and watch stories of people successfully dealing with adversity). Limit social media and news streams; following the same guidance as above.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Dr. Myron Friedman
Myron Friedman, Ph.D. completed his training at the University of Texas in Austin. He is licensed by the Texas State Board of Examiners as a Psychologist in School Psychology and is also registered through the National Registry of Health Service Providers of Psychology. Among his specialties is the evaluation and treatment of children and adults with ADHD. He enjoys coaching parents to build their skill set for guiding their children to become more independent and responsible.