6 Ways to Teach Resilience to Kids

13 May

Covid-19 presents a novel and unavoidable challenge to families.  No matter what age your children are, boredom, anxiety and feeling "aimless" are a constant in our lives.  On top of that, most kids are now attending school virtually with some combination of video-based learning and electronic assignments.  If they're dancers or take lessons that can be taught virtually, many have now also resumed those routines, but in a less connected and fun setting. 

All this can combine to create new anxieties and worries for kids.  If your child is struggling and you worry that they are falling into depression or are engaging in self-destructive behaviors, don't hesitate to reach out for help.  We have Oregon-based resources below.  

If, however, you're faced with bored, anxious kids, this might be a time to model resilience to help you and your kids weather shelter in place with a sense of stability:

  • Avoid talking in catastrophic terms: kids don't just hear your words, they feel the emotional content behind the phrases.   Catastrophizing is tempting right now as SiP stretches into months, but resist the urge.
  • Keep some structure/make a schedule: this is important for kids from the baby stage through the teenage years.  The hidden blessing to this time is that kids don't have to rush out the door for school or to sports practice or lessons, so if they need to sleep until 9:00 or 10:00 am, it's available.  But keeping a semi-regular schedule will help them regulate their moods and emotions, not just their sleep.
  • Deep breathing: there is never a bad time to start practicing mindfulness.  Younger children may struggle to stay interested in meditation, but breathing is something we all have to do anyway, so start with a family "breathing break".  You can use a kitchen timer, or a fitness watch, but start with a one minute breathing session and see where that takes you.
  • Regular check ins with extended family and friends: staying as close to grandparents, friends and other loved ones by phone, test or zoom calls is so important to help your kids remember that they are part of a larger community.  Some neighbors have figured out how to visit in a socially distanced way, and still others have learned that a well timed "drive by" birthday wish can make a kid feel less alone.
  • Grounding: At Peak Training Center, we are big fans of mindfulness.  Grounding exercises can also be quick and painless even for the worldly teens in your life.  One of our favorite quick grounding exercises is to "find your feet".  If weather and a yard is available, it could also be nice to do a sensory tour of the yard: first the patio, then the grass, then some gravel, etc.  Ask your kids to pay attention to how it feels and see if they can name the sensations in more than one way.  Not only are they connecting to their physical bodies, naming the sensations helps them process and regulate.
  • Regulate yourself and stay grounded: we cannot stress this enough. The better regulated you are, the more calm your kids will feel.  You can't fake it.  Find a way, whether its exercise, teletherapy, meditation or neurofeedback, get whatever support you need now to stay even keel.

Oregon-based family and general mental health resources:

Resources to post:

Mental Health Call Centers:
Clackamas County: 503-655-8585
Multnomah County: 503-988-4888
Washington County: 503-291-9111
Lines for Life: 800-273-8255
Text: "273TALK" to 839863

Youth Resources:
Youthline: 877-968-8491
Text: "TEEN2TEEN" to 839863
Online chat:
Email: YouthL@linesforlife.org

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