Promoting family resilience in challenging times

Connecting with family over video call during Christmas

As we are all navigating our way through everything that is going on in our world, it’s important to take some time to pause and reflect on our paths.

It can be easy to get caught up in negative patterns of behavior with all of the social and economic stressors that are present in our current society. I certainly have had days where I’ve gotten worked up about things, and others where I’ve done a better job of taking things in stride.

Family life in general has its challenges, but parenting in our current social, political and economic climate is an added burden that complicates and intensifies our responsibility.

Times are tough, and what we all need most is the resilience to keep moving forward.

We are resilient when we possess the ability to recover from difficult experiences and setbacks, to adapt, move forward and sometimes even experience growth.

Recently, I came across an article published by Child Trends, a leading child/ youth-centered research organization that highlighted simple yet important ways to help our children and to promote family resilience during challenging times.

As we approach the holiday season, stay grounded with these practical tips summarized from the Child Trends article Ways to Promote Children’s Resilience to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Spend quality time with each other. Give your children and your spouse your undivided attention. We are all bombarded with so many responsibilities and distractions, it can be hard to focus on one thing, or one person. But it is important. Making a point to connect each day in the form of eating meals together, playing, reading, going outdoors or just through simple conversation is beneficial.

Stay connected, even when physical separation is necessary. Celebrating the holiday season may not look the same for your family as it has in previous years. If you are not able to gather with extended family and friends in person, work to stay connected in other ways such as video conferencing, phone calls, emails, texts or letters. When we maintain relationships and communication with family and friends, in whatever form it may take, we feel secure and supported.

Ask for help when you or someone you are caring for needs it. Listen and respond to the needs of others. As stated by the authors, “Asking for help is a sign of strength and resourcefulness, not of weakness.” Studies have shown that having and leaning into your support system, whatever that may look like for you, is an important contributor to resilience. Think of your support system as anyone who can provide you with practical or emotional support. This may be someone in your family, your network of friends, individuals/groups that are available in your community or providers such as medical or mental health professionals. It is also important to be in tune to the needs of others. Human beings do not always clearly articulate their needs that accompany their struggles. Children, especially, may communicate with negative behaviors (acting out, tantrums, defiance).

Try to maintain routines and rhythms in your family life. Working and learning from home can wreak havoc on schedules and routines. But disruption or lack of predictable routines and rhythms can affect a child’s (and grown-up’s) self-regulation skills and behaviors. Work to maintain consistent bedtimes, mealtimes and develop rhythms for learning/working, play and relaxation throughout your day.

Prioritize time and energy for meaningful and important activities. Find joy in simple things you can do given the circumstances. Take breaks from work to enjoy time together as a family. Celebrate birthdays and important milestones (even if they do not involve elaborate parties). Cook, play games, exercise or maybe even learn a new skill or hobby together with your child(ren).

Make time for emotional check-ins with your child. Offer opportunities for children to ask questions, talk about their feelings and get age-appropriate information and support. I have found opportune times to do this through conversation in the car, taking evening walks together, at mealtimes and at bedtime. Establishing and maintaining communication within a family takes effort and presence.

Emphasize the positive. We are bombarded by disturbing news stories in many forms of media daily. Make a point to highlight and share stories of hope and resilience (e.g., people helping others) with your children to help counterbalance negativity and fear. Share real-life examples in your community or seek out examples in books or positive news sources. Here are a few great sites to check out and add to your news feeds:

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher and mother of four. She lives in Northeastern Minnesota. Write her at [email protected] and check out her blog at kidsandeggs.com.