How Parents Can Create and Maintain Stability for Their Child During Turbulent Times
Parenting is hard enough at the best of times, but during periods of uncertainty and turbulence it’s especially difficult. When parents are feeling stressed and unsettled, children pick up on this and it adds to their anxiety.
Turbulence can be the result of external factors which disrupt daily life, such as natural disasters or events like the COVID crisis. It can also be caused by personal circumstances such as a death in the family, separation or illness.
Regardless of the cause, it’s very important for children to have a sense of stability and normalcy during difficult times.
Practicing the 3 R’s
When parents avoid dealing with children’s fears, it can have long-term effects on mental health and emotional well-being.
According to Jessica Dym Bartlett, co-director of Early Childhood Research at Child Trends, a non-profit research organisation, parents need to practice the three R’s to maintain stability. These are Routine, Regulation and Reassurance.
Children need structure and routine to feel safe. This is particularly true of very young children. You can help your child feel secure by sticking to established meal and bedtimes and keeping up normal habits, such as reading together before bed.
When kids have a routine they can rely on, the world feels safer because they know what to expect.
Regulation involves teaching children to manage their emotions. Feelings like fear, anxiety and anger are perfectly normal responses to turbulent events, but kids can get swept away by them. The sense of being out of control only makes them feel worse.
The best way to help kids manage emotions is by talking to them about how they’re feeling. Discuss what triggers negative emotions and come up with a list of things they can do to feel better. To combat negative thought patterns, make sure your child is eating well and getting enough sleep.
Kids need reassurance from people they trust when times are tough. This doesn’t mean you have to sugar-coat everything and hide the truth. Rather, parents should make sure kids know they are safe and protected.
Just knowing you understand how they’re feeling and you’re there to support them will do a lot to alleviate fear and anxiety.
What else can parents do?
When children are upset by current events, it’s a good idea to minimise their exposure to news. This is a challenge with today’s 24-hour news cycle, but when kids are constantly hearing negative reports it will only exacerbate their worry.
It’s a good idea to sit down with your child to watch the news or read newspaper stories together. This allows you to talk through things and you can help them maintain some perspective.
Don’t be alarmed if your child displays regressive behaviours when they are feeling insecure. They may become clingy or disobedient or revert to baby talk. They are simply trying to cope in the only ways they know how.
Encourage your child to express themselves through painting, drawing and stories. This will help them release feelings in a healthy way and contribute to emotional stability.
Above all else, kids need love, patience and support during turbulent times.