What’s in Your “Endurance Bag”? Coping during COVID-19 and beyond

What if you knew there were easy steps you could take to keep your children safe? And how wonderful would it be that these steps not only kept them safe, but also ensured they would have healthy coping skills for life?  You can create your own “Endurance Bag” and help your children with this too!

Before COVID-19, we were already aware that children today are in need of something different when it comes to social emotional learning. Academics alone are not providing them with the skills to cope well when they embarked upon adulting in work or college.

Children are increasingly being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which often leads to medication that is meant for adults. (Discussing the theories on why our children are not coping well with daily living will be addressed in another blog.)

Our nation has begun to add Social-Emotional Learning to our curriculum.  The goal is to help families and communities by teaching life skills to our children. Currently, as I am talking with parents and kids, I am hearing interesting responses to the present stressor of isolating at home. From these conversations I have seen some patterns that helped me to create a few tips to share with you.  These tips will help families cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The kids are watching us.

Our children will take their cues from what we do and how we act, not so much from what we say.

As you increase your awareness of your own coping skills, you will see what you are modeling when under stress.  Awareness of this is not about blame, but about creating a safe environment and a better coping style for your kids.

During stressful times, it is tempting to turn to comfort food, binge-watching tv programs or news, or increased use of alcohol or other substances. And that is fine for a day here and there. But if that becomes the new normal for us as parents, it will have a trickledown effect on our children (from newborn and up).

As parents, we may at times blame our kids for their acting out behavior. It is easy to forget that kids, like adults, have a full range of emotions.  Because they are kids, they don’t have coping skills to manage big emotions. We may tell them not to yell (while yelling at them to stop yelling—yes, we all have done it!) when simply, they are a biological mess of pent up energy and confusion with no understanding of why they are feeling so out of control.

So where do we start? How do we break this cycle?

  1. Step one is to look inward.
    • Ask yourself, what do I have in my “endurance bag” (besides a stockpile of TP J) that helps me feel better when I am stressed? Name at least 3 (think people, type of movement, hobby, for example).
  2. Start integrating these “endurance bag” items into your everyday living.
    • Model this for your kids by labeling. For example, “Mommy/Daddy is feeling cranky right now so I am going to _______ (take a shower, drink some water, go for a walk, call a friend, sit outside in the fresh air, share a hug with someone I love, take a timeout and listen to music)”.
  3. As you regroup and re-enter the family space, you are demonstrating (by your calm facial expression, open and relaxed body language and reassuring tone of voice) that it is okay to feel intense feelings, to recognize them, and then put skills into place that help you move into a more neutral functioning zone.

As we help ourselves and model for our children, there will be a positive trickledown effect.  By changing your own responses to the world around us, you show your children how to handle what is actually in their control.  Once you are in a better rhythm, you can then help your children figure out what they have in their own “endurance bag”.

Our children are looking to us constantly to learn how to cope.  And when you learn new methods, you can introduce them to new ways to deal with their confusing emotions during difficult times!

 

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