Kids & Coping in the Current Social Climate: Ways to Help

Kids & Coping in the Current Social Climate: Ways to Help

Overwhelming. Unpredictable. Tense.

These are three words, among many, that describe our current social climate. The horrific death of George Floyd, on the heels of the deaths of other African‐American citizens, has unearthed long‐standing and systemic divides in this country. Further, it has resulted in increased tension, stress, and uncertainty for many adults. In addition, the country’s collective landscape has the potential to negatively impact our children.

To help reduce the likelihood of unhealthy emotional outcomes among children of all ages, both
in the short‐ and long‐term, adults can implement an array of strategies, as follows:

  • Pay attention – be aware of what your child may see and hear at home. Children of all ages may experience emotional upset if exposed to violent images. Also take note of changes in your child’s typical behavior, as this may be a sign of emotional distress.
  • Maintain healthy limits and boundaries – children (and adults) crave predictability, which makes the world feel less scary and overwhelming. Communicate what is acceptable and not acceptable at home, and then be consistent.
  • Work to stay in control of yourself – children are observant and aware of the adults around them. Do your best to remain calm and be a voice of reason at all times.
  • Stick to familiar routines and schedules – in uncertain times, maintaining structure and engaging in familiar routines throughout the day will offer comfort to your child, as well as make them feel safe.
  • Be available to listen – be ready to simply listen to your child, especially if they express themselves. Consider creating spaces throughout the day to simply sit and be present with your child. Celebrate your child’s openness, reinforce that you are there, and share that they are not alone.
  • Share information in age‐appropriate ways – be honest and factual about events without overwhelming your child. It’s OK to say: “Lots of things are happening around us, and sometimes that can feel scary. It’s OK to feel. Know that I will do everything I can to make you feel safe.” Also explore ways to educate your child about race and
    racism. Resources: 
  • Limit media exposure – instead of allowing your child to peruse TV and social media for extended periods of time at home, explore ways that you can connect as a family. Setting this boundary will help your child feel less frightened and foster a sense of security.
  • Model self‐care – take the lead in showing your child how to release tension. You might encourage participation in physical activity, relaxation and stretching exercises, and/or self‐care breaks throughout the day.
  • Offer a creative outlet – know that all children do not express themselves in the same way. Consider ways to help your child release emotions through drawing/painting, writing, singing, and other imaginative ways.
  • Make sure daily needs are met – ensure that your child’s nutrition, as well as sleeping, habits remain intact, both of which bolster overall health.

While we cannot control the events happening around us, we can control our response to what is happening around us. It’s challenging to consider the fullness of our current events as adults. At the same time, our current events have created a genuine opportunity for you to deeply connect with and better understand your child, dialogue about real‐life concerns, and create a sense of safety and security. Will this be easy? Of course not. But it will definitely be worth it!

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