How resilient are your kids? If you aren’t sure, their reaction to the COVID situation may give you a clue – even for very young children. There’s a myth of sorts about resiliency…that all kids are naturally resilient and the things that may upset adults barely make an impression on our children.
In some ways it can be true, but resiliency is something that is a combination of the personality God gave your child and various environmental factors. It can also be a bit deceptive. You would think a child protected from all problems in life…who always gets his or her way…would be super resilient, because he or she has not built up a litany of disappointments.
Unfortunately, that environment can produce a less resilient child. The child living in a seemingly perfect world has never had to learn how to recover from setbacks and disappointments. They have developed few coping mechanisms…particularly godly ones. This often entitled child, may fall apart at the first sign of lack of perfection in life, instead of rising to meet its challenges.
We’re not saying you should invent difficulties for your kids to endure in order to “toughen them up”. Nor do we suggest sharing information with children that they are too young to process appropriately.
What we are saying is that there are things you can do as a parent to help your kids develop resiliency. This is especially important for Christian kids as they will have negative experiences when the godly choices they make don’t align in a culture that often rejects God’s commands.
Here are some ways to prepare your kids to be resilient when COVID or any other crisis or problem arises.
- Teach them lots of Bible stories and discuss what God wants them to learn from each story. Ever wonder why God put so many stories in the Bible instead of just printing off a list of rules for us? It’s because stories help people better understand and more importantly remember important things. The more Bible stories and principles within them you teach your kids, the more helpful information they will have from God to help them navigate anything life throws at them.
- Teach them the power of prayer. Prayer at its core is about having a conversation with God. Your kids need a lot of real life experience with how God answers prayers. They need to understand God can do anything that is in His will – regardless of how impossible it may seem to us. They also need to understand how much God loves them and wants to listen to them. If there is ever a situation where your kids feel isolated, knowing they have God there with them can change everything and make them much more resilient.
- Have an openly loving relationship with your kids. Tell them you love them. Hug them. Listen to them – actively listen to what they have to say – especially if they are sharing their emotions or how they are processing the stressful event.
- Teach them God has a plan for their lives and God’s timing is perfect and part of that plan. This is an abstract concept young children may have difficulty fully understanding. It’s important though to keep repeating the concepts. We can’t always understand God’s decisions or His timing – although many times looking back, we can clearly see what happened and why. The important thing is to help your kids learn to trust God has their best interests at heart. Of course, if you consistently model having your kids’ best interests at heart, it will be easier for them to trust God does.
- Teach your kids their true hope lies with God and spending eternity with Him in Heaven. Read scriptures that talk about hope, faith and God’s promises. Tell them about times in your life when you leaned on God in tough times and how it helped. Show them how being a Christian in a stressful circumstance is so very different from not being a Christian when life is difficult.
- Recognize each child may process stressful events in different ways and they should not be mocked for their reactions. Obviously, you want to correct any misbehavior that may be part of their reaction. It’s rarely if ever helpful though, to tell someone they are over or under reacting in a particular situation. Most of the time, those types of comments are just adding more pain to the situation.
- Don’t let them get stuck in a negative emotional state for long periods of time. Obviously stressful situations can cause sadness, despair, anger and other negative emotions. Unfortunately, if our minds stay in one emotional state for too long, it can become very difficult for the brain to change to another emotional state. You don’t want to rush their mourning or keep them from crying the tears that will help them heal. You do, however, need to try and give them emotional breaks from time to time. You can even say something like, “Let’s take a worry break for a few minutes and go watch this funny movie”, or whatever your strategy is to temporarily change their emotional state. If your child seems unable to switch emotional states for a couple of weeks, it’s probably best to call the pediatrician for advice.
- Have schedules, routines and boundaries that are enforced. Children are reassured by schedules, routines and even boundaries and rules that are consistently enforced. Now, they won’t admit they enjoy having a bedtime or a limit on screen time…but in their heart of hearts, those things give them a feeling that someone who cares about them has things under control and everything will be okay.
- Give them meaningful things to do. Never ending free time sounds good, but it’s not in your kids’ best interest. They need productive things to do like school work, learning something fun, doing crafts, playing an instrument, doing chores and serving others. Give them a role to play that contributes to everyone successfully navigating the stressful event, helps kids feel useful and productive…which in turn helps them understand they can contribute to the solution of a problem in at least some way. Keeping them busy will also keep their minds engaged in something other than the stressful event.
Becoming truly resilient is a process. Some personality types will be naturally more resilient than others, but teaching your kids these strategies will help them develop the resiliency Christians need to have to not only survive but thrive and produce fruit for God.