By Paula Jacoby-Garrett & Rachel Ziter-Grant
We are collectively going through something we have never seen in our lifetimes. For the majority of us, it changed our world drastically from the sudden shift to working from home or for some of us, losing our jobs. How to protect our family’s health and financial future is top on our minds and creates added stress to our lives.
As a parent, we guide our children, and they are affected and influenced by not only our actions but the way we approach problems like these. A recent article in Psychology Today1 by Noam & Habil reflects on the importance of a flexible mindset in times of crisis. “Having flexibility is to have the ability to shift perspectives and actions when new or unexpected events arise. This skill—or set of skills—allows us to adapt more easily to otherwise stressful and difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed for prolonged periods.” This type of mindset might not come quickly for some but can be improved through practice.
Parents can help support their children in a variety of ways, but starting with your emotional health is key. “Make sure your emotions, as a parent, are grounded. With change and uncertainty, there is a loss of control, which will often increase our emotions and emotional responses,” says Maria Paxinos, LCSW, Director of Student Development, Adelson Educational Campus. “Adjust your expectations as a parent during uncertain, stressful, and times of change and transitions. Be aware that your child might regress in behavior and thinking, display a change in mood, which will need a parent to re-evaluate what a child is capable of doing.”
Communication is key during these times for both the parent and the child. “Use empathetic communication. Empathetic communication takes into account what we do and say, how we do it, and the impact it will have on others.” (Paxinos). Reflect with your child on a time where they have successfully navigated change before. “Remember that behavior is communication. They may not be saying it verbally, so investigate what their behavior is trying to tell you.” Open communication may take time, be prepared to allow children ample time to express their feelings, and ask questions.
Having a flexible mindset doesn’t mean ignoring what is happening. The American Psychological Association2 says, “grieve those losses, then reframe how you think about these life events.” It’s essential to take care of yourself first, then focus on parenting.