How to Develop Resilient Children and Stronger Families During COVID-19

Do you remember where you were the day COVID-19 hit “pause” and the world shrunk to face-to- face contact with your immediate family? A place where the outside world became the virtual, forbidden planet that we merely pass through. I do. The teachers were standing around the preschool playground nervously chatting away, distracted by the world news of the virus spreading into every conversation and facet of my life. It wedged itself into every subconscious thought, and with it came fear.

The Day COVID-19 Forever Changed the World

In the blink of an eye, everything that I thought I knew changed. My whole way of life had suddenly been transformed, and my social network, my universe got a whole lot smaller.

Do you remember where you were the day COVID-19 hit “pause” and the world shrunk to face-to- face contact with your immediate family?  A place where the outside world became the virtual, forbidden planet that we merely pass through.

I do. The teachers were standing around the preschool playground nervously chatting away, distracted by the world news of the virus spreading into every conversation and facet of my life. It wedged itself into every subconscious thought, and with it came fear. First one school closed, then the next, community gatherings postponed indefinitely.

Schools closed during COVID-19
Schools in PA began closing one by one

On Monday on March 9, 2020, we were riding the wave of the Jewish holiday Purim, celebrating the survival of the Jewish people with peals of laughter and joy playing games and activities.  We remembered Queen Esther’s compassion, wisdom, and courage to risk everything– including her own life to speak up for those who had no voice.

Queen Esther spoke up for what she believed in and save the Jewish people

Then four days later, everything began spiraling down. Life changed so radically on March 12, when we said our surreal, contactless goodbyes to the little ones and their parents, our second family. Bear hugs were replaced with waves, toe taps, and elbow bumps. As we packed up their backpacks and bedding for what we thought was two weeks, but knew in our hearts, that we had no idea if or when we would return.

Photographer Priscilla Du Preez
Families scrambled to navigate a contactless distancing world

But weeks became the rest of the school year as we scrambled to navigate in uncertain times.

In the morning when we say, “Alexa snooze” we can roll back over for 10 more minutes of shut eye, but when COVID-19 hit the world’s pause button, people needed to move beyond survival mode and find small ways to regain control and let joy in.

Families can learn from Esther, a Woman of Valor, because she also had a quality that led her to become the queen. She could have hidden when the king’s henchman searched the kingdom for the next bride, or next possible victim or scapegoat, but she did not.

Resilience is what helped Esther save the Jewish people and what has enabled countries like Israel to do more than survive, they thrive. 

Resilient- children- cope- better
Photographer Senjuti Kundo captures this girl’s joy!

Resilient children cope better

A little background first about my mission and why this is so important today. The landscape of teaching has radically changed. As a certified early childhood teacher for more than 15+ years and a Pre-K-12 feature writer, I’ve been asking myself what can be done to help families with young children.

On the front lines, I can see the emotional fall out from this mounting mental health pandemic crisis, its potential toll on families. Children are anxious and afraid, so are their over-stressed, over-worked 24-7 parents.

Some children are afraid to leave their house, beyond a neighborhood family walk. My goal is to help families address children’s coping skills in engaging, fun, age-appropriate ways.

Families-can-thrive-during-COVID-19
What if families could do more than just survive a crisis like COVID-19?

What if families could do more than just survive a crisis?

 Imagine if your children could emerge stronger and more resilient and also find small ways to rediscover the joy of being alive individually and as a family that might only seep in through the cracks at this point—coping skills that will help them face their fears beyond this crisis.

If we don’t teach children how to adjust and bounce back from change, find more ways to take back some control, and to discover what will make them happier, then psychologists say that this could lead to bigger mental health issues.

How to develop resilient children

But what if small bites of therapy were woven into a social emotional skills clubhouse presented in a fun, relatable way.

So, I’m teaming up with an established, successful creative arts integrative behavioral therapist and other educators to give parents like you the tools so you can be their child’s best teacher and skirt larger mental health issues.

Red’s magic is how she openly discusses her feelings and engages tots to do so too.

Since my preschool has gone virtual, I’ve been producing “Miss Lynda & Red’s Story Time Magic,” videos, which I do live during our Zooms with the book and my adorable red-haired puppet called Red.

In fact, when we started with “Reddy-locks and the Three Bears,” the next day we changed the story ending to empower Red, so she could step back, take three deep breaths and come up with a plan, instead of jumping out the window and fleeing in a state of panic (with embedded mindfulness practices, too).

In a Zoom class, my two and three-year-old’s created magic wands that reaffirm our inner strength, which she used as a prop in the re-enactment of the story. The follow-up lesson was “The Gingerbread Girl’s Cookie Smarts,” of course, she outfoxes the fox (told with all my hand painted characters).

What’s unique about me is that I embed empowerment skills into the story’s characters. The puppet can chat about her fears and insecurities in a kid-friendly way and how she faces them, so do the characters in the stories. (links)

Preschool children are identifying with Red as they listen eagerly to the stories. What if Red could have affirmations in her pocket that she shared before the story is read to remind children how special, strong, and clever they can be?

Just imagine mini Reds, or other representations of your child in his or her pocket? 

In our community, I’m going to explore ways to awaken and nurture your inner child so you can tap into your child’s curiosity, creativity, and joy, provide expert advice on creative ways to empower your family, and help your child grow in self-acceptance and awareness, and creative ways to share how you can and are involved in community outreach activities.

Please let me know if your child is interested in learning more about Red in the comment section. If you feel this will be helpful for your family, please comment and share with other families or with family-focused experts who may want to join our community so that we all not only survive, but resiliently thrive.

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