National Encouragement Day is celebrated on September 12th as a way to address the gloom and sadness many Americans feel after the annual September 11th memorials. Many people remember exactly where they were when the towers fell. Likewise, people over a certain age will probably always remember when they first heard of COVID-19.
Because this pandemic is worldwide, the scale is unimaginable. As of August 2021, there have been almost five million deaths, 114 million have lost their jobs, and countless people are dealing with all of this in isolation. But, you already know this.
The pandemic doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and there are so many questions we can’t answer right now. Will your state go under lockdown again? Will schools be remote this fall? Your kids are also worried about the future, and the best way to ease those worries (getting together with friends and family) is the exact thing they can’t do!
We are social animals, and isolation WILL cause depression and other physical and mental struggles (the only question is when). Your kids are experiencing many of the same stressors you are. Their lives have changed too. They miss playing with their friends—people need that connection with each other. So, how can you help and encourage your kids during a global pandemic?
Your Kids Have Big Feelings: understand, empathize and encourage them
Be honest with your kids about what is happening in the world. Use age-appropriate explanations, but be clear about the problems we are facing due to the pandemic, as well as the solutions. Kids are very observant, and they know what you are feeling. They want to help!
So, one way to encourage them is to include them in the solution. Explain that we have a real and serious enemy, but the world is working together to fight it. Teach them that protecting themselves is the best way to protect others, and ultimately, this will help us win the fight.
Encourage kids to wear a mask
Talk to your kids about the tiny world of bacteria, and what this means for their health. Help them visualize these miniature threats by explaining things in a simple way, maybe through a drawing. For example: The COVID-19 virus looks like a ball with a halo of spikes all over it (the word corona means halo) and when these pointy bits hook onto human cells, the virus starts replicating itself and makes people feel bad. Be as accurate as possible, but consider that an outcome-oriented story like “soap makes your hands slippery so the virus can’t latch on” may be helpful.
These conversations don’t have to be focused on the pandemic. For example, kids should learn to wash their hands before meals, and understand why and how food goes bad. Have them sniff expired milk—once is usually enough!
As for masks, they don’t have to be scary and medical. Help your kids pick out and personalize their masks (how about some tie dye?).Make them different, make them fun!
As before, it is important to be honest with your kids about what is happening and why. But you can teach them to focus on “what can we do about it.” Just being present with your kids will encourage them—this way they’ll know you always have their back.
Find ways to stress relief
As a parent, you likely spend more time and effort caring for your child than for yourself, most days. But remember the rule on airplanes about putting the mask over your own face first? Think about that for a moment. Your kids depend on you.
Your health is a priority! You need to take care of your physical and mental health first, before you can encourage and support others.
Self-care is a priority, not an option. Take a deep breath, slow down, and find a way to calm your body and mind on a daily basis. Our favorite methods include:
Taking a walk
A digital disconnect (turn off your phone, step away from the computer)
Limiting your exposure to the news (you only need to know what YOU NEED to know)
Once you’ve found a great relaxation routine, teach your kids. Stress relief can be taught. Keep in mind that just like you, their mental health is just as important as their physical health.
Find a New Favorite Family Activity
When this is all over, we will miss spending so much time together.
This is a unique moment in history, and because so many things about our daily lives are different, it is important to find new family activities that everyone enjoys. Think about ways to turn quantity time into quality time. Have some fun together!
Get outside and play! Spend time at the park, the beach, the local pool, or even your backyard. Wouldn’t it be fun to play the games you watch on TV? For example, a team sport like basketball makes a great family activity and you can play on a full-size court, set up a small arcade basketball situation, or install an inflatable basketball in the pool.
Many families enjoy puzzles, crafts and regular movie nights. It doesn’t matter what specific activity you choose, as long as you are spending time together.
So on this National Encouragement day, take a moment to rest and recharge so you can help your child. Encourage them! Remind them (and yourself) that this too shall pass, and that every problem has a solution. Focus on what you CAN do, and teach your kids to do the same.
There you have it! We hope you have some new ideas on how to keep your spirits up and encourage your kids during a global pandemic.