Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School Psychologist
Adults, teens, and children have had to deal with many frightful challenges, difficulties and hardships in these past two years. Riots, protests, COVID-19 pandemic, west coast calamities of burning acreages and power outages, not to mention sporadic school and college closures represent just a few of the hazards of every day living. As mental fatigue, physical and psychological exhaustion sets in we parents, educators and community leaders, can not afford to focus intently on our own troubles without reaching to help our most vulnerable. We must help them develop coping skills.
5 Tips to help your child deal with a crisis
Research undertaken by the John Hopkins All Children Hospital informs parents to:
- return to established routines as quickly as possible,
- engage in meaningful conversations about the challenges,
- minimize your child’s access and participation in social media and news programming,
- encourage your child to express his/her/it feelings and provide validation of fears, and
- seek other outlets of tactile expression such as art, sports, and games.
While these research based tips are effective in helping children and young adults deal with crisis, uncertainty and disappointment; what may be equally important is the manner by which adults handle these threats to our quality of life and peaceful existence. Do we possess adequate coping skills for which our kids can imitate and ultimately emulate? Don’t forget our children are watching us. Each day we teach our children adaptive or maladaptive coping skills for handling uncertainties.
Social Learning through Observation
In working with parents and educators in a school setting, I often point to the works of Albert Bandura, who emphasized “the importance of observing, modelling, and imitating the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others.” He coined his philosophy, the “Social learning theory to consider how both environmental and cognitive factors interact to influence human learning and behavior.”
Some of the early research regarding social learning, also called observational learning, is that infants as young as 21 days will “imitate facial expressions and mouth movements” of their caregivers and parents. But the mimicking of a grin, smile, smirk, or grimace is one thing, what about multi-step and more complex behaviors?
Once again, research demonstrates that both children and adults, when confronted with a novel situation (something new to them), they learn from others within their immediate environment on how best to respond and ultimately how to behave.
So the key then is not merely telling our children or young adults to “suck it up“, “go with the flow” or “deal with it.” Nor to rationalize the situation by over explanations “such is life” or “as the world turns“, or even “the only sureties in this life are death and taxes.”
Be a testimony of peace and tranquility
The key to the teaching of positive coping skills in the face of a global, national, local or family crisis is to be the peace we wish to experience, give the love we hope to receive and serve as the steady rock of calmness when the world is falling apart. How you might do this varies by individual. A few of my techniques though follow.
- Start the day with a positive meditation,
- Listen to calming, soothing music on your way to work or muted softly in your home office,
- Refrain from watching television news casts or reality shows that sensationalize drama,
- Refrain from discussing at length or in grave detail the policies of our political leaders for which you disagree,
- Exercise or partake in some form of physical movement at least 20 minutes per day,
- Watch a comedy or classic movie,
- Play family board games or a deck of cards,
- Walk your dog or play with your cat,
- Refrain from criticism (let your words affirm life and love not destroy it).
I guess what I am proposing is that while we can’t change the external circumstances that have given rise to the challenges of least year and this; what we can do, as adults in our household is create a safe haven where our children or young adults feel safe in such an unforgiving world. We should endeavor to create a place of refuge where they might re-charge their physical, emotional and psychic batteries.
In so doing, your child will also “witness adults behaving peacefully.” With the added benefit that your child, college student or young adult still in search of him/her it self will “will mimic the behavior, and in turn, become more peaceful themselves.”
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Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya at ishareknowledge dot com