Uncertainty is part of life and yet our brain, which creates our thoughts and feelings, loves certainty and predictability.
The pandemic has created more uncertainty in families, schools and communities than most people can recall in their lifetimes. With no clear end point, more stress and anxiety may well be triggered. In small doses anxiety heightens your sense of focus, giving you an increased level of energy, and increases your chances of managing a potential challenge that has appeared. In large doses, this anxiety is problematic, as it can cause feelings of being overwhelmed and even panicked.
The Lesson of Being Real
Many fears and unexpressed emotions lie beneath the stress of navigating uncertainty. Be prepared to share your emotions with your children, especially feelings of sadness. They experience grief every time they lose the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, go on holiday or return to school to see friends.
Grief is not a sign of weakness. It shows you are human. Let your children see you cry and give them the agency to know what to do. They can grab a tissue, they can give you a hug and, if they’re old enough, they can make you a cuppa.
Your children need to see that when bad things happen to adults, they can feel upset for a time. There are many ways you can help children cope with uncertainty.
Teach your children that nothing is permanent. Good things come and go. So will tough times. Change is a part of life and can be positive or challenging. Share stories about how your family recovered from hard times. Adaptability and flexibility are key components of resilience, which can be nurtured in childhood.
Make Choices That Ease Fear and Anxiety
Remind your children and young people that they are not powerless. Resting, reading and relaxing are great tools to ease fear and anxiety. This might include taking deep breaths, listening to music, or making others laugh. Getting outside to play or walk the dog is another simple way to ease the nervous system.
Focus on the Things You Can Control
Simple habits and routines really make a difference. When everything is changing routines and rituals such as regular family mealtimes, bedtimes and wake up times help maintain a sense of normality. These rituals provide an important anchor helping them feel in control.
Encourage Your Kids to Have a ‘Gratitude Attitude’
Though times are no doubt really tough for many, you can choose to feel grateful for the things you have, and the people love, and you can model this mindset with your children.
Hope is an important antidote to feeling stuck in fear. Encourage feelings of hope by sharing wonderful memories via photos or videos which can lift everyone’s spirit. Plan a new experience to happen when that becomes a possibility.
Children and young people need to understand that life can be an unpredictable ride and together you can adapt and find a way through to each new day.
The greatest tool you have as a parent in these times is to remember that you are the ‘safe base’ for your children and young people. If you can embody that, and help them feel that no matter what, your love and support is a certainty, then the uncertainty around us all becomes a lot more manageable.