Helping children cope during stressful times

Parenting in a pandemic could well be one of the most stressful things you could experience. It is a balance between managing our own emotions and stress, trying to understand it ourselves and knowing how to teach our children coping mechanisms in times of despair. At St Martins our counselling team is here to help parents cope and in turn support the children to cope through COVID-19.

Children all respond individually to the stress of a pandemic and we cannot predict in which way they will respond to stress. The different ways of responding to stress might be; anxiousness, clingy, withdrawal from friends and family, angry, agitated, and/or sleep issues.

Children of all ages will need extra care from their parents, even if they seemingly don’t want the extra attention. Supportive ways of responding to our children could be, more one on one time, going for a drive to have a conversation with your teenager, playing games with your little ones, physical touch and active listening.

Using active listening skills will help to make your child feel heard, letting them speak first, nodding and waiting until they finish talking before you speak. When listening actively try not to give advice or tell them what to do, instead let them talk and then encourage them to talk some more without interrupting. Sometimes what a child needs is a listening ear without action or a need to fix the problem.

Use as many opportunities as you can to keep your child engaged at school, in sport or community-based activities. Connection and positive relationships help foster hope and build resilience as well as keeping your child in a normal routine. Keeping routines and normality helps to provide a stable base for children to grow from and keeps them feeling safe which is a basic human need.

Most of all look after yourself as a parent, self-care and self-compassion is the most important part of parenting as we know we can’t give to others if we have nothing left ourselves. As God’s love tells us: “For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church.” ~ Ephesians 5:29

At St Martins Jane Savage and I are here to help your children find some coping strategies for themselves and implement them at school and at home. We welcome any parents touching base with us if you are concerned about your child or you want someone to talk to about how your family is coping.

Carmen Bliss

School Counsellor