Nathan Wallis: Top tips for supporting kids’ resilience post-lockdown
Many Kiwis have already felt the effects of lockdown in a number of ways – but when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, it’s widely predicted that the full impact still remains to be seen. Our tamariki (children) are no exception.
Here we’ve outlined a number of top tips from our resident parenting expert, Nathan Wallis, on how parents and teachers can best support children to help mitigate the potential negative impact of COVID-19 on their wellbeing and resilience.
For more advice from Nathan on building resilience in children, including sibling rivalries, aggressive behaviour and preparing teenagers for the workforce – watch here.
1. Building resilience going forward:
One of the best things parents can do to mitigate the potential negative impact of lockdown on children’s wellbeing, is to foster resilience in other ways.
Regular access to extended family (like grandparents), learning another language or a musical instrument, or even having a parent involved in parent education, are all major contributors to resilience in children, and therefore better outcomes later in life.
It’s also important for parents to be mindful of the language they’re using around children. Staying focused on the positives, like New Zealand’s response to the pandemic, will mean the impact of COVID-19 will be far less of a risk factor.
2. Explaining a new financial situation:
Many of us have experienced changes to our financial situation in recent weeks, and it can be tough finding the right way to talk to children about what this means. Start with these tips in mind:
- Share what’s appropriate to their age group. A 10-year-old doesn’t need to be across the same level of detail as an 18-year-old.
- Use language that demonstrates resilience. Acknowledge that the next few months might be difficult, and some sacrifices will have to be made - but reinforce that you’ll get through ok in the end.
- Get them involved – ask kids for ideas around how the family can cut expenses. They might surprise you!
- Focus on time, not money. Ask them for a list of activities they’d like to do as a family – baking, a board games night – and make them happen as alternatives to other “treats”.
3. Rebuilding child focus and perseverance:
Whenever we’re faced with an unpredictable situation (like COVID-19), our survival brain is aroused – making it harder to focus. If your child has been struggling to focus, or has started to give up easily, there are a few things you can do:
- Often we see a lack of perseverance around activities or subjects a child doesn’t like or want to do. Let them be in charge of choosing the topic they want to focus on, build perseverance with that, and then branch out from there.
- Start with things that are creative and open-ended such as Lego, art or an activity in nature. These sorts of activities are important because there are no right or wrong answers – so children have the opportunity to experience feelings of success.
- Let children go at their own pace and support them in finding their own solutions, rather than giving them the answer.
- Give them encouragement, and remind them of when they’ve previously had experiences of feeling challenged or overwhelmed, and have persevered through that.
4. If you believe a child needs help:
After a number of weeks at home with family, some children may still be experiencing a degree of anxiety around returning to certain aspects of everyday life, such as crowded spaces or fear of germs.
In these moments, reinforce that it’s okay to be feeling a little anxious, but that this is “normal” – it’s what they used to do – and you (and their teachers) are there to provide support if they need it. It can also help to remind them of other times when they were feeling anxious about something, and were ultimately successful.
Predictability can help to calm anxiety, so try breaking things down into manageable steps, giving children as much detail as possible around how the day will play out.
It’s natural for children to be feeling a little stressed right now, but if you’ve seen an extreme and sudden change in behaviour, that could be an indicator that your child isn’t coping. Extreme changes could include a generally outgoing child becoming withdrawn, or a child who is usually quiet starting to act out.
This is why relationships are so important, enabling adults (parents, family, teachers) to recognise and pick up on these changes in behaviour – and connect children with the additional support they need.
If your child needs help, you can turn to the following organisations for support and advice:
- National help line – call or text 1737
- Parenting Helpline – 0800 568 856
- Family Services – 0800 211 211
- 0800 732 825 (Auckland)
- 0800 555 434 (Central North Island)
- 0800 876 682 (South Island)
About Nathan Wallis
Nathan Wallis is a Neuroscience Educator, nib health insurance parenting expert and regular media commentator. He hosts sold out learning events for parents up and down the country (and abroad), talking to different stages of child development – including the first 1,000 days - and how parents can be supporting their children in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.
About nib health insurance nib health insurance provides cover for even the littlest Kiwis. Having hospital cover in place early, before any conditions start to develop, means kids will be covered for grommets, adenoids and tonsil removal if the need arises.
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