Making Children Our Priority
Research shows that even during tough times, children can thrive and grow. Giving them the right support and tools is essential. Dr. Andrea Letamendi shares seven ways to foster resiliency among children:
1. Start a dialogue. Giving children a safe space to talk about and explore their emotions will allow them to feel validated and heard. Address their anxieties and fears. If we are uncertain, it is OK to admit we do not have the answers to their questions. Speaking with children in a way that honors their intelligence will help them to think more critically and abstractly about the world.
2. Find opportunities to instill optimism. Reminding children of the positive things in their lives will help them to feel more able to move forward and less helpless. Assist them in finding the things they do have control of so that they do not fixate on what they cannot control.
3. Keep a routine going. Maintaining regular sleep, meal and play schedules is important to not let our distress overwhelm our sense of everyday comfort and control.
4. Maintain a watchful eye. Youth process the experience of stress differently than adults, and at times the impact can go undetected. Look out for children and teens that may be targets of bullying or hateful rhetoric. Those already experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health problems may be more vulnerable during this time.
5. Practice self-care. Nurturing ourselves with art, music, dance, and sports will help teach youth to cultivate their own creativity, passion, and self-efficacy.
6. Unplug. Take breaks from social media newsfeeds to prevent burnout and to model good self-management when children are watching us. Prioritizing “face-time” with children will help them improve their emotional literacy.
7. Embrace diversity. Being conscious of our own biases is important. Research shows that children can develop bias against already marginalized groups simply by observing nonverbal behavior in adults. How we treat each other is the best predictor of how children will treat each other.
Remember your kids look to you to determine how they should respond to the world, so it is important to take care of yourself during times of stress too.
Hathaway-Sycamores Director of Clinical Training Dr. Andrea Letamendi is a licensed clinical psychologist, TEDx speaker, consultant, educator, media commentator, writer, and podcast host. Her specialty topics include mental health advocacy, trauma and PTSD, anxiety disorders, suicide prevention and intervention, cultural diversity, and psychological resiliency. Seminars and workshops bring psychology together with superheroes, comics, science fiction, and fantasy. Dr. Letamendi speaks at universities, mental health agencies, public schools, and conferences. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Pop Culture Hero Coalition.