Pediatric Associates of the NW Blogs

Now is the Time When Our Resilience Rises: Helping Kids Through The COVID-19 Health Emergency

Tamara Pederson, PhD
March 18, 2020 05:00PM


It’s hard to stay positive sometimes.  Life seems to keep sending us reminders that we’re not in control.  How am I supposed to stay hopeful and feel powerful in the face of adversities that are bigger than me?  It makes me angry. And sad. And sometimes scared.  We don’t like feeling powerless.  I don’t like feeling powerless. These are indeed difficult times.  We’re social distancing and really beginning to realize how disruptive that is to our daily lives and our sense of normality.  We’re having to adapt to new circumstances, and that’s stressful.  We’re concerned about how the current situation is affecting ourselves and others, and beginning to worry about what may lie ahead.  We’re grieving for those who’ve been lost. Difficult for sure, and yet, across the world we’re bringing to bear our tremendous resilience and capacity to thrive through adversity.   But that’s nothing new.  It’s always been that way…since time began human beings have been facing challenges and refusing to accept the idea that there’s nothing they can do.  We’ve confronted terrible things, moved through them, found a way. How many adversities we have faced, as individuals and together.  Amazing.  Hopeful.

Yes, these are difficult days and we worry they’ll become yet more difficult.  So we’re hunkering down, buying a lot of toilet paper and butter…just in case…but also making plans, problem solving, doing what needs doing.  We’re reaching out to people a bit more often, like the text blitz I made this weekend to friends and family who live thousands of miles away and my husband’s check-in with an 83 year-old neighbor.  We’re sacrificing our wants for the benefit of all, accepting the cancellation of the events that we’ve been looking forward to for months. We’re checking in with the owners and staff of our favorite neighborhood shops and restaurants, offering empathy and encouragement. We’re listening to inspirational stories and finding ways to laugh and show love. We’re mindful of our hands and cleansing our surroundings more often.  I even cleaned my kitchen trash can today – probably should have been done sooner.  We’re doing things and paying attention, thinking and appreciating. We’re being resilient because that’s what we do.

And, we’re showing the children how to be resilient, too.

We help them to cope and to thrive by tapping into their personal strengths and fostering new ones.  Like…


COMPASSION AND GENEROSITY: We all have something to give. 

* Children grow wiser when they practice understanding others’ feelings and when we listen openly to how they feel and what they think.  Understand that social distancing will affect children differently, depending on their developmental stage and temperament, and model the empathy that you want them to show.  

* Children grow stronger when they can help others. They see what it is like when people pull together.  Younger children can help you with tasks around the house, older ones can also participate in helping out neighbors, and families can choose an organization to which they might make a donation. Practice random acts of kindness.  Look up GOOD news online and talk with your kids about stories of generosity and caring and creative adaptation to challenge.


FLEXIBILITY AND CREATIVITY:  When things change, so do we. We’re made for bending. 

* Children cope best when provided adequate structure and support.  This allows them to then commit their energy to higher-level adaptation, modifying their thinking and behavior to adapt to new situations.  Sometimes that takes creativity.  While school is closed, make a daily routine at home, a new – though temporary – plan for the weekday, including activities that are familiar and therefore comforting.

* Foster your child’s flexibility and creativity by involving them in finding solutions to new situations. They’ll feel empowered.

* Provide opportunities for expressive activities like art and music and imaginary play.  They’ll process their feelings. 

* Challenge them to find safe ways to be active at home and in the yard.  They’ll find a way to make exercise fun.


CONNECTION: We’re stronger together. 

* Play together. 

* Ask older children open-ended questions and really listen to their responses.  

* Make eye contact, smile more, and laugh together. 

* Watch for your child’s strengths to manifest throughout the day and name them as they do…your kind/funny/loving/good-thinker/et cetera kid will show what they’re made of. 

* Reach out in whatever way you can to loved ones that you can’t be with – video chat, phone, or send cards and letters so that your kids can stay connected. Have “virtual” dinner parties with family members using a shared menu and a video chat app.  Set up the app for shared arts and crafts or game time with friends. 



* Practice mindful awareness of your own feelings and thoughts. 

* Practice self-care with realistic, self-sustaining expectations for yourself and your kids. 

* Breathe.  

* Look for good moments each day and talk about them with the kids.  Practice noticing what’s ok and what’s going well, despite what isn’t.  Appreciate someone or something and let it sink in. Invite your kids to do the same.


THINKING AND PROBLEM SOLVING: We use logic and experience to face new problems.

* Check your worries – are they productive?  Focus more on problem solving than imagining worst case scenarios. 

* Reassure your kids but be honest…know the facts and explain them at a level your child can understand, giving a brief explanation and waiting to see if they have additional questions.  Then focus on how you’re going to be ok – practice finishing this sentence – “Even though this is hard, we know we’ll be ok because….” 

* Reach out to other families to pool your collective wisdom and knowledge, get ideas, and give suggestions.


Yes, there are things we cannot control, things that really matter.  That’s not the end of it though - turns out there are things we can control.  When we accept the first and then focus on the latter, we move forward through the adversity.  We have hope and grow stronger. That’s what we do.

Remember that it’s human to struggle at times, that’s part of being resilient, too.  PANW is here to help in whatever way we can.  Call our office for support or for information on services available in the community. If your child needs someone to talk to about how they're feeling or you need support in helping your child weather this health crisis, our caring psychologists are available. Check out these resources for further, helpful information:    

CDC- Managing Anxiety and Stress 

Kids Health- How to Talk to Your Child About COVID-19

Michigan Health- How to Talk to Your Kids About COVID-19

National Traumatic Stress Network- Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019