Everybody has suffered a wave of mental trauma over the last year. Children, in particular, are caught in a vulnerable state where their world seems to have changed completely and they’ve had to adapt to a new way of living. The key to helping children stay safe, in a good space, and keep themselves mentally active is to remember that their needs need to be met, no matter what.
Whether it’s face-to-face interaction or digital, technology is not the villain here, it’s how we use technology that causes problems. I can go online and use it to distract myself, to fill my mind with fear and doubt, to bully others or I can use it to learn, to connect with others, to help others, to contribute to society. Instead of ‘banning’ technology, parents need to take the time to understand and master their child’s needs. The more you do that, the more you can support them no matter what the environment is. As long as a child feels that their needs are met, they will develop the mental and emotional strength to get through this pandemic. Here are three ways on how you can help your child:
1. Support your child is having a growth mindset:
You need to shift away from the mindset of success and failure, and stop putting so much pressure on a child about studying and academic achievement; that’ll only get them short-term results. Instead, help them become a life-long learner. Help them fall in love with learning, not just academic learning but learning about life, about different interests, hobbies, about people, whatever it is that catches their attention and that they are interested in. Help them and inspire them to love learning. If they come from learning instead of success and failure, they will never fear failure. A lot of our mental health is affected by the fear of failure and that’s why academic achievement is always such a stressor for children. If they practice their learning muscle and develop into a lifelong learner, they will never feel that internal pressure. That means learning will become a source of joy and fun rather than a source of stress. Parents need to learn not to over-control what their child grows in, to let them find their passion for learning even if the subject may seem irrelevant to them. It’s the muscle of growth and learning which they’re developing that is important and that can be used and applied to anything in life- academically or non-academically.
2. Give them love and connection:
Remember that one of our primary needs is love and connection. If children can’t get that need met from seeing their friends right now then they need to find other sources. So if they must connect digitally for a while then that’s the way to do it. A child that does not have love and connection will get wrapped up in their heads too much. They’ll start to have negative thoughts, they’ll worry too much and they’ll start to stress. Love and connection is a fundamental need and the more interactive you can make it, the better. Let them play games (video games or board games) and let them bond with each other. That time is essential for them; don’t deny that time, direct that time- whether it’s half an hour or an hour a day. Don’t delete or manipulate that time. Let them find friends that are valuable to them and let them find ones with a growth mindset that will help them develop theirs too. It’s helpful to be around people that are naturally driven by the same way of being.
3. Help build your child’s mental and emotional muscles:
Instead of using Covid as a tool to cause fear, use it as a tool to teach them a great life lesson. Teach them about the power of courage and caring. Give them references of courage and caring from the community and inspire them on how they can use theirs right now. Maybe that is by starting a project, fundraising, or contributing in any small way possible. This moment in history is so unprecedented that it’s a great opportunity to learn powerful life lessons. Don’t shy away from the topic of Covid, don’t bring it up as something to be fearful of, bring it up to help them be more grateful, faithful, and stronger. Use it to inspire them so that they have the inner strength to get through this and any difficult time in their life, set them up for the future and a world of uncertainty
(Anand Chulani is a success coach and leading mental and emotional fitness expert. He has worked with over 100k youth and families and over 500k people. Views are personal)