We are fortunate as Canadians, in the province of Alberta, that for most of us the last few months, while challenging, have not been as traumatic as in other parts of the world due to our many social safety nets. As we move into “Phase II” of the pandemic recovery, it is a perfect opportunity for parents/caregivers and their children to engage in self-reflection and identify the new skills and attitudes they may have developed during this time that can help prepare them for our uncertain and changing world. In doing so, consider the following tips:
EMPHASIZE THE POSITIVE:
- Words have power. Your mind and your children hear what you say aloud so choose positive language. i.e “This has been an eventful time in our lives.” Or “What an interesting learning experience we have had.”
- Brain research indicates that negative memories tend to “stick” more than positive ones likely because our brain remembers more details when it perceives threat. Therefore we need to be more intentional in building positive memories. When recalling the past few months focus on the opportunities such as spending more time with family or on self-care, taking up or renewing a hobby, or finally getting organized/ competing a household task. Create reminders of the things you enjoyed such as photos or mementos that reinforce positive thoughts and feelings.
- Cultivate gratitude. Reframe disappointments as opportunities for growth and learning. Model happiness and appreciation. Discuss as a family, what were the highlights of the past few months? What is each family member looking forward to the most as we return to former activities? Remember that gratitude is a personal experience so try and not tell your children what they should be grateful for, instead brainstorm ideas together. According to Madeline Levine, PhD (2020), the instillation of hope and optimism are the two ultimate life skills that will help prepare your children for the future.
BE PREPARED FOR NEW ISSUES TO EMERGE AND THINGS TO BE DIFFERENT:
There are few things we have complete control over except our reactions and effort. When new frustrations arise be a supportive listener but remind your children that they have shown the ability to manage their “big emotions” and tackle their problems.
Our brain thrives on predictability so much that research shows people prefer to make choices based on known variables even if making a slightly less certain choice could potentially lead to greater reward. In today’s world, however, it is increasingly important to encourage our children to be comfortable with uncertainty and take educated risks. The opportunity to be wrong or make “prediction errors” gives them the chance to rethink a problem, challenge assumptions and consider alternatives so they will have a greater chance of getting it right the next time.
Life is tough so developing perseverance is vital for children. Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” concept promotes perseverance. Her strategy is to support children who have not achieved mastery by inserting the word “yet” into the conversation frequently. “I can’t figure out this problem-yet.” “I only got to play 5 minutes in the game. I should quit the team. I am no good at basketball-yet.” “I made so many mistakes. I can’t do geometry-yet”. The word “yet” indicates you have lots of time to develop competence. In general, when it comes to learning focus on the process not the product.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE AMAZED:
On a personal level, I have always struggled with technology and am guilty of avoiding learning new skills and depending on others. During this time of increased working from home I have been forced to learn many new technology skills like using Zoom and Microsoft teams and even troubleshooting when things went wrong. It was not always a smooth process and I experienced lots of frustration but moving forward I am proud of my increased independence in this area. Remember. “Hold people capable, including yourself and you will be amazed”. Please share your stories of “growth” during the past few months to celebrate and inspire others.
Alberta Government (2018). The Heart of Recovery. Creating supportive school environments following a natural disaster.
Levine, Madeline,PhD. (2020). Ready or Not. Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, Harper Collins Publishers, New York.