It’s been exactly three months since most schools were closed in the US due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Unfortunately, many kids (and parents too) are still trying to make sense of what is going on and when life will be back to normal. We just can’t under-estimate the stress children are going through right now, being physically confined at home and socially distanced from friends. More than ever, we must pay close attention to their mental well-being and do everything we can to support them during this time.
One way we can help kids is to share with them some important leadership skills they can use to deal with this difficult situation.
1. Dealing with unexpected challenges.
Life is full of challenges. Figuring out how to be successful with virtual learning and navigating through different online learning tools: these are all common challenges we face. You gain more confidence after you get through difficult challenges, whatever they may be.
- Avoid the temptation to solve children’s challenges for them. It's OK they struggle a bit. Let them strive to figure things out on their own first. That’s how they build up their self-confidence in the long run.
2. Being OK with “not knowing”.
Many kids are still confused about what this pandemic is all about and why all the sudden, they are home and have to be away from their friends. Encourage them to ask question related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Encourage them to explore and find their own answers to these questions.
- Resist the urge to give them all the answers. It’s OK to not know. The reality is we (adults) don’t know all the answers either. Especially with a unpredictable situation like this, nobody knows exactly how things will unfold. It’s a leadership skill to be comfortable with “not knowing” and yet, still have the courage and confidence to say, “while we might not have all the answers, we’ll find a way and get through this.”
3. More Independence
Most families are being together in one closed space. It’s great we get to spend a lot of time under one roof. Recognize they still need their space, physically and mentally. Make a point to give kids some independence. Children need to be nurtured to become more and more independent as they grow up. Take this as an opportunity to increase your child’s independence.
- To the extent it makes sense with your family values and guiding principles: Let kids make their own schedule. Other than school related work, let them explore what topics they want to learn online. Let them find and try new hobbies that they can do at home, by themselves.
4. Dealing with Change
Change is one of the few constants in life. Those who can be flexible and deal with change effectively are much more successful and happier than those who can’t. It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself. -- Charles Darwin in his “Origin of Species.”
- Share your experience of how you are dealing with the change you face now with your work or business situations. Help your child to learn to deal with change and you’ll be doing them a huge favor for the rest of their lives.
The world needs compassion more than ever. Strive to be more compassionate in your everyday life and teach your children the same. Being compassionate is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children
- Make a point to share lots of the positive stories of people being compassionate and helping one another during this difficult time. This will not only lift up their moods but also inspired them to take action to help others.
6. Being Content When Alone.
This is a BIG one. Some children (adults) are incapable of spending even 15 minutes without the attention of others. As children grow up, unfortunately, they learn to attach to “things” to find contentment. Clothing, shopping, food, sports, parties and more can all become attachments in their own way to avoid being alone. (btw, adults are no different). As the Buddha says, “The root of suffering is attachment.”
- Help them recognize there is a great power in being able to “be content when alone”. It makes life easier, with fewer distractions and destructive temptations. Learn and incorporate some kind of daily mindfulness practice...whether it's journaling or a simple meditation technique for kids.
This COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt, transformed our society and family lives overnight, and it will take a while to get through it. I hope these ideas will give you some ideas to share with your kids and what they could learn from this difficult situation and help them incorporate these leadership skills to improve kids’ lives!