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Helping Children Thrive During the COVID-19 Era

Life has changed drastically for our children. From a spike in screen time and fewer opportunities to interact with their peers, to an environment rife with stress and uncertainty.

How is this affecting our kids and what can we as parents do to help them not only navigate this new era, but possibly even thrive? Dr. Lisa Machoian is a Harvard-trained national expert on adolescent mental health and has worked with children, teens, and parents for 30 years as a therapist, parenting coach, and consultant. She has been an invited speaker for Harvard Medical School Conferences and The Department of Health and Human Services, amongst others. 

Dr. Machoian was invited to speak in a virtual webinar hosted by RSM, in which she shared the following ways in which parents can help their children navigate the COVID-19 era. 

Building Self-Esteem

  • Praise children for who they are not just what they do
  • Seek opportunities to praise
  • Focus on their strengths
  • Build self-confidence:
    • Competency-engage in activities of which they feel happy, excel, and feel successful;
    • Efficacy: “I can do it” “I am capable”
  • Helping others, praise for kids helping, helping others helps the helper feel good
  • Helping at home
  • Communicate your love is unconditional
  • Help them feel special
  • Encourage them to pursue their interests, fully—high interest leads to thriving
  • Don’t be afraid of things not always working out- that’s how resilience is grows
  • Teach good decision making-skills:
    • Is this a healthy choice?
    • Is this a happy choice?
    • Is peaceful choice
    • Cause and effect of choices
  • Set goals
  • Support goals that are reachable/attainable
  • Be proactive in dealing with problems
  • Teach persistence
  • Don’t let problems linger, resolve them quickly
  • Don’t compare your child to siblings, friends, cousins, or peers
  • Be empathic
  • Maintain open communication
  • Delight in your child!

Daily activity:

Have your child name a strength, talent, character trait (I’m kind, good friend, helpful, smart, good at math, good at drawing, good at skipping etc..), something I like about myself, something I love about myself, something they’re good at doing or being, write it down and put it on a bulletin board, in a jar, in a notebook. Document it so it can be read/re-visited with your child on a regular basis. You can also have family members add to this.

Encouraging and Promoting Optimism and Hope

These daily activities can be done together dinner time, bedtime

One positive/good thing that happened today: (this is a good dinner time activity)

  • Daily have your child name one positive/good thing that happened that day and write it down (Make a list in a notebook/journal, put it in a jar, on a bulletin board)
  • Positive Things about Others:
  • Have a family member say one thing positive other family members did or did for another person, or simply a positive thing about another
  • Daily Gratitude:
  • Daily have your child name one thing for which they are grateful! Record this in a jar, on a bulletin board or in a notebook or journal
  • Rose and Thorns, Sunshine and Rain:
  • Sharing the highlight(s) and lowlight(s) of the day
  • Maintaining Social Connections and Social-Emotional Development outdoors and indoors
  • Having conversations, encouraging give and take, taking turns, being a good listener, maintaining and encouraging all social skills children would do in person, by trying to adapt these skills remotely. Keep kids communicating and relating, even if online! Encourage and plan both outdoor safe, socially distanced activities with family and friends, and virtually via calls/zoom/facetime, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins.

“I’d rather game…” taking turns and learning about others

Make it a game, with your kids, with their friends, or parents and extended family members to learn about others, take turns saying things such as:

  • I’d rather swim in the ocean than swim in a pool
  • I’d rather eat spaghetti than macaroni and cheese
  • I’d rather wear sweat pants than jeans”
  • I’d rather skip than hop

Taking turns

  • Taking turns - with parents, friends, and family, in person or virtually
  • Games such as: Tic-tac-to, Go fish
  • Outdoors Activities: safely socially distanced, masks, observing safety guidelines
  • Going for walks: walking and talking with friends and family
  • Kicking a ball from a distance back and forth
  • Running, jumping, skipping, hopping on one or both feet
  • Sack races
  • Tossing a bean bag (wash/sanitize your hands before and after)
  • Outdoor games such as “Red Light/Green
  • Hopscotch
  • Jumping rope
  • Outdoor picnics
  • Outdoor dancing with friends or family
  • Fall colors and foliage walks, collect leaves, notice the colors, notice wildlife, notice the sounds, notice the smells. Does autumn smell different than spring? What about winter?
  • Nature walks: walk outdoors and collect, twigs, leaves, small rocks and pebbles to make a collage and show it to your friend on virtually or at a safe distance
  • Bike riding
  • Roller Blading, Roller Skating, Ice Skating

Indoor activities that you can also can do virtually: (you can do with your child or they can do virtually with others)

  • Scavenger/treasure hunts
  • I spy something yellow, walk around the room with video chat/FaceTime
  • Lunch or a snack together
  • Dancing together
  • Listening to music together
  • Watch a show or movie
  • Cooking
  • Art: drawing, painting, clay, collage
  • Making playdough together
  • Parallel play on screen
  • Reading stories, bedtime stories
  • Create stories
  • Make beaded strings to hold masks
  • Singing together
  • Movement together
  • Movie night (someone picks the movie), let your child pick the movie
  • Develop a hobby

Remote Learning: Most optimal is live and interactive!

  • If possible, have a specific space for remote learning (some kids will need this, others may not)
  • Remember all children have different learning styles
  • Some kids may need to stand at times (think of adult standing desks)
  • During the virtual school day, take breaks to stretch, have lunch, snacks and hydrate, listen to a favorite song, any type of movement
  • Validate their feelings
  • Lots of praise!
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