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Healthy Habits

How to Teach Children Resilience during a Pandemic

Learn how you can teach your child to have confidence to thrive under stress.
3 min read
September 3, 2020
Dr. Jill Lundstrom
Board-Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Jill earned her MD at the University of Massachusetts. She believes that all children deserve access to quality healthcare to learn and thrive.

Families are facing new and unexpected stress and anxiety. Caregivers need to maintain their family’s safety during a pandemic, manage financial stress, and homeschool their children. Our kids are struggling to navigate upended routines and isolation from friends.

Many families are wondering how the uncertainty of current events is affecting their children. How can parents help their kids develop the coping skills necessary to build resilience? The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be taught and now is the perfect time to start.

Resilience is the ability to endure stress and still thrive. It develops as kids overcome challenges and acquire the self-confidence to tackle the next problem ahead.

Some children are born with a higher level of resilience, but resilience can also be strengthened like a muscle.

A process called “scaffolding” is important to the development of resilience skills.  Just like scaffolding is used in construction to support a building until it can stand on its own, caregivers use emotional scaffolding to support kids until they have a strong foundation.

Some ways parents can help build their child’s “scaffolding” include:  

Provide Routine

Unpredictable changes cannot be avoided at this time, but we can strive to offer routine. Routine provides a sense of safety and predictability. Children can best monitor their emotional state when they can guess what is coming next. Post your child’s schedule in a visible place to reinforce consistency.

Help your child maintain a wake-up time by getting out of bed at the same time during the week. Keep a consistent schedule for your child to eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and change out of pajamas.

Schedule focused time for subjects, such as History from 10-10:30, with appropriate breaks and flexibility for recess, gym, and music.  

Build Confidence

When children have the confidence to master new skills, it is easier for them to adjust to challenges in life. We can help kids grow independent by giving them just enough help while letting them experience and grow from mistakes. Develop challenging but attainable activities for your child. Support mistakes and celebrate successes.

Young children may water plants or set the table.

School-aged children may help care for a pet or fold laundry.

Adolescents can prepare a simple family meal or plan a family night.

Practice Mindfulness

Kids can learn to calm themselves by focusing on what’s happening at the moment. Practicing with caregivers deepens the connection between the child and the caregiver while helping kids control how they react to stress long-term.

Try “The Big Squeeze”

  • Start with their toes, coach your child to pick one muscle and squeeze it tightly

  • Count to five, then release

  • Pay attention to how the body feels

  • Repeat by moving up the body and squeezing different muscles, one at a time

Encourage Play

Remember that for kids, play is not just played. It is a time to work out problems in a non-judgmental, safe zone. It allows children to explore their environment and test problem-solving skills. Schoolwork is important, but learning also happens when playing.  

Processing Emotions

In a time of uncertainty and challenging emotions, don’t ignore your feelings. Take the time to talk through your emotions with your children. Children need to know that it is okay to have emotions, and that talking about emotions with the people we care about is good and necessary. Encourage conversation, writing, and storytelling.

Children are very perceptive and watch how you treat yourself. Work to model coping skills that your children can mimic.

Model self-forgiveness

Your child can learn to be kinder and more forgiving of themselves when they see their caregiver model self-compassion. You do not need to be perfect, especially with new and stressful demands on your time.

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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.