Andy Blum, LCSW, Early Childhood-5th Grade Counselor

This past Tuesday, [CLICK HERE TO SEE/HEAR THE RECORDED WEBINAR] I had the opportunity to sit on a panel and listen to the wonderful advice of Dr. Deborah Gilboa, who calls herself "Dr. G". Dr. G spoke about parenting during uncertainty and social distancing.  Her first question to the audience was, "25 years from now, how do you want to be able to describe your kids?"  Most answers consisted of character traits. How we wanted our children to be, not what we wanted them to be.  For example some answers were, "I want to be able to say he is a Mensch" or "I want my child to be a kind, caring adult, well adjusted, happy."

So how do we get there? How do we tackle this obstacle of Coronavirus? Dr. G had several solutions that I would like to share with you. She talked about creating resilience in our children. Resilience is the ability to experience change, incorporate it into our lives and move forward. Every time we experience a change, whether it be a positive or a negative change, we go through a cycle of resilience: change-loss-distrust-discomfort-choice-engagement-reunification. Dr. G asked where do you think your oldest child falls on this cycle? I have to admit, I have spent a fair amount of time in loss and discomfort.

To build resilience and protect our children's mental health, Dr. G talks about three skills children need:  

  1. Story-Telling. Allow your kid to tell you a story, however long and rambling it may be.
  2. Problem-Solving. Let your child try and solve their problem on their own.  Think to yourself, not "how can I fix it?", but "should I fix it?"  You can say, "you are a pretty good problem solver, what do you think?"
  3. Reaching Out For Help. Children should know how and when they should reach out for help.

In addition to being resilient, Dr. G went on to give some more practical advice on parenting and below were some of my takeaways:   

  • Our children's happiness right now in this very minute is not a metric of our success.  We have a lot of control over their happiness, and right now, we are telling them "no" a lot.  That is what we need to be doing.
  • Don't be afraid to give your child bad news.  Our kids are going to need a lot of practice in dealing with scary, frustrating and disappointing things in their lives.  We can help them deal with those feelings by letting them experience them, talking about how they feel, and explaining what they can do to feel better. 
  • Stress is not a bad thing.  It is a tool we have to experience to be more resilient.
  • Provide boundaries for your children.  Boundaries make a child feel safe, they give children consistency when they know what to expect.  This does not mean boundaries on feelings.  Your child can feel whatever they want, but there are boundaries on behavior, and how they express that feeling. 
  • Be your child's go to place to ask questions.   When answering questions, manage your reaction first, have your own safe person to go to deal with your feelings. Pick the value you want to impart to them (it could be hand washing) listen to them, and check back with them later.
  • Don't give in to your child because you feel guilty about the current situation. Dr. G referenced research of children who had received transplants.  Those sick children whose parents held them to the same expectation of the non-sick sibling did better than those who were treated differently because they were sick.
  • Screen time is like nutrition. You don't want your child eating broccoli all day even if it is good for them.  The focus should be on content not quantity.  A screen time with Grandma or learning Math is different from mindless videos.
  • Your kids are happy to see you.  Even if you are working, you are still having interaction with your kids.  Their perception of time is different than yours. They are just happy you are home.
  • Reach out to the people in your community if you have questions or concerns.  This is a difficult time.

If you would like more information about Dr. G or her talk you can visit her website athttp://bit.ly/parenting-coronavirus

Virtually here for you.