5 keys to building resilience in children during the pandemic

What is child resilience

Child resilience assumes the ability of children to adapt to adverse or disturbing circumstances. Resilience, whether in children or adults, is a quality that we must promote in such difficult times that we are going through: the coronavirus pandemic.

Resilience in children

Resilience in children

How to promote resilience in children

Promoting resilience in children allows the whole family to better cope with the current pandemic and other adverse situations. From the Child Trends Center (Wisconsin, USA), researchers Jessica Dym Barlett and Rebecca Vivrette, offer us some ideas to promote resilience in children. Here are the protection factors and some keys to achieve them:

5 keys to building resilience in children during the pandemic

1. Sensitivity and receptive parenting

To promote the healthy development of the child during the pandemic, it is necessary for the minor to be in direct contact with their figures of reference. The younger the child, the more they will need direct contact with their referral caregivers. As they grow older, the need for direct contact is less and they may resort to contacting them also by other means (chats, video calls or letters).

Caregivers should spend quality time with children. If, for security reasons or risk of contagion, they cannot be physically together, it is important that they communicate by other means.

2. Meet basic needs

The basic needs of the minor must be covered: food, accommodation, clothing, medical and psychological assistance. This is crucial to preserve wellness.

Asking for help in times of difficulty is a sign of strength and ability to mobilize resources. It is important to know how to access the different resources, be they hospital or social.

3. Emotional support for children

It is logical to find that children experience changes on an emotional and behavioral level during the pandemic. We adults also make an effort every day to try to adapt to what is happening. Some children may show symptoms of emotional distress, such as anxiety, sadness, anger, or excessive demand on parents. With good emotional support, the chances that the child’s emotional state will return to what it was before the pandemic increase.

To offer emotional support to children, we recommend keeping the 3 Rs:

  • Reassurance (consolation): comfort the child, ensuring the well-being and safety of him and his loved ones.
  • Routines: maintain predictable routines in terms of eating, sleeping, learning and playing.
  • Regulation: help the child to develop self-regulation strategies to deal with feelings or emotions that may be uncomfortable. Some of these strategies may be breathing, movement, or seeking calm times. It is important to set times to check “How are we feeling?”, Give the child space to ask their doubts, talk about their feelings or talk about issues that concern them in an age-appropriate way.

4. Caregiver support

When caregivers’ needs are met, the child’s needs are more likely to be as well. Protecting the physical and mental health of the caregiver is an effective strategy to promote the well-being of the child during and after the pandemic.

It is important to prioritize activities and time. Carry out first those activities that are most important and meaningful for the caregiver and their families. These priority activities can be: games at home, celebrating birthdays or achievements, or keeping in touch with friends. In general, try to focus on what can realistically be done under current circumstances.

The caregiver must allow himself to take breaks, both from work and from caring for the house and children. Have time for himself to rest, exercise, relax, or whatever activity he chooses. Stay connected with his reference groups whether they are social or religious family members.

5. Social contact

Maintaining contact with positive social relationships is a protective factor for both children and adults during the pandemic. Although personal contact is limited, physical distancing does not have to translate into social isolation. Social isolation is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect, for substance use and for family violence. During tragedies such as a pandemic, children interact less with protective agents who can recognize and identify warning signs at any given time within the family. Monitoring the safety of children is very important during the pandemic.

Therefore, maintaining virtual contact with the larger family and friends is a factor that improves children’s resilience. Older children should be encouraged to keep in touch with their peers.

In many children, a great capacity for adaptation and coping with adverse circumstances can be observed from a very early age. It is likely that there is an innate part that promotes this characteristic, but we cannot forget the more contextual aspect. We are social beings, and part of our characteristics are acquired through our experiences and through observational learning. Albert Bandura introduced the term modeling: how human beings learn by observing other human beings. Children constantly observe our responses to different events, the coping strategies carried out by the adult are observed by the child and are likely to replicate them at some point.

As adults, we have a much more important role than we think about children, especially our children. We convey to them how we face adversity, accept our emotions and deal with what is happening around us.

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