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How to Help Your Kids' Emotional Development During a Pandemic

With social and emotional needs on the rise and the methods of incorporation low or inconsistent, how can families provide the skills needed to foster emotional learning at home? Here are some tips for adults and caregivers.
Emotional Development During Pandemic
By: Robin Glenn

Kids worldwide aren’t just missing out on birthdays and social events, they’re also missing key developmental experiences. With social interactions at an all-time low, kids have less exposure to their friends, teachers, and in some cases, their loved ones, including parents.

More: 5 Ways Kids Can Stay Connected and Social While Social Distancing

Most skills for social and emotional learning are now taught in schools, but during the pandemic, a time when kids need it most, teachers and administrators are striving to provide the basics of core academics. Educators are being faced with many challenges including online and hybrid models, accessing struggling students, and locating students who are simply missing from school altogether.

With social and emotional needs on the rise and the methods of incorporation low or inconsistent, how can families provide the skills needed to foster emotional learning at home?

Here are some tips for adults and caregivers:

Be yourself.

Kids connect with authentic deliveries. It’s okay to fumble, it’s even okay to admit that you don’t know what you’re doing. As long as you are authentic in your approaches to conversations, you’re off to a great start.

Connect with them when you BOTH have time.

Make time to talk with your children, but also make sure it is when both of you have the time for a conversation. If you are in a hurry or your child/teen is short on time wait until it works for both of you. Also, make sure that the conversation is in private and not in front of other kids in the home.

Research social-emotional learning platforms.

There are many platforms available for districts to implement, like BASE Education. BASE is a custom platform that is rigorously edited and approved by a panel of field experts and educators. BASE uses evidence-based practices proven to increase social-emotional learning among kids and teens- to help them better navigate anxiety and depression and other challenges.

Don’t interrogate.

Ask questions out of love and concern- not out of a need to dig for information or for coercion.

Ask open ended questions.

Ask things like: “Tell me more about…” “What is it like to be you right now?” “How are you handling being away from your friends right now?”

Here is a list of 50 Questions to Ask Your Kids to Get Them Talking.

Don’t judge their answers.

They’re reality is significant and it matters. If you try to argue them out of their feelings, you will invalidate them. Allow them to simply share.

Ask them to find their strengths by noticing the ones you see.

“I’ve seen you log into your computer every day- even when it’s hard. How are you managing to do that?” “Even though you have a right to feel angry, you still show up for your family. That means a lot to us. How do you separate your feelings and show you care?”

Don’t put them in a caretaker role, but do solicit their input:

“You know, these are stressful times. I’ve seen you do a nice job with calming down. What are some things that we can all try to relieve our stress?” “You know yourself better than anyone. How can we best support you?”

Don’t give up.

Life is harder than ever for our kids (although this is a tip for “normal” times too). Make sure they know you are there for them at every turn. If they don’t want to talk or they try to shut you out, give them their space in a loving way, but do not stop trying- ever.

Above all else, help them to foster and develop empathy and compassion for others. When kids care, they elevate themselves and can feel connected to society. When they learn that we have similar feelings and that we are all in this together, they can better navigate today’s challenges while knowing that “distanced” doesn’t mean “alone”.

Robin is the CEO and Founder of BASE Education. She’s an accomplished therapist with over 18-years of experience in working with at-risk teens. Robin's history includes roles as a School-Based Therapy Specialist for at-risk teens, private practice therapist for adolescents and their families, Treatment Coordinator for intensive in/outpatient teen programs, and Research Specialist in clinical trials for adolescents with addictions. While serving in her various roles, Robin served on panels and boards for various teen organizations. She has and continues to train law enforcement, school administrators and faculty, medical professionals, and members of the community through various speaking engagements and seminars on issues pertaining to at-risk youth. Robin earned her MA in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is a licensed professional counselor, certified school counselor, and a master addiction counselor. In her free time, Robin spends time with her littles hiking, skiing, and doing anything outdoors. Her coping skill is humor and friends.

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