As students head back to school this fall with hybrid learning models and rolling school closures, educators and parents will be essential in helping create feelings of security and stability for our children. But never fear; research has shown us the way. A study by Susan Birch of the University of British Columbia shows children learn from and model after people who are consistently confident. This isn’t unconditional though; kids also keep a track record of a person’s reliability and make decisions about the value of their knowledge because of it.
In this ever-changing landscape you can model confidence in a few ways. First, don’t make promises you can’t keep. It is far better to say you don’t know than to try to be an expert in an evolving situation. You can explain to a child that you will give them up to date information as it comes out and let them know that information can and will change.
Then listen more than you advise. Rather than trying to make your child happy, listen to their concerns and frustrations and validate their feelings, especially as those feelings change. This is a wonderful lesson in resilience and building trusting relationships. If a child can trust you with validating and normalizing their negative emotions, they are more likely to find productive ways of dealing with them as they grow. Lastly, create some predictable routines. Maybe you eat breakfast every day together or have matching masks. It doesn’t have to be a big deal as long as there are predictable points throughout the day that your child can count on. This year is going to be different no matter what, but that is okay. Children are resilient and with your help will get through this.
Bridget Richard, LISW-S is a lifelong resident of Northeast Ohio. As a wife and mother of two boys, she realizes the struggle parents face and started Lamplight Counseling Services as a safe place for families to come when they need help and support.