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With COVID-19 now a global pandemic, it is easy to fall into the rabbit hole of our own fears and anxieties. But as parents, we are presented with an opportunity to teach our children some invaluable lessons about self care, preservation and awareness.

The importance of Self-Care:

Day in and day out, we as parents work to stress the importance of self care; urging our children to eat healthy, exercise, get adequate sleep and maintain physical activity. Although the majority of the time we are met with a blank stare or irritated eye roll, today, the world has given us an opportunity to show our children just how important these daily practices are in protecting our health and well-being.

Children’s brains function at a primitive level – sometimes making it difficult to connect cause and effect. Use this opportunity to help them understand how preventative measures will lead to self preservation and protection.

The Influence Of Social Media:

Whether we like it or not, social media has in many ways become our lifeline. Even as adults, we become instantaneously swayed by what is presented to us as we are scrolling mindlessly through each platform. What’s occurring outside of our own homes right now, just serves as a perfect example. With so much information being spread about COVID-19, it is hard to sift through what is fact or fiction. However, many adults may not have taken the time to even try and do so. Instead, we rush to the grocery stores, filling our carts will endless amounts of toilet paper, disinfectant spray, and every non-perishable item in sight, leaving the aisles fully barren for others. If grown adults are this influenced by social media, just imagine what it can do to your children.

Social media is part of our lives, and regardless of when and how you decide to integrate it into your child’s life, they will need to understand and appreciate the impact it can have on both individuals and society as a whole. Our children’s minds are still developing, and although they may believe themselves to be strong, independent thinkers, the reality is that they are still ill-equipped to handle many situations on their own. Social media presents them with highly triggering topics regarding relationships, physical appearance, sexuality; the list is endless. Without them even being conscious of it, social media can sway their thoughts, perceptions and behaviors. However, if they are taught this truth early on, they will become better equipped to establish healthy boundaries that will prohibit them from being so easily influenced.

The Validity Of Their Feelings

With the threat of COVID-19 continuing to spread, we have witnessed a plethora of reactions – from people minimizing the situation as if it doesn’t exist, to others in paralyzing anxiety over what’s to come. For most children, this may be the first time they are observing such widespread fear, uncertainty and panic.

Use this opportunity to help your child identify what’s occurring internally; help them to label their emotions and put into words what they are thinking and experiencing. As parents, we can do our part by validating them. Take the time to explain that what they are feeling is completely normal, and that you too understand what it is to experience those same adverse emotions. By doing so, you are working to build a stronger foundation; one in which your child feels heard and supported.

The Ability To Self Regulate

Now that we have identified what it is they are feeling, we must also acknowledge that our children are unable to understand the magnitude of this situation. They are incapable of fully digesting all of this – what it means and how it will ultimately impact them in the long term. So they will look to you for guidance – observing your reactions and behaviors to help them better understand how they should be responding.

What this means is that how you behave right now will ultimately impact not only how your child responds to crisis today, but throughout his or her lifetime as well. So be conscious of this reality – work to identify and validate your own anxieties, practice self soothing techniques that will work to calm your mind and body, become educated about the situation by obtaining factual information, and be proactive in making healthy decisions for you and your family. As a result, whenever your child is faced with their own adversities, they will be equipped to do the same – to take a step back, regulate themselves and then respond from a rational and well-thought out position.

 

What is occurring around us is frightening – there is no denying that truth. But in every situation, there is an opportunity to learn, to grow and come out of it stronger, wiser and more prepared for the future. Today, we are being provided an opportunity to teach our children lessons that they will carry with them forever. Continue to work on your own self awareness and self regulation through this – not only will it benefit you, but those watching you as well.

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Nikki P. Woods, MSW, LCSW

Nikki Woods is a highly-sought after licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of the Navesink Wellness Center in Rumson, New Jersey. After earning her Masters Degree at New York University, Nikki dedicated her career to studying the intricacies of the developing female mind. In her practice (both locally and globally), she empowers mothers to better support their daughters’ development, and assists young women in channeling their own voice – one built on self awareness, acceptance and love.

Her intuitive and insightful approach helps clients gain a greater sense of self worth, pursue life goals, improve relationship dysfunction, establish a more defined identity, and celebrate their own unique assets and capabilities. Her work has been featured in top publications such as Forbes and Inc. She works with patients both locally in Rumson, New Jersey as well as globally via her remote psychotherapy offerings.

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