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Securing the Home Front During Stressful Times

Author: Michele Tryon, CCLS
Published Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When we turn on the TV or check social media, we are often bombarded with images and messages reflective of a very stressful time in our world. As parents, we may wonder how we can possibly keep our children physically safe AND emotionally healthy in this very unpredictable environment.

Children look to their parents and caregivers for clues about their own safety when they feel stress, and parents can make a big difference for children through simple actions at home and in their community. Follow these steps to help your child feel secure at home and develop a foundation of safety for all the children in your care.

Maintain routines.

Children love predictability. It helps them feel safe. As long summer days loom in front of us, it is easy to be less committed to routines. There is no need to be too rigid about the exact timing of certain daily activities, but creating a rhythm to the day is helpful. Something as simple as going to the pool before lunch and having some downtime after lunch creates a sense of sameness and supports a child’s ability to predict the day’s events.

Create traditions.

Family traditions like Fourth of July picnics, visits from grandma and grandpa, holding an annual neighborhood baseball game or setting up a lemonade stand help children feel connected to their roots. Traditions are all about connection, and they give children a sense of unshakable belonging.

Provide opportunities to contribute.

Children develop confidence and a sense of usefulness when they contribute to the home, neighborhood or larger community. There are a variety of simple ways your child can achieve these positive feelings. Doing chores, such as watering flowers, feeding pets or making beds, can become part of their daily routine. They can help an elderly neighbor bring in groceries or pick up trash in the park. Especially when children are old enough to understand some of the distressing world events, their well-being and coping can be tied into “doing” something to make a difference. For instance, remembering to recycle might give a child a sense of actively helping to preserve the planet.

Create a well-balanced lifestyle.

In order to do well in distressing times, it is important to build stamina by taking good physical care of our families and ourselves. Eating healthy meals, limiting screen time and getting plenty of sleep and exercise are all ways to build up our immunity to stress.

After hearing about distressing events, take time to re-energize and help your child organize their thoughts and feelings about what has happened. Children can cope with distress when we provide a listening ear and a positive outlook.

I recently read a story about the co-founders of the company, Life is Good. The two brothers created a 100 million dollar business from a simple routine that was a part of their childhood. Their home life was not easy, but their mother asked each of her six children every evening at dinner to name something good that happened to them that day. Her optimistic spirit became their inspiration.

We can all hope that our children create a multimillion-dollar business with us as their inspiration!

In the meantime, we can create a secure home front and a solid foundation for them to practice resilience despite life’s challenges.

About Michele Tryon, CCLS

Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.