If your kids are anything like my 4-year-old, they are experiencing much higher levels of anxiety right now. Clinginess is at an all time high, temper tantrums are more frequent (and make less sense) than normal. Routines and the comfort that comes from them have shifted, and everyone is somehow getting less sleep.
Kids are carrying a tremendous burden right now, not all of them are even truly old enough to understand why they can’t see their friends, or go to the playground. They might have anxiety about the virus itself, which could manifest in not wanting to leave the house for a walk or getting upset when you leave for an essential grocery pick-up.
Giving our kids the space to feel their emotions, tools to calm themselves on their own terms, and healthy bedtime routines will go miles for everyone in this exceptionally challenging time. As an example: for younger kids, now is probably not the time to work on challenging lingering potty-training issues (for us it’s ditching the “little potty” for the “big potty”, this is an issue to work on post-pandemic). And, for older kids, it’s probably not the time to limit access to screens that help maintain their social connections, among other things. Help your kids seek comfort in whatever small ways you can.
Here are some books to help you talk to your kids more about the pandemic with facts and empathy – all of these resources are free and downloadable:
Giving your kids the benefit of the doubt that they can understand the pandemic and work through their feelings, and address their fears with them is step number one. So I hope some of the resources above help give you some tools to start awesome, ongoing conversations. This isn’t a one time activity – fears will not go away with a single conversation – so it’s good to keep these PDF’s on hand to re-start conversations when you can see the fears bubbling up again.
Next, lets look at some books to help you practice some calming, mindful activities with your kids. The added benefit that I find is that these help me to calm down too. My therapist has made a big point of using the analogy of “putting on your own mask first” (as in airplane safety), and “you can’t pour from an empty cup” – so any way that I can build moments of calm into our day is a net benefit to me, and as a result gives me the emotional energy to keep going and giving to my family. This is NOT an easy undertaking to do, but any moment that you can connect and bring some calm is a step in the right direction.
One of the easiest times of day to build in these mindful moment is bedtime for us. We were fortunate enough to get the book Mindful Moments at Bedtime last year and it’s an absolutely fantastic book. The pages have short, kid-centred visualization stories, finger tracing activities, opportunities to talk about high and low points of the day, and an opportunity to set an intention for your dreams that night. It’s a beautiful and sturdily built book and it helps us SO much on high stress days to have a peaceful bedtime routine.
Another great idea is to incorporate some yoga into your day. We love Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga to help get us going. Leaving they out and available means that our little one will reach for them and ask to do a few poses now and then.
Try checking out Cosmic Kids Yoga on youtube if you are not available to be fully present with your child in a moment that they need some calming. It is not always possible when so many of us are working from home or occupied with another child or pressing matter right now to stop and read a book. It’s ok that we can’t do everything. Lets use the tools available to us to fill in gaps. Cosmic Kids is truly lovely and you should absolutely take advantage of that whenever it works for you.
Audio books and kids guided meditations can also be extremely useful – we have been listening to Winnie the Pooh from our local library through the Libby app and it’s extremely calming. Any activity that helps your child to stop, breathe, and take time to listen to the sensations in their bodies is a mindful activity – which is also why we like Breathe like a Bear.
I know that access to books is more scarce right now, with libraries closed and access to bookstores much more limited. So we have been leaning into digital books through our library and Kindle Unlimited. Gabi Garcia’s books on Kindle are excellent tools to help children with listening to the sensations in their body and finding grounding techniques. Gabi is a mom and licensed professional counsellor, so these books are very well put together. In particular, we think that Listening to My Body and Find Your Calm have extremely helpful tips to help kids recenter and take a moment to feel their emotions.
There is also several storybooks you may already have on your bookshelf that you can harness to help talk about emotions with your kids. If you have been following Inclusive Story Time for a while now, you may even be familiar with a few of these:
Finally, one of the last places you can look is your own bookshelf. The I Spy and Where’s Waldo type books are an excellent opportunity for calming and focus. We also like maze and tracing books to help us calm down – which can be easily found for both younger and older children
What are your strategies for walking to your kids (or students!) about Covid-19? What strategies are helping you to bring calm and practice positive, mindful parenting right now? Let me know, and I have a strong feeling all of you lovely humans will have excellent ideas that will warrant a follow up post to this!
(Note: More books and resources actually are already starting to come into our view just in the last 24 hours since this was written! We need to read/review and we will work on a follow-up post with extended resources to go live soon!)
Whatever you may be doing, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself. You are going to lose your temper. I certainly am, a lot. Remember to apologize to your children and to yourself. It’s natural and normal to lose control. It is natural and normal to just feel like everything is out of your control in a pandemic too. If everything in this post feels overwhelming and impossible, ignore every single word. None of us have experienced this before and we are all just figuring this out day after day.