Parenting Tips
Jun 20
· Written By
Deborah Beckwin

How to Help Your Young Child Boost Their Resilience in Uncertain Times

Living through uncertain times with young children can bring up additional challenges with caring for their growth and development. Learn some simple ways on how you can better support your kids and help them boost their resilience.

This pandemic has created chronic uncertainty for mostly everyone, and that includes our children.

When we go through tough times, we may be able to reach out to someone for support — a neighbor, friend, colleague, therapist, or loved one. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic transformed how we connect to each other. Due to sheltering in place and physical distancing policies to keep us physically healthy, we have not been able to draw upon those helpful resources to help us preserve our overall well being.

So how do we help our young children get through this extended tough time as we’re also struggling with languishing and our own emotional health needs? This can be a time to help your children improve their resilience while being an oasis of calm and support for them.

Know About ACEs

There can be times where we experience toxic stress — a prolonged stress response without support or relief (e.g., economic hardship, surviving a pandemic). Toxic stress can have harmful effects on our minds and bodies, as cortisol and adrenaline course through us without a real release.

For growing children, this nonstop activation of a stress response can significantly impact their development as kids and as adults. Certain chronically stressful events for children can be classified as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

ACEs fall under three main domains: abuse, neglect, and family member changes (e.g., a caregiver dies). You can take the ACEs quiz for yourself to know your ACE score as well as find your children’s ACE scores. The higher the ACE score is, the more likely there can be mental health issues as well as physical health issues both now and in the future. 

But this is not always the case, and this is where resilience comes in.

Be There for Your Child

One key factor of having resilience as a child is a stable, committed relationship with a supportive adult — a parent, caregiver, or other adult. Your presence and guidance as a parent can help your child withstand tough times. Knowing that someone will be there for them no matter what can give them the stable foundation to grow and to learn how to adapt to the changes that life throws at them.

The Child Mind Institute offers advice on how to help your child bounce back from the stress of COVID-19, with a few general pointers for all children.

  • Adjust expectations — Your child may need time to feel safe and secure, and that may happen after the pandemic has truly passed.
  • Practice empathy — You can make an effort to understand how your child is feeling. Let them know that it can be upsetting or disappointing to not be able to see your friends or have an event or trip canceled.
  • Focus on the big picture — As long as your child hits their developmental milestones for their age, they’re on the right track.
  • Find growth areas for practice — There are always opportunities for children to work on areas of growth, even during a crisis. It could be as simple as introducing chores or practicing reading every day.
  • Maintain those priorities — Now that you’ve honed in on what’s important for your children, you don’t need to focus on what you’d normally do if there wasn’t a global crisis. It will help everyone to just take the next necessary step.

We have age-specific advice from the American Psychological Association (APA) on how to be there for your child and help grow their resilience in uncertain times.

Children Ages 3-5 — Emotional Sponges

Children at this age are still learning how to regulate and give words to their emotions. But as you probably know, these little ones are like emotional sponges — they are absorbing much of the stimuli around them, whether through TV or overheard conversations you may have with other people.

To keep them from being overly saturated with other people’s emotions, make sure you’re monitoring their emotions and behaviors. If your child is suddenly irritable, sad, or clingy, or if they have reverted back to old behaviors, it’s time to check in with them to see how they’re doing. Maybe they heard a scary TV report or a story you shared with someone else. Or maybe they could just be absorbing the stress in their environment.

As they’re still learning how to express their emotions verbally, you can use play or art to help them to express themselves. You can also use these times as quality time with your preschooler. They need to know that you’re going to be there for them, so boost that snuggle time, story time, or just hanging out with them.


Children Ages 6-8 — A Safe, Stable Homebase

Young elementary school students are at that age where they start exploring the world around them outside of the home, meeting new people such as teachers and fellow students. But they still need to feel like their whole world isn’t changing overnight. They need stable adult relationships to keep them grounded and give them a sense of safety.

It can be difficult to give them a sense of safety when there’s something like a global pandemic, or gun violence, or global warming, which does change the world we all live in. So keep the lines of communication open with your child — ask them how things are going for them. Address their fears and let them know how you, their teachers, and other important adults in their lives are keeping them safe.

We now live in a world with wall-to-wall news coverage, and it can be easy for anyone to get sucked into the latest headlines and stories. Your child may get sucked in, too, as they try to make sense of what’s going on. But endless news stories may make them more confused and anxious, so make sure you’re keeping the news at a minimum. You can be honest about what is going on in the world without overwhelming your child.

Even as you keep talking with your child about what is going without inundating them with the news, they may still be a little stressed out. If your child has an outsized reaction to a stressor (e.g., a fight with a friend, a poor score on a test, frustration with homework), offer support and remind them that you’re there for them. 

Take Care of You

We know it can be a tough time juggling all your responsibilities, especially raising little ones, and we hope that you’re taking care of yourself first! Here at Oath, we can give you a safe, stable homebase with a small group of mothers who are in similar places in their lives, along with experts available to support and guide you through the joys and challenges of motherhood. Sign up for our waitlist and get the support you need and deserve.

Deborah Beckwin
Deborah Beckwin

Deborah Beckwin is a writer and content strategist in Seattle, Washington. You can find her at deborahbeckwin.com.