Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

5 Tips for Building ‘Back to School’ Resilience

 Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

We are living with a lot of uncertainty and lack of answers to many of the issues we are facing right now. Should we return to school?  What is school going to look like?  Will it be safe for my child?  And our children are asking questions we can’t answer, including:  Will I have to wear a mask at recess?  Are my friends going to be at school? Will I be able to play with my friends at recess? These are all things we can’t yet answer yet and we can’t control. But there is one thing we do know and that is you CAN build resilience in your child and that it starts with you.

As difficult as they can be, challenges present us with opportunities. Opportunities for growth and learning. There is one main difference between challenges that result in trauma and those that result in resilience and it lies in how it is handled.  If we have support, challenges can be good for us and that is true for our children. 

There’s a good chance you are worn out at this point.  You have been a teacher, a coach, a camp counselor, your resources are limited and it can be difficult to give yourself the care that you need. 

The good news is that you and your child already have it within you to build resilience during this time. We have an innate biological drive to find the people with whom we have a connection when we are in the midst of chaos.  Those people, parents, family members, close friends, can help us build resilience.   And for your child, you have the ability to be the anchor that they are seeking and needing right now. 

Whether your child is entering school for the first time or is a continuing student, in times of a worldwide pandemic and massive civil unrest, developing and enhancing resilience skills is more important than ever.  Building resilience can help our children learn to manage stress, anxiety, and uncertainty.  These 5 tips for building ‘back to school’ resilience will benefit you, your child, and overall improve how your family handles COVID 19.

1. Treat yourself with the kindness and compassion you would show a friend. Most of us are more likely to engage in self-criticism than we are self-compassion.  However when a friend is feeling overwhelmed and stressed it is easy for us to provide a compassionate hug or encouragement.  What would it be like to treat yourself with the same compassion?  Simply shift your perspective and tell yourself the same thing you would tell a friend. Remind yourself, I am doing the best I can OR Hang in there, this is hard but my child knows I care. Treating yourself with compassion allows you to be more compassionate towards your child while also setting a beautiful example. 

2. Help your child identify their emotions. The movie Inside Out does a beautiful job of describing the internal world of a child.  Schedule a family movie night, gather your favorite movie snacks, and watch the movie together.  Afterward, grab paper and markers and invite your child to draw the feelings he or she has experienced recently.  And then give your child an opportunity to discuss the feeling How did it feel in your body?  What was happening when you had that feeling? What did you do with that feeling? Helping your child identify their emotions helps them develop self-regulation skills.

3. Practice different ways to manage big emotions.  Deep breathing is an important coping skill for kids and adults.  Practice belly breathing with your child by blowing bubbles together or blowing a pinwheel. Pretend your fingers are birthday candles and blow them out together.  Invite your child to sit on your lap and trace your fingers together as you take deep breaths in as you trace up and blow them out as you trace down.  Sitting on your lap while you are taking deep breaths will provide a beautiful example of deep relaxation as well as co-regulation. Your adolescent can learn to deep breathe sitting next to you in a co-regulated state.  Simply putting your arm around her shoulders or your hand on his lap allows your child to feel your regulated breathing and match the pace of his or her breathing to yours.  

4. Incorporate mindfulness as a powerful way to help both you and your child to slow down, pay attention, and be fully present in the moment.   Sit down facing your child.  You can use a bell or a singing bowl.  Insight Timer is a free app and it has a wonderful, resonating bowl.  Encourage your child to listen to the bell until it is no longer ringing.  Children enjoy making it a game and raising their hands when they can’t hear it anymore.  It becomes a fun game of who has the best hearing.  It doesn’t last long but in those few moments, you and your child have given your complete attention to the present moment.  This mindful exercise teaches what is in our control and to take each moment as it happens. 

5. Establish a gratitude practice for all the things you get to have and experience as a way to increase your child’s happiness, optimism, and generosity.  Start a new family tradition where everyone says one thing they are grateful for at each meal.  For example, I am grateful you helped me put away clothes or I am grateful for the beautiful weather we had that gave us a chance to go outside and play together.

It is easy to get caught being reactive during uncertain and difficult times but you are enough as you are and you are not alone.   If you need support in building resilience in yourself or your child, we are here for you.  You can set up a parent coaching consultation here.

Be Well


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Jeanine Long is a Mad to GladTM certified parent coach and psychotherapist at Samantha Moe and Associates.  Her heart is highly tuned to families’ emotional needs and she uses her yoga background to compassionately lead everyone to a calmer place.  She loves spending time with her three amazing nieces and nephew in Wichita, Kansas -- time outdoors -- or with her nose in a book. Find out more about Jeanine’s work at