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How Positive Affirmations Can Help Kids During the Pandemic

adult and child together at the edge of a lake

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Key Takeaways

  • With the threat of more schools turning to remote learning amongst the omicron surge, children’s mental health is at stake once again.
  • Teaching children positive affirmations can help them cope with the stress of the pandemic.
  • Parents can help their children cope with the stress of the pandemic by giving them other tools.

No doubt the pandemic has impacted the mental health of children. In fact, in October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. The cause? The group pointed to stress caused by COVID-19 and racial injustice.

Renee Schneider, PhD, vice president and head of therapy at Brightline, says COVID has had a tremendous impact on almost every aspect of children’s lives, including fewer opportunities to interact and communicate with peers, changes in routine, and challenges around emotion regulation.

Add in more school closures due to the omicron variant, and all of these challenges are intensified. 

“School closures have led children to feel more isolated and alone, and to experience a sense of
uncertainty about their world and the future,” says Schneider. “Parents who were stretched too thin even before COVID may find themselves without the resources needed to manage children’s heightened anxiety.”

How Positive Affirmations Can Help Kids

A self-help strategy intended to initiate confidence in one’s self, positive affirmations are short and encouraging present-tense statements that validate and confirm a desired feeling or outcome and, potentially, create optimism and hope, explains Ed Greene, PhD, expert in child development, early learning, and media environment. 

“When repeated regularly and consistently, affirmations have been associated with helping one
to feel more empowered, in control, and more confident in believing that our dreams and our aspirations are achievable,” Greene says.

Ed Greene, PhD

When repeated regularly and consistently, affirmations have been associated with helping one to feel more empowered, in control, and more confident in believing that our dreams and our aspirations are achievable

— Ed Greene, PhD

In today’s world of uncertainty, he says teaching children to practice positive affirmations can make them feel like they have the power to influence their thoughts and behaviors. He suggests that parents choose the affirmations for their kids based on what they think will boost self-esteem, self-confidence, and a sense of safety and optimism.

Using the affirmations at the beginning of the day or before bedtime are good ways to practice them regularly. Greene suggests that adults choose affirmations for themselves, as well, so they can participate alongside their child, allowing them to model the behavior rather than simply impose it. 

“A child can be introduced to using affirmations to become grounded in important values. Those values could be friends, family, academic goals, creative outlets, hobbies, or sports — whatever it is the child cares about,” says Greene. 

Below are some examples of affirmations and what Greene says they bring: 

  • I can do anything I put my mind to: builds confidence
  • My brown skin is beautiful: provides the opportunity to look at oneself in the mirror
  • I am capable of helping others: encourages a kind and positive self-image
  • I have the power to create change: helps children shape behavior
  • I have great ideas: nurtures a child’s authentic self

Other Ways to Help Children Cope

School closures are hard on kids, especially because children need time to play and interact with peers, says Schneider. 

“They need to engage in hands-on activities that promote learning. They also need to have time away from their parents and family to build independence and a sense of self-efficacy,” she says. 

While the pandemic limits the ability for these, Schneider says parents should make it a priority to help kids cope. She suggests trying the following: 

Validate your child’s painful emotions

Even though it’s hard to see your child hurting, telling them not to feel sad or anxious isn’t productive. 

“Instead, practice accepting how they are feeling, and try to help them to find healthy ways to
manage those emotions,” says Schneider. 

She suggests helping them to normalize their emotions by saying something like, “Anyone who couldn’t go to school day after day would be feeling sad and frustrated. It makes sense that you feel that way.” 

Recreate a version of what they are missing

For instance, if in-person playdates aren’t an option, consider setting up virtual playdates or creating a bubble with a close friend of your child’s who you trust will inform you if they are not well. 

Encourage healthy coping strategies

If your child is stressed, Schneider recommends teaching them how to practice deep breathing by blowing bubbles. You can also encourage them to exercise by taking a walk around the block or riding their bike. 

Do something fun at home as a family

Maybe your child likes to bake, or play board games, or hold pretend tea parties. Whatever they
find fun, try to plan an activity a few days throughout the week. 

“My daughter and I have done more arts and crafts projects together than I previously thought
possible,” says Schneider. 

When Should Your Child Get Professional Help

Greene says signs that your child may need help from a mental health professional include the
following:

  • Persistent fears, worries, or anxiety that disrupt their ability to participate in play, school or typical age-appropriate social situations.
  • Feelings of sadness and loss of interest that disrupt their ability to function in school and interact with others.
  • Attempts at hurting themself or talking about hurting themself.
  • Patterns of out-of-control behavior that can be harmful. 

Schneider adds that another cause for concern is if your child has lost someone and seems stuck in their sadness for months or longer. 

“A little more emotion right now is to be expected, but if you feel like your child is suffering much of the time, don’t wait. Reach out for support,” she says. 

Renee Schneider, PhD

A little more emotion right now is to be expected, but if you feel like your child is suffering much of the time, don’t wait. Reach out for support

— Renee Schneider, PhD

Reaching out to a doctor or mental health professional and describing what you notice about your child’s behavior, as well as what teachers, close friends, relatives, or other caregivers for your child have noticed, can be helpful to share with the professional, notes Greene. 

What This Means For You

With omicron surging and forcing some school closures throughout the country, kids’ mental health may be at risk again. Finding ways to help your child cope, such as engaging in positive affirmations, can go a long way.

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP-AACAP-CHA declaration of a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.