How to promote children’s resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic

A new resource outlines ways to promote children’s resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic and protect them from the potential negative effects that traumatic events can have on children’s development and well-being.

During this pandemic, children are being forced to cope with major changes to everyday life, such as physical distancing and home confinement. Additionally, their families may struggle to meet their basic physical and emotional needs. Rates of poverty, unemployment, parental mental health problems and substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, and intimate partner violence tend to rise during disasters. At the same time, children may not receive critical supports they need when community services are limited and fewer adults have direct contact with children.

The good news is that over four decades of research on resilience shows that protective factors can protect children from harm and increase the chances they adapt positively to adversities such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Families and communities can work together to promote these protective factors:

1. Sensitive, responsive caregiving. The primary factor in a child’s recovery from an adverse or traumatic event is the presence of a sensitive and caring adult.
2. Meeting basic needs. Meeting the basic needs of children and families—such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical and mental health care—is essential to protecting children’s well-being in stressful times.
3. Emotional support for children. Emotional and behavioral changes in children are to be expected during a pandemic, but most children will return to their typical level of functioning from before the pandemic if given strong emotional support from adults and communities.
4. Support for caregiver well-being. When parents’ and other caregivers’ needs are met, children are more likely to receive sensitive and responsive care.
5. Social connectedness. Although in-person contact may be limited during the pandemic, physical distancing should not turn into social isolation, which is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect, adult and youth substance use, and family violence.
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