How to Support Your Children During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Whatever Their Personality

Right now, our kids are really feeling the effects of “staying at home” orders.  Luckily, most of them are physically healthy and safe, but many are feeling bored, stressed, scared, anxious, and confused.  Could we use personality typing to better understand and help them as we do for ourselves? Well, it’s not that simple. Personality type assessments are usually intended for adults or older teens. According to the personality theory created by Myers and Briggs, you’re born with your personality type. However, how you exhibit your type’s traits can change as you mature.

But have no fear, as a Truity blog reader, you understand that we’re all different.  Despite not knowing your kids’ personality types, you know that we need to exercise different approaches depending on who we’re dealing with.  So, here are some things to keep in mind as you stay home with and support your kids.

Set your kids up for success

Help your kids have some wins during this time.  It’ll help their confidence and will give them some sense of control over the circumstances.

Create a structured schedule for your kids

These seem like uncertain times, so you’ll want to grasp whatever sense of normalcy you can.  Create and uphold a structured schedule for your kids, such as what time they get up, what time meals are, when they’re expected to do their homework, and when they have free time.  Yes, they may complain, but the predictability will be comforting over time. Plus, the discipline is healthy and will keep them ready for when they go back to school. Just be sure to allow for some flexibility.  Depending on their ages, your kids will need various breaks throughout their structured time. Judgers tend to be organized and will find comfort in a schedule. Perceiver kids will struggle the most with structured time.  They like to keep things open and spontaneous. However overall, a schedule will be healthier for them.

Create a healthy, organized environment

Make sure kids have a space in your home for their activities.  While they’re doing schoolwork, help them focus by removing distractions such as the tv, mobile devices, pets, and music.  Even conversations in another room can be distracting. Your Extraverts will want the noise and distractions; they crave the outside input.  It’s better to leave these for breaks and free time.

Let them have wins, break tough concepts into smaller pieces

Depending on your kids’ ages, you may be more hands on in their activities and even schoolwork.  This is a great opportunity to really understand how your child thinks and adapt activities to what they need.  Intentionally, organize assignments in a way that lets your child feel successful and is meeting goals. Don’t put all the challenging tasks first as this may frustrate and discourage them. Rotate assignments or break them up into smaller pieces.  This way they have smaller, achievable goals. Their successes will help keep them encouraged.

Understand their perspectives and needs

So you may not know your children’s personality types, but you do understand that they have one and that we’re all wired differently.  To best support our kids right now, we need to be patient, observe, and be open. We need to listen. I understand that as parents we’re so busy trying to be protective and provide for our kids, that we may not be practiced at really observing what’s going on.  Here’s our chance.

Need for expression and interaction

Extraverts will need to talk things through with someone.  They externally process. Sometimes, it’s as if they’re narrating what they’re doing.  This might drive an Introverted parent crazy. The parent might think “I can clearly see what you’re doing, you don’t need to tell me!” Understand that your Extravert kids aren’t telling you to aggravate you, they just need to say it out loud to process it themselves.  Especially, keep this in mind when working on schoolwork. Some kids are going to need their parents to read (or talk through) assignments with them (as they might with a teacher) so they can grasp the concepts.

Need for alone or quiet time

Introverts are going to want alone time away from others.  They may read, draw, watch tv, or play alone. They need this quiet time to process the day and what’s going on.  If they seem OK, just give them this time. If they don’t get it, they can get irritable and act up (without being able to express why).  At the same time, be sure to occasionally check in with them one-to-one. Don’t ask an Introvert how they’re doing in front of others; they won’t be receptive to it and will close up.  Simply approach them individually to ask how they’re doing. An Introvert will be much more comfortable to open up to one trusted person.

Consistency between what you tell them and what you do

I’m sure that staying home with your kids is challenging at times.  You’re likely wearing multiple hats (such as parent/guardian, teacher, enforcer, entertainer) with little to no breaks while juggling your other responsibilities.  When times get tough, it can be tempting to take on a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. Squelch it now. Fundamentally, your kids want a sense of safety and stability.  And right now, that’s coming from you and how you treat them. If you do this right, Thinker children will appreciate your honesty, consistency, and fairness. Feelers (which are the other end of the same spectrum) will perceive the situation from how they feel, their values, and how others are impacted.

They’ve got questions

Beyond outside structure and expression, let’s focus on what’s going on inside our kids.  The following are just some of the common concerns coming up. It’s important to talk to your kids, be open, and offer them comfort.

They can sense how the adults are feeling

Kids take their cues from the adults in their lives – parents, teachers, role models.  Feeler kids are especially going to sense what others are feeling. Even if you try to hide it, your kids may be picking up on your worries.  They’re turning to you for a sense of safety and security. Keep this in mind as you engage and talk with them.

They miss people and familiar activities

Just like we’re trying to create a new normal, kids are dealing with missing their old normal.  They miss their friends, extended family (like grandma), and even places they used to visit. With the abrupt cutoff from the way things were, it’s important to reassure kids that staying at home is just temporary.

They’re wondering if they did something wrong

Thinkers rely on patterns and logic.  And in trying to make sense with what’s going on, they may think “When I misbehaved before, I was punished, and things were taken away.  Things have been taken away now. Did I do something wrong?” This logic would have never occurred to me, but I’m not a kid and I’m not a Thinker.  It just goes to show that we don’t really know how others – especially our kids – are interpreting things. 

They need a concrete handle of what’s going on

Think back to watching a scary movie.  Wasn’t the movie much scarier when you didn’t know what the monster looked like?  This situation is the same. Imagine being a kid again. From that perspective, doesn’t this all seem like a scary situation with no picture or face to point to as the “bad guy”.  What does coronavirus even look like? Is it going to get me? Help your kids get a handle on their fears. Draw pictures and talk this through. Make the abstract into something tangible (and less scary) for them.

Coping strategies

It’s not enough to intellectually understand what’s going on.  The fear and uncertainty are giving kids lots of thoughts and feelings to deal with.  Try some of these coping strategies with your kids.

Breathing, grounding, and focusing on their senses

What’s the best way to get rid of fears of the past and future?  Focus on the present moment. Teach your children to ground themselves.  Have them focus on their own breathing. Especially for Sensor children, have them concentrate on naming all of the things that they can identify through each of their senses.

Finding beauty and appreciation

Look around and within you.  Call out the things you’re thankful for.  In the past, we probably whizzed right past them or didn’t take the time to say them out loud.  Now is a good time to highlight the things we’re thankful for, share them, and create healthy habits to continue this in the future.

Limit their input from stimuli

To keep your focus on calm and creating stability for your kids, limit incoming stimuli – like news or worries.  It’s hard to stay present and focused when your brain is constantly bombarded with new and conflicting information.

Focus on what you can control

It’s hard for kids to have clarity right now, so how do we get our kids to focus on what they can control?  Help them visualize it. Draw a circle on a sheet of paper – this circle defines the boundary between what we can and can’t control.  When speaking with your kids, write or draw activities inside the circle (for the things we can control) and outside the circle (for the things we can’t).

Re-framing the situation

How about an opportunity for an elaborate game?  Just as “the floor is lava” forces us to hop up on the furniture, what if we were astronauts in training and were practicing what it’s like to be isolated in a spaceship?  How can we use staying at home as an opportunity to exercise out imaginations? And while we’re at it, it’s also a good opportunity to talk to our kids about how there are different ways of showing love.  Right now, staying at home and following social distancing guidelines is a way of showing others how much we love them and want them to be safe. And again, remind them that it’s just temporary.

Focus on where you want to go

Help your kids intentionally focus on healthy, constructive topics.  Similar to driving or getting a ball into a goal at a game, you want to keep the focus on the direction that you want to go.

Focus on what’s going right

Often when we talk about things, we tend to highlight our concerns or details that need to be improved.  Here’s our chance to reframe our focus on what’s going right – especially for our kids. Be sure to discuss topics in a way that highlights how they’re helping and contributing.  For example, if you find that you have to speak about the coronavirus spread, focus on how social distancing is helping keep the spread down or, if necessary, the high percentage of recovery for those who get sick.  

Discuss what good things are coming from this

What about the good things that are coming from pandemic?  Yes, I mean that. Intuitives see the bigger picture and the possibilities in that.  Sensors prefer the facts and details of what’s going on around them. Help them identify the good parts coming out of our situation.  Once they can grasp them, it’ll be easier for them to hold onto.

Summary

This pandemic, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders are different than anything we’ve ever seen. And similar to how past events shaped our grandparents and parents’ perspectives and priorities, this time will impact our kids.  But again, you can help ease their thoughts and feelings. Just remember that we’re all wired differently. By taking the time to really know your children and modifying your approach to comfort them, you’ll make huge strides in helping them cope and process this time.  And since they’re still developing, you’re also helping shape how they’ll exhibit their personality type traits and how they’ll interact with the world.

Elvira Marie Chang

Elvira is a trainer and coach who leads live workshops, creates online courses, and coaches individuals. She helps people connect with who they are, leverage their innate talents, and value their unique perspectives in order to transform their own lives from a clear and confident position. Originally from Miami, Elvira now lives in Boston, MA. Visit her at elviramariechang.com.

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THE FINE PRINT: Myers-Briggs® and MBTI® are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc., which has no affiliation with this site. Truity offers a free personality test based on Myers and Briggs' types, but does not offer the official MBTI® assessment. For more information on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, please go here.

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