CEUnits Blog

Raising Resilient Children: How to Support Children Impacted by COVID-19

December 7th, 2021

By Libby Waite

What effect will the pandemic have on children and child development? The answers to this scary question will only reveal themselves with time. Psychological studies have shown that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have a negative effect on neurocognitive development. Now, we are facing an entire generation of young people who have had to deal with unprecedented trauma.

Cultivate Resilience and Become a Part of the Cure

Although ACEs can impact neurocognitive development, they are also an opportunity for growth. This growth has to be at a socio-ecological level. The consequences of COVID-19 have created an especially complex adverse experience. These will likely have a detrimental effect on brain maturation. Governments have a responsibility to create policies that will support young people. But, you also have a part to play in the collective healing of our children. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, teacher, social worker, counselor, or therapist, you are a crucial part of the cure.

There is potential for a more humane, sensitive, and compassionate generation to emerge from the pandemic. To help cultivate this, you can help children develop greater resilience. You are especially needed by children who already face intense ACEs due to socio-economic realities. If you are a social worker or therapist, you might want to think about how you can best serve these communities.

Find Our Shared Humanity

Modeling and teaching empathy, patience, and active listening are key. At school, children will be mixing with peers from diverse households. Their different values might include vaccine mandates, face masks, and our everyday behaviors. Adults also have to deal with new divisions in response to COVID-19. Different people have different beliefs, and always will. That doesn’t mean they are our enemies. Teaching children that everyone is worthy of respect will help them recognize our shared humanity. Then, children can meet their peers with acceptance, sensitivity, and compassion.

If you are a therapist or work one on one with children, find opportunities for new conversations. Why do children think other children/families behave differently? You can reach the conclusion together: it’s not because they’re bad people. Everyone is doing their best and trying to keep one another safe in whatever way we can.

Celebration: Co-Regulation and Re-learning to Learn

Children need to be in community with one another. If you are a teacher or social worker, you have the opportunity to bring diverse groups of people together. It could be for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a casual Tuesday afternoon playgroup. Celebrations can foster a sense of belonging. They make children feel a part of their community. They create positive social interactions with peers. Children will feel safe and resourced.

The priority right now is not academic achievement. Children’s nervous systems are running on overdrive. Their capacity to retain new information has likely diminished since before the pandemic. This isn’t something to worry about. Instead, we can acknowledge this, normalize it, and help find ways for children to resource. Then, they can return to a more supportive state. A great way to do this is to find as many opportunities as possible to be out in nature. Group nature excursions will allow children to co-regulate. They will learn how to support and ground together.

The disruption, uncertainty, and isolation of the pandemic are likely to have long-term repercussions. We don’t know how these will impact the young people who have had their lives turned upside down by COVID-19. And, we won’t know for many years. The best we can do right now is to work with our children. To go into our communities. To help children feel safe and supported as they find new ways to experience childhood in a post-COVID world.


Araújo, L. A., Veloso, C. F., Souza, M. C., Azevedo, J., & Tarro, G. (2021). The potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child growth and development: a systematic review. Jornal de pediatria, 97(4), 369–377.

Berken, J. A., Heard-Garris, N., & Wakschlag, L. S. (2021). Guardians at the Gate: Early Adversity, Neurocognitive Development, and the Role of the Pediatrician in the Era of COVID-19. Frontiers in pediatrics, 9, 665335. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2021.665335

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