Are your kids having trouble coping with the current Corona Virus situation?
If the answer, is yes, you’re not alone. No matter where you are in the world, kids of all ages are being affected by so many changes in their normal routines and this brings up lots of questions such as…
- Why do I have to wash my hands?
- Why are people wearing masks?
- Why can’t I have a play date?
- When can we go to see grandma and grandpa?
- Why can’t I go back to school?
- What is social distancing?
Regardless of how old your children are, they can sense the changes in their routines, but may not understand the reasons why.
The current pandemic situation can be a tough conversation topic to tackle with your kids. All of the changes in a their day to day routines, plus environmental stress, can understandably affect the emotional dynamic at home.
So, how are your kids coping with all of these changes? How are you coping?
Tip #1: How to talk to your child about Corona Virus
When it comes to your child’s emotional being, you may notice that an undercurrent of stress may be come out in various ways such as an increase in challenging behaviors, moodiness, anxiety, excessive clinginess, sadness, sleeping problems and confusion.
No one has every really experienced a situation like this, and sometimes it’s hard to know how to talk to kids about the Corona Virus. When talking with them about the pandemic, be aware of what you share and how much you share. Also, avoid letting your child read everything online, as it can be overwhelming for adults and even more confusing and distressing for kids. The FREE video book listed below is a wonderful tool to address the situation at an appropriate level for young children. Check out the resources at the end of the article.
Tip #2: Emotion Coaching ?
Often times kids cannot verbalize how they’re feeling. You can help them by being an “interpreter” and emotion “coach” by helping them label their emotions. For example, when your child is upset, you can say, “It looks like you’re feeling sad… or mad… or frustrated.” Your child will eventually learn how to better express how they’re feeling with words when feeling upset. The ability to identify your own feelings is the first step in knowing how to handle big emotions in a healthy way.
Give your kids the time and space they need to process. People process emotions differently. Some people like to talk it out, while others are quieter and keep their thoughts inside. There’s no right or wrong way, so if you’re a talker and your child is not, then recognize these differences. If your child isn’t ready to talk, then wait for a time when they’re feeling calmer to gently check in with them.
The next step is finding ways that help your child calm down and that serve as a positive outlet for handling stress. Many pediatric occupational therapists along with other mental health professionals can collaborate with you to find the solutions that best match your child’s needs, temperament and sensory preferences to achieve a calm body and a calm mind.
Tip $3: Get Moving to get Talking
Have you ever asked your child, “What’s wrong?” and received an answer such as ,”I don’t know.” or “nothing” or even worse, outright ignoring or telling you to go away. Often as parents, we sense something is wrong or bothering our child, however not sure what it is. As a matter of fact, sometimes kids don’t even know what’s bothering them, they just can tell they feel sad or unsettled.
One of the best ways to inspire conversation is spending time together doing an activity or moving while talking such as going for a walk together. When you spend quality time with your child, you’re already supporting their social-emotional needs and mental health as well! This is a great first start that will often lead to more insightful conversations further down the road.
Tip #4: How to support your child’s emotional well-being ?
Our mental frame of mind and emotional well-being significantly impacts our relationships and our ability to function in every day life. Did you know that the profession of occupational therapy has deep roots in mental health? As a matter of fact, psychology and mental health are foundational cornerstones of the profession.
During the pandemic, one way we could support the families in our community was by offering occupational therapy sessions with a focus on promoting positive mental health. Our treatment strategies and coaching sessions often include lessons on emotional awareness, teaching self-regulations skills, social stories and helping kids to understand what they currently have available to them when they’re feeling upset or distressed. It’s never too early to teach healthy coping methods, which is an essential skill to start cultivating now. We all want our kids to grow up into healthy, happy and well balanced adults some day.
Tip #5: Lead By Example, Little Eyes are Watching!
One of the best ways to care of your child’s emotional health, is to start with yourself. If you’re feeling extremely stressed, overwhelmed or negative it affects everyone. One person can set the tone and the emotional environment in the household. That being said, your feelings are natural and everyone goes through these emotions. So don’t beat yourself about it.
But if you’re feeling really stuck, don’t hesitate to take time to care for yourself. Take a minute to write down 3-5 things that you could do to feel better, lift your spirits or having something to look forward too. It could be as simple as calling a friend, going for a walk outside, doing yoga, getting that extra whip creme on your coffee! Take a few minutes to go through the Mindfulness Video listed below, together as a family.
My mother always said, “Count your blessings”. It’s true, that if you think of or write down 5-10 things you’re thankful for, it can help shift your mindset and bring you into a more positive perspective. You’re in a position of constantly giving, but now’s the time to take an inventory of your own emotional needs as well. Ask yourself, “What do I need to reset?”
The Brain Body Connection
It’s never too early to teach your child ways to calm his or her body, which in turn has a calming effect on the mind. By taking deep breaths, practicing mental imagery and releasing stress through physical activity, you are influencing your autonomic nervous system which is responsible for your body’s fight, flight or freeze mechanism in response to stress.
Your child can learn how taking care of his or her body can have a calming input on the mind. Take advantage of this time in quarantine to go through mindfulness videos, yoga and exercising together to reap the benefits of self-regulation. The mindfulness video listed at the end is one of my favorites, or find some great mindfulness and meditation apps for your phone.
Skills for Life
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I believe it’s essential to partner with parents to strengthen their child’s emotional intelligence, to learn strategies for self-regulation and teach healthy coping methods. These are valuable skills that will serve your child well for the rest of his or her life!
… The truth is, it’s often during life’s most difficult times, that we have the best opportunity to nurture and cultivate our children’s emotional health…
Even though it can be really tough at times, your hard work, unconditional love and patience will pay off. I promise you!
I have confidence that you can set your child up for success by equipping them with important skills that will help support their emotional well-being and mental health for a life time.
Just remember, that this too shall pass… we’re all in this together as we strive to support one another and our children with patience, kindness, love and grace.
Give your kid a hug… And, don’t forget to give yourself a hug too! ?