Hoping you all are managing during this time.
For me, it has been about 6 weeks since I have been working from home and working with my clients virtually. It has been an adjustment and not always easy.
I think that the newness of this all has worn off for many kids who have been attending school online and perhaps engaging in their extracurricular activities (dance, karate, etc.) on line as well. For parents and caregivers, working from home has been a challenge and for those who may have been laid off, fear is setting in. Anxiety and worry may be setting in and for kids, you might be seeing an increase in anxiety and stress. Children are struggling with emotional regulation at this point and parents and caregivers are dealing with their own stress. What can be done?
Here are my recommendations for providing support for your kids during this pandemic:
- Take care of yourself first and foremost. Make sure that you are finding time to take care of yourself. It will be hard with your children wanting your attention. Find the time to engage in an activity that you enjoy and give yourself a break when needed. Being overwhelmed can cause you to become dysregulated and your kids need your calm and responsiveness. Who is your support system? Reach out for help.
- Understand where your child’s behaviors are coming from. Kids will often engage in challenging behaviors during this time. This can be due to stress and anxiety or depression associated with social isolation. Kids may become clingy, irritable, demand more attention, and have difficulty with sleeping. React to these behaviors with empathy and patience. Calmly set limits. Children who are struggling need empathy, assurance of their safety, and structure.
- Encourage social connectedness even during social distancing. Encourage your children to reach out to others, whether through video conferencing, letter writing, phone calls or texts. Social connectedness will allow your child to develop resiliency.
- Provide you child accurate information regarding COVID-19. Answer honestly when your child asks questions regarding COVID-19. Resources such as the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/talking-with-children.html), Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/kids-covid-19/art-20482508), and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (https://www.nctsn.org/) can provide factual information to give to your child. Withholding information can cause more stress.
- Limit your child’s access to news coverage, social media, and adult conversations regarding the pandemic. The constant coverage of the pandemic can cause undue stress on children (and adults as well).
- Create a safe environment through the use of reassurance, routine, and regulation. Reassure your kids that they are safe. Keep regular routines such as bedtime, meals, learning, and play. This adds to a child’s sense of safety. When stressed, children will engage the stress response (fight, flight, or freeze). Always validate their feelings and help them engage in activities that will help them to regulate. (I know all of this is overwhelming right now. Let’s do some deep breathing together).
- Keep kids busy. Children tend to engage in more disruptive behaviors when bored. Make sure that they have safe activities to engage in. These may include arts and crafts, board games, music, and outdoor play. Collaborate with your kids and stretch your creative muscles to come up with activities to keep busy.
- Increase your child’s self-efficacy. Have your child engage in activities that increase control and agency. Activities such as helping with preparing meals, volunteering (letter writing to nursing homes, sharing supplies with neighbors) and engaging in safety guidelines (washing hands) allow children to play an active role in helping themselves, family, and their community.
- Reach out for help. For you and for your child. If your child shows an increase in emotions or behaviors (depression, anxiety, regression, aggression, self-harm) reach out to a therapist for help. If you, yourself are struggling with stress, reach out to a therapist for help and support.
I specialize in trauma-informed care for children and adolescents. I also provide parent coaching and support. I use safe, private, and convenient video conferencing. Call now (484-366-7303) to schedule a free 15 minute consultation.