It’s been a rough year in case you hadn’t noticed! Whew! Everyday presents itself with a new challenge to adapt to, and overcome. We are still trying to thrive in a time of pandemic and uncertainty. And while we can all agree that this may very well be the hardest thing, or one of the hardest years we have been through, we sometimes forget about the children and the impact the world has on them.
Children have had to regroup just as many times as we have and in many ways, it can seem that they ‘go with the flow’ much easier than we do. As long as they are off playing cheerfully in the backyard with their new set of imaginary friends…ya know, since social distancing is in Vogue…we think they are just fine.
Children have a brain that is still in various stages of development, something the National Institute of Health refers to as Brain Architecture. This leaves them susceptible to environmental adversity. They are experiencing interruptions in their social connections, education, physical and mental care, and many children are living in situations of poverty due to the shut downs and losses experienced by their caregivers. They witness firsthand the stress of their caregivers and those around them who speak openly about their own anxieties. Children just don’t have the nervous system to self regulate and this is something that as adults, we often overlook. In just a few days, our kids will most likely be heading back to the classroom. It will look much different than it ever did, and for some with more fragile emotional systems, it could very well create some trauma for them. So, how do we help them adjust and give them tools to have a safe and enjoyable year, as close to normal as possible? We can help all children whether we are a mother, aunt, friend, or neighbor.
- As the responsible adult, we need to get our own view of the world in which we live in check. If we are scared or anxious, our children will recognize that. We set the tone for the day.
- Listen to them, not just their words but watch their behavior. Humans tend to battle fear with angry outbursts and insecurity. Its important to listen to what they aren’t saying!
- Ask what their concerns are for the upcoming school year. Validate each point and instead of lying or sugar coating their fears, admit when you just don’t know the answer. Let them know you will do your best to advocate for them in the best way you can.
- Work together on a plan to thrive. Kids are smart and if we stopped to ask for their input and suggestions, we may actually find a better way.
- Empower them in their own process of making decisions. This is a great opportunity to teach them about critical thinking. When they get to make some of the decisions, the outcomes are typically more favorable and there is less acting out.
- Give them the tools they need to feel safe going out in the world. Teach them about realistic hygiene goals, not obsessive thoughts. Remember we need some healthy bacteria to keep us safe. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
- Help them understand what the new school is going to look like and get their feedback. What scares them about the new plan for education.
- Create healthy spaces and activities for kids to decompress from the world. This includes limiting their exposure to social media.
These are challenging times and we recognize the difficulties each family in our community faces, and they are different for everyone. These are only ideas that you can develop further for your own unique set of circumstances, and there are so many other ways to help our children. Hopefully, this gets us thinking and preparing for the new frontier we will soon be facing. As providers in the medical community we strive to add our support and compassion during these times. We know the weight of the burdens you carry.