While many of us are hopeful that COVID-19 will be over soon, the aftermath of this pandemic is still changing several aspects of our lives. Children, teachers, and parents have had to transition into a new way of doing things, and surely all these new practices can put people on edge. Once we become comfortable with new rules, numbers rise, and protocols change yet again. As a parent or teacher, here are a few ways to help guide children’s emotions through this time.
Know What To Look For
Every child is different, and every child can display their emotions in several different ways. Dr. Michael Mantell, a Behavioral Science Coach, recently wrote a blog for Thrive Global. He stated the following as possible indicators of an emotional upset child aged one to six: generalized fear, heightened arousal and confusion, difficulty identifying feelings, sleep disturbances, separation fears, startle response to loud noises, uncharacteristic crying, and many more. A study was done by The Journal of Pediatrics with children in China after COVID-19 found that many children were exhibiting various stress reactions due to the unknown and unexpected events of COVID-19. In the coming months, teachers and parents should try to build and nurture children’s resilience. With strong resilience, children can manage small disappointments and large traumatic situations. Building up resilience will overall help children be more emotionally and physiologically stable. Dr. Michael Mantell states several ways that caregivers and parents can help children let out their emotions and eventually build resilience by maintaining routines, expect some problematic behavior, respect children’s fears, and many more.
Check-In With Children Regularly
Children may be oblivious to all that is happening or feeling unsettled by a new change in routine or new rules in their childcare program or even observe your own worried emotions. Whether they feel all of these or none of them, it is essential to check in with young children frequently during this time. Child Mind Institute advises to check in with young children during a calm and undistracted time to ask the child how they feel gently. Children who are throwing more tantrums might be feeling more anxious. However, the child responds about how they feel; it is crucial to respond as calm, consistent, and comforting as possible.
Manage Your Own Emotions
How we manage to control our anxiety has a significant impact on children. Managing our own emotions can help your family and your students navigate through this uncertain time. If you feel yourself getting more anxious about new changes, try not to express them in an area where children can hear you. Anytime you feel overwhelmed or anxious, remove yourself from the area, go outside or to another room, and take a few deep breaths. Child Mind Institute also advises to watch out for catastrophic thinking. Instead, engage in a solution-based thinking approach and keep perspective.
All in all, it is essential to remember the 3 R’s – Reassurance, routine, and regulation. Reassure the child of their and their family’s safety. Keep a routine for the child to feel a sense of predictability and security. Encourage self-regulation with children through deep breathing mindfulness or meditation activities, exercise, and regular eating and sleeping routines.