The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of everyone on the planet, some more drastically than the others.
Children are especially susceptible to the emotional impact of this public health crisis, as they are keen observers of people and happenings around them, experience disruptions to their daily lives (quarantine, school closures etc) + prolonged effects (loved ones missing their significant life events like birthdays), and through all these, they may be too young to fully comprehend why this is happening.
Supporting Our Children's Big Pandemic Triggered Feelings
Undergoing these can give rise to many big emotions in children - stress, fear of their own safety and that of their family, helplessness, anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness and even grief. Children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions, and require their carers' consistent, supportive and patient presence to counteract the negative emotions and feel the sense of security and stability they need.
By supporting our children in emotional regulation of their big feelings, we can help prevent adverse negative behaviour like aggression, withdrawal, and mental health issues.
In our responses, we need to show empathy, validation of our children's feelings and a willingness to help make things better.
The framework merely serves as a rough guide. Feel free to tailor the exact wordings to what's age-appropriate and natural-sounding to you and your child.
I understand the use of the framework can make your speech lengthy or time-consuming, which is challenging when your child is on the verge of a tantrum/meltdown, or already feeling too upset to take it in.
If so, keep it short. Validate your child's feelings and empathize. When your child is calmer and more receptive towards what you say, you can leverage more aspects of the framework to build connection with your child.
Taken out of school: “You’re restless and bored because you find school more interesting than staying home. Feeling this way is normal, you love school! I’m sorry we have to stay home for one more week, can I make it better by showing you the activities your teacher prepared for you to do at home?”
Leaving the playground when crowded: “You’re angry because I told you we had to leave the playground when it’s getting crowded. This is normal, I can understand you’re not ready to leave and want to play longer. I’m sorry we have to keep you safe by avoiding crowds, shall we cycle around the park first?”
Having to mask up: "You're frustrated because you are not used to wearing a mask but have to wear it now. Your frustration is normal, I can understand it feels unnatural. How about we imagine ourselves as detectives as we go into the shopping mall, looking for clues?"
Loved ones missing their significant life event (e.g. birthday): “You’re crying because you’re sad that your friends can’t come to our house for your birthday. Feeling sad is normal, anyone would hate that they have to spend their birthdays without their friends. I’m sorry, but could I make it better by inviting them all to a zoom call / doing a drive by to drop off goodie bags to them?”
Missing their best friend: "You're sad that you have not seen your best friend in a long time. It's normal to miss someone you're close to when you don't see him/her for some time. Shall we put our feelings of missing him/her into a beautiful card and then mail this surprise to him/her?"
And more recently, as the COVID-19 situation improves in some states with higher vaccination rates and school resume:
- Returning to school after a year of social distancing: "You're anxious and overwhelmed by the thought of going back to school after not meeting everyone for so long. It's understandable, and you deserve all the time you need to feel ready. Shall we verbally run through how your first day back at school would go to help you feel more prepared?"
These pandemic times are challenging and hard for everyone, as we adjust and re-adjust to new normals. Channeling you positive vibes and strength as we navigate this period, and support our children in staying safe, healthy and happy.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.