Change is normal. It happens all the time. Seasons change. We move. Our jobs change. The size of our families change. Our moods change. Our energy changes.
Most of these changes we take in stride and many of them we even welcome into our lives. I love when the fall rolls around and the weather cools. The leaves change color. I feel like baking or making soups on those cooler days. This is a change that I love and look forward to.
You might feel excitement about a new job. A chance to try out or learn a new skill. A chance to meet new people. A chance to grow.
But what about a pandemic? Did we welcome this change? And what about all the children out there? How are they handling the change?
For kids, so much may have changed over the course of the last few months. They have had to quarantine. Give up time with friends. Maybe they couldn’t play sports. School had to be online. Graduations were online instead of in person. Parents had to be teachers. Many kids found themselves with so many hours in a day with no idea of how to fill them. There was no schedule or the usual predictability to their days that before were so predictable.
There may have also been a sense of anxiety or stress from the adults in their lives. Many people have been worried or anxious or fearful through this pandemic and the kids can sense when the atmosphere of their home has changed even if no on is saying it out loud. The news talks about deaths, facebook posts talk about despair. Websites all post warnings across the top about covid-19. People where masks everywhere. We are constantly washing our hands. All of these actions create a feeling of being afraid.
Trauma comes in so many shapes and sizes but global trauma is a real thing. We, who survive Covid-19, will be survivors of a trauma. Will it affect us all the same? Will there be a global cure for this trauma? Of course not! As humans, we all experience each situation differently based on our past experiences and knowledge base. While one person might be fearful, another might feel challenge. Where one child might love being at home with mom and dad all day, others might morn the loss of friends.
So how can we tell if our kids are struggling with this pandemic trauma? Here are some warning signs to look out for and ways that we can support children and ourselves through this pandemic.
What should you be looking out for as a parent? Depending on age, reaction to trauma can be quite different. For young children you might notice problems going to sleep or nightmares, regression in toileting skills or a fear of being alone. For school age kids, they might also experience nightmares or trouble sleeping and may need to talk or retell the event repeatedly. Teens and adolescents could engage in more risk-taking behaviors than normal, might withdraw from the family and you could notice a shift in how they are viewing the world. (https://www.nctsn.org/resources/age-related-reactions-traumatic-event).
So how can you help and support your kids so that they come out of this feeling resilient? The research shows that the number one support that we can give kids when there has been a trauma is to love them. To answer their questions. To talk about why things are the way they are. To help them understand and to be there for them when they need to process the event or when they can’t find the right words to just be there physically. To hug them often. To create a since of safety through loving kindness, hugs, and reassurances. To help them feel safe. (https://www.nctsn.org/resources/age-related-reactions-traumatic-event) As things return to the new “normal” it can help to try and keep schedules as consistent as possible so that the need to worry is reduced. They know you are dropping them off in the morning. They know you are picking them up at 3. It is also important for children to know that it is not just “them” that might feel worried or alone or fearful. It is not just them with big worried emotions but other children and adults too. For older children and teens, they may need support to come up with ways to release the anger that they might be feeling or to process their feeling in constructive ways. Stressful situations can cause emotions to bubble up unexpectedly. Teens might need ways to let off these emotions through groups support or someone else they can talk to.
As a family you might consider some mindfulness practices that allow children to release tension from the body and help to focus on the here and now- the present moment.
Here is a mindfulness routine for you to try.
Balloon or Belly Breathing
Sitting nice and tall, place one hand on the belly and one hand on the chest. Take 3 deep breaths allowing the belly hand to feel the expansion of the breath in the body and then exhales that are slow and soft. The breath is a great way to calm the nervous system fast!
Sun salutations are a good way to move the body and release tension in the legs, low back and neck. All muscles that might be tight from extended sitting. With older kids, they can begin to focus on their breath- inhaling and exhaling with each movement, keeping their attention on the movements and how their bodies are feeling.
As a family, you can also try this mediation. It is designed to help you prioritize what you are thinking. Are your thoughts about things that have already happened? Are your thoughts about things that haven’t happened yet? This meditation asks you to put those past or future thoughts to the side and notice what you are feeling right here, right now. This can help everyone to really notice what might be worrying them and to let that go.
Finally, try this relaxation called “Tense and Release”. Laying on your back, maybe with some soft music, tense all the muscles in your legs and then let your legs relax. Next, tense all the muscles in your arms and then let them relax. Then, tense all the muscles in your stomach and core and then let those muscles relax. Finally, tense all the muscles in your face, neck and shoulders and then let them relax. Take a moment to notice how the body feels as you relax all your muscles.
This would be a great morning and evening routine to begin the healing of this global pandemic. Give it a try and then leave a comment to let me know how it is working for your family! https://www.facebook.com/OmtasticYogaStudio/