Coronavirus: how to manage children’s emotions
Coronavirus has upset our lives and also that of children , has upset our habits and our daily lives . With the closure of schools, kindergartens, restrictions and lack of freedom , children also suffer .
But what happens in this period in the children’s heads? What do they think? What do they imagine? What do they feel?
Like adults, children in this complex period are also experiencing many emotions. Just like adults, children can feel alone, scared, angry, frustrated, sad, bored, or have confused thoughts . It is important to know that children feel and understand emotions but they are still not very good at explaining them, and if they do, they do it through drawing and playing.
Parents can therefore be excellent “emotional facilitators”, encouraging them to externalize their emotions and establishing an emotional dialogue with them. To establish an emotional dialogue it is necessary to ask them through attentive, welcoming and empathetic listening, reassuring them through words and gestures (hugs, cuddles …), using simple and clear words, encouraging them to talk about their emotions and states of mood.
Especially in this situation, children need to live in a peaceful environment , not to be distressed by images or words , but above all to have parents available to listen and understand . In addition to the emotional and empathic dialogue, here are some strategies for managing children’s emotions in this particular period:
Accept and welcome all emotions
Allow the children, but also yourself, to experience all the emotions, even the most unpleasant ones, such as fear, sadness or anger. Accept and welcome all emotions. Emotions teach us that we are human beings.
When we face difficult emotions, the only way to overcome them is to go through them. It’s difficult, I know, but try it!
If your child is sad, allow him to be sad. If he is angry, allow him to be angry. If he is bored, allow him to be bored. If he is afraid, allow him to experience fear. If he is confused, allow him to be confused.
All emotions are important, we must not repress them, but let them flow. So allow him to experience every emotion that goes through it. Take your time. If he feels supported, listened to, accepted and not judged in his “feeling”, he will find a way to bring out what he feels, what he feels and maybe even something new about himself.
Try not to project your emotions onto the child
Children easily understand the moods of adults. It is therefore very important that parents commit themselves to managing their emotions, keeping calm and reassuring them, explaining the events in a simple and understandable way for them.
Maintain and define a routine
It is essential in this period to maintain more or less the same habits as before, as far as is obviously possible, by creating and recreating a new routine. Keeping contacts with the school alive, for example, helps a lot right now, because it allows children to continue to have those points of reference not only in space / time, but above all in relationships.
It is very useful to allow moments of learning, play, relaxation and physical activity to alternate throughout the day. Maintaining a routine is important because it gives us a way to control and predict reality, it gives us the sense that we are organizing reality. In this confused and uncertain period, routine can give us and children a sense of certainty, predictability and stability (physical, mental and emotional).
Cultivate social and friendly relationships
Remind the children that physical spacing is needed in this period but not social spacing. During this period , children also need to remain in relationship with others , with classmates, with their friends, through calls and video calls to share experiences and emotions with their peers, or simply to tell each other and feel less alone.
Keep in touch with parents separated
It is important that in this period children stay close to all the people who love them, even with parents who no longer live in the same. In the case of families with separated parents it is important to maintain constant and regular relational contact with the non-cohabiting parent.
Provide explanations in a reassuring way
Children need to know what’s going on. They need to know why what is unknown is even more frightening. Tell the children what is happening, using simple, non-alarmist terms. Children need safety, simple, clear explanations (WHO or Civil Protection information) and above all consistent .
Try to explain the current situation by referring to a personal event from the past, for example: “Do you remember the time you had a fever and you couldn’t go out, you couldn’t go to kindergarten, you couldn’t go find your girlfriend …?” .
More advice on how to explain coronavirus to children
Pay attention to his behavior
Previous stage regressions may occur that give the child safety and containment. Some may go back to looking for stuffed animals, others for pacifiers or bottles. Furthermore, it can happen that children react through an ” emotional freezing “, the so-called “freezing”, a state of impotence or apparent serenity.
This is not always a sign of serenity. We must prevent children from reacting as adults, making themselves excessively responsible and inhibiting their emotions. Through play or drawing we can learn better to understand their emotions. It can happen that they stage catastrophes, wars, recalling the need to feel protected by building houses, tents or shelters.
Agree to be an imperfect parent
You will surely be wrong, you will surely feel tired or frustrated because many times you do not know how to manage your child’s emotions. Surely many times you will have thought that you are not a good parent, that you do not give him enough, that you are not enough. But it is normal. It is normal to feel wrong. It is normal to feel inadequate. It is normal to be so especially in this period in which we are all overwhelmed by many emotions, many events, many situations, many changes. So go well like this! Agree to be an imperfect parent.
If you feel tired or overwhelmed during this time, if you need a confrontation or support, remember that psychologists have organized themselves to offer remote psychological support, so you are not alone!