By Lianna Champ, Grief and Trauma Counsellor
The pandemic and seemingly endless lockdowns have taken their toll on all of us. We're all feeling a bit out of control of our lives - but for our children, who may struggle to understand what is happening and put it into context, it can be even more unsettling. Here are 5 simple strategies to help your children cope with this stressful time.
- Hugs and Cuddles
Lots of hugs and cuddles bring children a sense of loving security. Be consistent, be constant and try not to rail against the unfairness of the pandemic in front of them. Have a structure to each day. Children really like routines, especially when they know what the boundaries are. Make it fun for them and stick to it. Familiarity brings security for young children.
- Be Patience and Repeat
Children have short attention spans and sometimes they need lots of repetition until the penny drops. Patience is the key. Talk to your children. During this time of lockdown you are not just their parent, you are their friend and playmate, their teacher and their guide. Keep your language consistent and simple and break activities into manageable size chunks, building in regular quiet/nap times too.
- Keep Your Own Anxieties Hidden from Your Child
Even though young children do not have the language to communicate or understand, they are extremely emotionally perceptive. If you are scared, worried or distracted by the pandemic, your little one will know and this can create unrest. Tears and tantrums may follow. Patience again is key. They need reassurance. To reduce your chance of reacting to a tantrum, close your eyes, breath deeply and slowly in through your nose, out through your mouth. Then visualise yourself doing something physical, for example washing a car. Hear the water running into the bucket, feel the warmth on your hand as it sinks into the warm water. This will help to reduce your own anxiety and will bring a sense of calm to your child once they realise they cannot control you.
- Explain the Importance of Good Hygiene
It must be very scary indeed for a little one to see adults around them wearing masks. Even though they may be young and not understand, try to explain in simple words that it helps us to control our germs. Wash their hands regularly and teach them to do this as soon as they are able. Let them enjoy their bath time and showers so that personal cleanliness and hygiene become second nature. When they are able, let them help around the house which also teaches the importance of a nice clean and tidy environment.
- Healthy Food = Healthy Body
Right from babyhood, children can learn the value of eating healthy, nutritious food. They will only develop a sweet, fast food palate if that is what they are fed. It is just as easy to feed them healthy food and it is far cheaper to make your own from scratch. If your children can watch and even help with the food prep, you are giving them a great life skill. You are also teaching them to consider what they are putting in their bodies and how what we eat affects us both physically and mentally. Try to make cooking more of a pleasure than a chore. Plan menus and take time to prepare with love. By eating well we are showing our bodies the greatest respect as well as taking responsibility for our well-being. We are also making ourselves more resilient to illnesses.
About the Author
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in grief and trauma counselling and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ