As a parent, it can be hard to see your child struggle for any reason. It is even harder to look at their struggles and attempt to help them through it when we are going through the same experience they are. The Covid-19 pandemic has hit us all hard. It is a wonder that many of us can still remember to take a shower, let alone try to help our children through the emotional and behavioral craziness they are experiencing too!
How do you know what is causing their behavior?
How do we know what to do to help them?
How do we know who to turn to for help?
It can be too much to have to think about and even process. Not to mention, you are being overwhelmed by the trauma of the situation yourself.
But if you know that your child has been affected by trauma, you can help to support them in the process of recovering. Here are just a few of the things you can do:
1) Figure out the triggers: It can be even a harmless activity or statement that can trigger trauma. Perhaps your child was watching a series on television or playing a specific video game over time. Now, when that show or video game comes on, they get agitated. Identify what has them distracted, anxious, or bothered and upset and help them avoid them.
2) Be present: It can be hard as there are sooo many things that we have to get done too, but try and make yourself available to them both emotionally and physically when they need you. They may behave in a way that pushes people away and forces you to punish them. Be patient. Offer encouragement, comfort, and positive attention.
3) Stay calm and be respectful: When they start to become overwhelmed, stay calm, and try not to raise your voice. It is always good to try and acknowledge their feelings, even if you don’t feel or see it the same way. Be reassuring, but be honest, too. (Don’t make false promises, for example.) Never punish the child with physical discipline, but instead, try and set reasonable, clear limits, and always reward good behavior.
4) Help them relax: It is always god to try and teach them slow breathing exercise techniques they can do with you or alone or find calming music they may like. Help them to come up with a positive mantra or affirmation that they can repeat like “I am safe” or “I am loved.”
5) Create routines: Predictability can help not just us but especially our children feel safe and more secure. Even with the craziness of a quarantine, try and come up with a routine for meals or bedtime. If there are changes that are going to occur, give them a heads-up before it happens.
6) Give them some control: It is always reassuring to control something in an uncontrollable situation, so let them make some age-appropriate choices. This way, they will feel like they have some control over their lives during this pandemic. It also may help him relax and be more at ease with other aspects of the day and their life.
7) Get professional help: When in doubt, it is always good to check in with a professional to make sure that the situation is not getting worse. If their symptoms last more than a few weeks, or if it seems like they are getting worse, you may want to reach out to find a professional like a child mental health counselor. They can provide more resources to help them, and you process and recover from the traumatic event.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
Take care of YOU!
Parenting under any circumstances can be hard, but when a child is under this kind of stress, it really isn’t easy. It can strain your relationships with them or with the other people in your life. Families are feeling isolated during this pandemic, but even more, when your child’s reaction is out of what is normal for them.
The same goes that if something traumatic happens to your child, it’s likely to affect you as well. This is called “secondary trauma.” And it is particularly likely to affect you if you’ve had your own trauma in the past.
As specialists trained in both trauma therapy and processing issues, we can help to assess and treat the behaviors that you are seeing for you and your child. We are here to help you overcome the stressors of this unprecedented time or any other event that you and your child may have experienced.
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Melissa Bianchini is a licensed clinical social worker in New York and the owner and executive director at Sensory Stepping Stones, LLC. Her career has spanned over 20 years working with children and families around neurological processing concerns, stress-related trauma, and anxiety. Her passion in life is to make a difference in the lives of kids and families that she works with. It has led her spirit to create a facility that facilitates a holistic approach to overall health, wellness, and processing development for those 3 through 93 years young! To unwind and reconnect, Melissa enjoys spending time at home with her husband, Damian, and her dogs and cats, exercising, eating chocolate (of course!), and doing anything that involves nature!