Stress in Children During the Pandemic
By Loretta Blevins, APCC 4414 Para este blog en ESPANOL,
abra este documento.
With Covid-19 still interrupting our lives, we thought it would be good to remember our four part series last fall on Childhood Stress. We hope the wisdom of our therapists brings healing, help and hope to you and your children as we continue to navigate our new normal.
During these times of a Covid-19 Pandemic, online school, no athletics or school clubs, limited socializing with friends, not to mention parents as teachers and working from home, today’s families have never before encountered this enormous stress on their children. Although we all have stress in our lives, and sometimes it works to keep us motivated, this level of stress for a child can become toxic. Like many families, you may be exhausted trying to keep your child safe physically, as well as emotionally. Because both are so important, I would like to offer a few ideas to help you monitor your child’s stress in the days ahead.
The first suggestion is to always be aware of your own stress levels, your reactions and how you are taking care of yourself, during these difficult times. Children are watching constantly, even when we are unaware. They look to you to model what is the best way to respond and for comforting reassurance for their emotions. If your children see you disengaging from media with some down time or taking daily walks, listening to music and dancing, taking up a fun hobby or playing family games, they will begin to see that you value this type of self-care and learn to value it for themselves, too. If you include your children and have routines with down time and family fun, that is even better!
Secondly, be aware of changes in your child’s behavior that might appear to be “attention seeking” or not typical for them. For infants/toddlers this may look like being clingier or crying more than usual. It can also show up in their little bodies, especially with their sleeping, eating and bowel movements. At any age, you want to look for body functioning changes associated with sleeping, eating and bowel movements. Older children may not be sleeping like they use to or they may sleep too much. Also be aware of eating too little or too much, as well as going to the bathroom too little or too much. There could be different reasons for this, but what research indicates is that children will try to control what they can when things feel out of control/or overwhelmed with toxic stress. So controlling eating, bowel movements, or sleeping are unhealthy responses to stress that parents can watch out for during these times.
Lastly, an important concern is your child’s emotional wellness. Try to keep an eye on signs of withdrawal from their friends and/or family more often, or never wanting to leave. These could be signs of anxiety, fear, or sadness that they might not know how to talk about. If you notice they are not talking or talking too much, this can be another expression of internal stress. Remember to look at all of these signs in comparison to what is normal for your child. Every child is different. You are looking for changes. Also, never hesitate to seek help from counselors, doctors, teachers and other professionals to help you understand your child’s stress and ability to cope with all of the things happening in their world right now.