“I wake up, open my eyes and wonder what day it is….I realize that it’s Wednesday. Each day feels the same though and I wonder if my Parents will have the news on already when I go down for breakfast.
I realize that this will be another day I will not be able to see my friends or my Teacher.
I hope that I can at least do a FaceTime call with my Bestie.
I head downstairs and hear the all too familiar sound of the morning news. I hear the same topic that I hear every day now for the past three months; COVID “numbers”, COVID “death count”. Reminders that I cannot leave my house, go to the park, go shopping with my Mom….Go anywhere!
I am stuck at home and Oh Yeah! I also have to do my dreaded online learning today! I hate this online learning!
Nothing makes sense, I can’t even see my Teacher because she isn’t doing anything live online. I only receive basic instructions for my learning and I never understand it. How am I supposed to do my assignments properly if I don’t even know what I am doing?! I want to see my Teacher’s face and hear my Teacher’s voice. I want to connect with her again.
As I read my Google classroom updates, I find out that my favourite librarian is retiring and my gym Teacher is leaving to another school. I will never get a chance to say Good-Bye to either of them because I am stuck here at home and they will be gone in September if we get to go back. Great! Another loss!
Now as I try to do my work, I hear my Mom and Dad talking about new restrictions to our daily living. I hear about how my Mom is struggling with cooking, cleaning, working, shopping, helping me with this homework of which I have no real instruction. Mom and Dad don’t know how to do this math and are just as frustrated if not more than I am about it. Money issues are being discussed. They think I am not listening but I am. I’m worried about money now too. What if my Parents can’t afford to pay for our house? Food?
My brother is now staying home instead of going to University in September. He is upset about not being on campus. He has lost out on his Graduation and his Prom and he is sad and very angry. I watch how he deals and struggles with this as well.
I look around and everything has changed. Everyone is scared. I am scared. I want to shut down all of these overwhelming feelings.
Eventually, my Mom notices that my behaviour has drastically changed. What does she notice?
→ I have become addicted to technology. I’m on it 8-10 hours each day. (Mom has been busy working, cooking, cleaning, managing a zillion things.. she didn’t notice and if she did, she didn’t have time to re-direct me anyways.
→ I have become grumpy and very short tempered. I snap and have attitude constantly and I really never reacted this way before this whole lockdown situation.
→ I am not taking proper care of my body. I sit on my butt most of the day and really don’t want to do anything except veg on the couch and on technology. (I am numbing out)
→ I have stopped doing any of my chores with out being reminded a million times and then Mom and I argue about how I am not doing them. Mom is mad. She is handling so much as it is but I just don’t feel like doing anything. I stomp off and do my chores but I don’t want to do them.
→ I spend hours on Roblox building clothing outfits and accessory options obsessively because this reminds me of going shopping for clothes with my Gramma and having such a good time out with her. At least if I can do these games online it feels a little bit like going to the mall and shopping.
The one highlight of my week is going to my best friend’s driveway to visit her. We do dances in the driveway to music from her house. This is the only connection I have with a friend, for 3 months now!
I have no idea when this will end. Maybe it will be like this forever… What is happening to our world To my life? I’m so scared…”
This is the reality of the experience of our children right now and for the past three months.
What can I do to help my child through this Pandemic?
• Help your child speak openly about how they are feeling. Let them know that having all of these types of feelings and emotions are completely normal and you are here to help them be with these emotions and work through them.
• Help teach your children how to self-regulate. Guide your child to pay attention to the “felt sense” in their bodies. Ask them to notice the places that feel tight, stuck, open, relaxed. Ask them about what they notice about these sensations.
The purpose of this activity is to have children focus on their body so that they can feel grounded within themselves, rather than distracted outside of their body or numbing out in different ways. Video games, for example, become a coping mechanism for them to “numb out”, to not have to be present with life so they don’t have to feel the emotional pain that the stress of life is causing. Children can’t just reach for a cigarette or a bottle of wine or alcohol when they don’t want to feel their pain. So video games or dissociating completely from their body is their a way of numbing out…therefore becoming addicted. It is important to help them learn to bring the focus back to themselves in times of anxiety or stress rather than learning that the answer to their discomfort will come from outside of themselves.
• Provide your child with breathing techniques to help them manage their anxiety, like this one below:
1. Have your child practice breathing with the following pattern. Take a nice deep breathe in through your nose to a slow count of four, hold the breath for the slow count of four and exhale to the slow count of four. Reminding them to breathe deeply into their diaphragm, rather than their chest.While they are practicing this breathing, have them focus on relaxing all of the muscles in their body, from the top of their head down to their toes. Encourage your child to breathe deeply in through their heart center while focusing on their feeling of love for a pet or animal that they love while they breathe in.
2. As your child is focusing on breathing slowly and deeply, have them tap gently back and forth from their right knee to their left knee. A back and forth tapping pattern. Left, right, left, right. They can also tap their stomach or beat gently on a drum even. Tossing a ball back and forth from left to right is helpful can be helpful as well.
3. As your child practices their slow deep breathing have them try full tensing and then fully relaxing their muscles. They can start this exercise with their face, their shoulders and arms, their stomach and then work down through their body to their feet. First, they will squeeze their muscles tight for 3-5 seconds and then completely relax those muscles for 3-5 seconds. When they finish this exercise at their toes they can take a few minutes to release any remaining tension from their body while practicing their deep diaphragmatic breathing.
• Ask your child what is worrying them or causing them anxiety. Guide your child to choose a space in front of them to stare at. Ask them to picture the word white and the work black in the space they are starting. Suggest they focus on the space which is in between the two words. Have them do this for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then guide them to visualize the empty space inside a coffee cup for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Next, have them close their eyes and envision the area of space in between their eye brows for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Now see if they can visualize the space in between their ears for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lastly, see if they can place the issue that is worrying them out in front of them. Have them focus on the space around it and then as if they are a drone, have them back away from the worry slowly for about 30 seconds. Ask them to notice how worried they actually are about that concern now. Now you can remind them that they are the space around the worry. They themselves are so much bigger than this worry. Remind them how small their worry is compared to all of the space around it.
If you still feel that your child continues to struggle it may be a good idea to engage professional mental health support.
These are very difficult times for everyone and especially for our children and teenagers. Their brains are not developed enough to assist them in coping with these strange and scary times. They are also experiencing their care givers in different ways than they are used to and this can cause insecurity and instability.
Let’s try to be extra patient with our young ones during these times. “Patience is a virtue” as they say and definitely is beneficial for our children. Maybe spending some time breathing for ourselves and remaining more calm can help us feel better as well? It wouldn’t hurt to try these techniques for ourselves!