Children & Mental Health
The world has drastically changed and it’s okay not to know all the answers. There will be changes in the ways your child’s camp or school is being run this year compared to two years ago. Some changes may be seen within social groups as new friendships may have developed or lost over the past year. Most children have already created the sense that things are different and still uncertain and they will likely have unanswered questions about themselves or others as we move forward in our recovery. Some may be vocal about what is on their mind, while others may express it through their actions or behaviors. We need to be mindful of what children tell us and pay attention to their interests, sleep, appetite, level of social interactions, and mood fluctuations.
Historically our children may lean on the familiarity of school, friends, and adults close to them to ease their worries of the unknown. We often advocate for structure and consistency in our children’s environment because this creates a sense of safety. However, what do we do when we have uncertainties of our own? It is normal to have apprehension, anxiety, or discomfort over things we cannot control, but after we better understand and validate our own emotions, we could then help our children with theirs. If we think the world is safe, so will our children.
It’s important to remember that our children’s worries will be different than ours as their perception of the world is different. While it is tempting to jump into problem-solving mode, it is more important to listen and empathize first. It is essential to maintain an open conversation about the thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing. Express genuine interests in what they have to say as their source of emotional conflict may differ from what we initially thought. We are there to express reassurance over how it is normal to have intense feelings over uncertainty. We have to model constructive ways to ease strong feelings by separating the productive and unproductive thoughts behind them. Instead of finding one solution, help them brainstorm other possible solutions and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each possible solution. After they settle on a possible rational solution to their worries, ensure their decision is concrete while focusing on the positive outcomes instead of the negative.
There will be many changes for our children soon, some of which we can not predict. Instead of planning for the unknown, we could spend our time with our children working on healthy ways to adapt to the inevitable changes.