This has been a crazy week for just about everyone. In my home of Ontario, it began with nothing more than news coverage over Covid-19 cases in other countries but quickly progressed to travel advisories and all the public schools closing down for a total of three weeks. Because the situation has changed so rapidly, there has been little time to prepare. Rapid, unexpected change can be an overwhelming stress trigger.
I had one day with my students to try and deal with this before we all went our separate ways. While many were saying how awesome it was to have an extra two weeks off, those same kids quickly acknowledged that the uncertainty was also really upsetting. As of now, we still don’t have a clear idea of how things will roll out over the next month. Some kids are worried that the school year will be extended into the summer months, some are worried that they will fall behind. Many are distressed about being away from their friends for an extended period. Given the primacy of peer support for pre-teens, this is a significant challenge. Finally, some worry about themselves or loved ones getting sick. There is almost constant media bombardment about hand washing and the importance of social distancing, not to mention regular updates about how many new Covid-19 cases there are from country to country and city to city. I wrote a post previously about managing worries for those of you whose kids may be caught up in fear of infection. It is important for kids to be informed about how to stay healthy, but maintaining a balanced approach is key.
So, for those of you here in Canada and around the world who may have really stressed out kids right now, I wanted to reach out with just a few reminders of what you can do to help them through this time.
Please encourage them to talk about it, to write or draw their feelings down. Better out than in. This is an excellent opportunity to nurture their creative side. Art is often an expression of extreme emotion, and it can be very therapeutic.
Make sure they are getting enough physical activity. Regulating energy levels is essential not only for physical health but mental as well. The mind and body are connected. Working the body can ease the mind.
There are school closures, cancelled trips, and museums and other cultural places are closed. Filling time can become extremely stressful. I have a post about the need to assess the amount of structure versus freedom your child needs before an extended break (summer). This is a vital time to do that, so please revisit it.
Find ways to stay connected. The upside to having so much social media and tech everywhere is that we can contact each other over distance. This is an excellent opportunity to make use of facetime and google hangouts. Challenge your kids to use these apps creatively to simulate what they might otherwise do in person. This could help fill a bit of the social void and stimulate their need to problem solve. Try a virtual sleepover, or any activity (making cookies, playing a simple board game); everyone watching a movie together and chatting in their own separate spaces.
This is indeed a strange experience for all of us. While this can be a stressful time, it is also a historically significant time and they are living through it. Take care, stay healthy and keep occupied.