How can we ensure children’s mental health and well-being is stable amidst lock-down?
Presented to Joy for Children: “Ensuring Support services for children with disabilities Amidst Lockdown” July 16, 2021, by Paul R. Sachs, Ph.D., MBA; ReidSachs LLC, www.reidsachs.com
Children are not small sized adults. Children’s physical, cognitive and emotional skills are still developing. So, children are more likely to express their feelings through their behavior than through words. Play and expressive arts are good ways to help children manage their feelings. Make these activities a part of a child’s day, whether during lock-down or not.
Caregivers are models: Whether intentionally or not, parents and other caregivers are models for children. Make your modeling deliberate. When faced with a difficult situation such as a lock-down or an illness, explain to the child how you are feeling and what you are doing to manage your feelings.
Keep it simple: The pandemic is a complex event. A child does not need to understand everything about it. Anyway, who does? Explain the event simply. Focus on one small part and how we are coping with it.
Routines are good: Routines provide a child with a sense of structure and control which will help their emotional stability. Establishing a routine during lock-down and after helps everyone feel more in control.
Build resilience: Children who are resilient can sustain stress and setbacks better than children who are not. Nan Henderson lists six elements to resilience: provide caring and support, set and communicate high expectations, increase pro-social bonding, provide opportunities for meaningful participation, teach life skills, set clear and consistent boundaries.
During the pandemic and during lock-down some of these can be hard to do. Here are some suggestions:
Provide caring and support: Items 1-4 above show how one can support a child at all times.
Set and communicate high expectations: No matter what, assure your child that you believe in them and their abilities. Doing so can help them feel more confident.
Increase pro-social bonding: Despite the isolation, opportunities to connect with others, such as extended family and peers, will give your child a broad base of support and help them build social skills.
Provide opportunities for meaningful participation: Again, play and creative arts activities are valuable. Helping in the home or participating with a faith-based group are also opportunities for social bonding and meaningful participation.
Teach life skills: There are so many life skills, but some basic ones are communication, listening, setting goals and planning. These are activities that caregivers and children can do together during lock-down or any time.
Set clear and consistent boundaries: Boundaries are badly strained during lock-down confinement. Still, they cannot be ignored. You may have different boundaries than you had before the lock-down, but clear boundaries are valuable for children – even if they protest.