As I say to my own children, and the children that pass through my office these days, things are weird right now! We are in an unprecedented situation that brings with it uncertainty, anxiety and fear. I want to pass along some suggestions on how to best comfort and support our kiddos through all of this, as well as inform you on therapy options moving forward.
First off, how do we best support out kids during all this?
1. Honestly acknowledge what is going on and the FEELINGS associated. It's tempting to say things like "this will be over soon" or "there is nothing to worry about"... The problem is kids are very perceptive. They are constantly picking up on both verbal and nonverbal messages that are telling them otherwise. They FEEL the anxiety and weirdness of the world around them. They feel the stress of parents trying to make decisions during this very difficult time. They see that things, seemingly overnight, have changed. They can't hang out with friends, they are not in school, parents are working from home or maybe not working at all, routines have changed... things are different! When we don't acknowledge this it creates a sense of incongruence within them. This feels unsafe and when kids feel unsafe it causes lots of problems for them, including behavioral problems, emotional distress, feelings of mistrust (which can lead to disrespect and anger), sleep disturbances, etc. It's important for us to relay a message that is congruent with how they feel inside and truthful about what is going on. Responses like "Yes this is scary" "No, we don't know what is going to happen" "I don't know if we are going to get it". Reflections like "your worried", "this feels weird", "you miss your friends", "this is all very confusing" - even though it seems counterintuitive these responses will build a sense of comfort, safety and trust.
2. We need to stay calm and take care of ourselves so that our kids can learn from us how to cope. This is called co-regulation. Children don't have the resources to know how to handle this type of crisis. In times like this, when they may feel in crisis or in distress, they need to borrow from our nervous system - this is what co-regulation is - they borrow from us first in order to eventually build in themselves their own inner capacity to self-regulate. This means it is SO very important for you to practice strategies that help you feel calm and in control. They will see this and this will have a calming and reassuring effect on their own nervous system. Some great strategies to do this are: deep breathing, talking about what you can control (i.e. social distancing, hand washing), having FUN, exercising, and getting outside. Really it's mindfulness. Show them how to be in this moment, right now. That moment may be snuggling and watching a movie, enjoying a treat, playing, eating a meal together... being present in that moment, together! This means put the phone down, turn off the news and don't talk about COVID-19 when you are playing a game or when you are eating dinner. Try and save a lot of those conversations for when they are in bed - they hear you! Even if they don't appear to.
3. Lastly, have a plan! Create a sense of control for them (and for you) where you can. If they are worried about it (and they ask) walk them through what happens if they get the virus (we stay home, mommy / daddy takes care of you, we call the doctor, we watch lots of movies....the pediatrician has a plan / we have a plan). Walk them through what happens if we are told to shelter in place.These questions came from my own 7 year old daughter just yesterday - "what happens if they tell us we can't leave the house mommy?" "will we be able to go in our backyard?" My answers were honest... "I don't know if we will be able to go in our backyard" "If we have to stay inside we will watch lots of tv and play lots of games and eat lots of brownies... This comforted her!
In small ways you can create a greater sense of control as well - with simple and dependable routines. For example, in our house we have hot chocolate story time weekdays at 3 p.m. now. Something they can count on. But don't over do this! Kids don't need every second of the day scheduled... they need LOTS of fresh air, free play and FUN! Lots of time outside in nature!
As we go through this together I am here to support you.
As of Monday March 23rd:
- Scheduled visits will be available at Wholesome Healing provided that family and provider feel this is safe and necessary. Precautions are being taken to minimize exposure risk and honor the importance of social distancing. See attached policy.
- Teletherapy is now available for all ages. For my younger kiddos (under 10) I am asking parents to purchase and put together a play therapy kit for these sessions. The cost of this kit is just under $100. To mitigate cost the first teletherapy session will be free. For my kiddos 10 and over, please reach out to me and I will help you customize a home therapy kit based on the type of work they do here in sessions.
- Finally, outdoor and nature sessions are being offered at local parks, trails and beaches. These sessions would be great for kiddos in that 10 and up group, and my adult clients!
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for any needs at all - I am here to support you and your families as we adapt and adjust to situations as they unfold.