by Torri Wright | March 26th, 2020
With a wide-spread panic, no one really knows what is going to happen or to come, how can we not panic? How can we confidently tell our children all is well, particularly those who are old enough to see media outlets. In all the years I have been working with children, in schools, private homes, and facilities, this is definitely the most widely panicked I have witnessed professionals becoming and understandably so. I wanted to share a bit about my thoughts as a professional and parent.
First, this is tough. The entire situation feels very doom and gloom and it is difficult to avoid the anxiety or going down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts. Several, credibly sourced, articles I have read indicated the virus is actually not impacting children, in fact, the rate in china was reported as only 2.1% of those impacted were children. This is really important, as it does give us something to feel a little at ease about. Knowing our little ones are relatively safe. Now, what does that mean for us, our spouses, family members who are not healthy children?
I cannot offer a solution there, however, I can offer a little perspective. Our society does not often look at things with a macro/micro-lens, rather we go into the weeds and fail to step back and look at the meadow, sitting at the base of a mountain. If we cannot control the greater outcome, what do we have control over? We can control our home hygiene, where we go, our thoughts, our words, and to some degree our level of panic (I fully respect this is easier for some than others).
What I mean by this is, we need to come together as a community and reach out to one another for support, so we can be amazing co-regulators for the children — obviously, through telecommunications — we are caring for. Children are struggling to keep it together, because the world they have come into is unpredictable, in a bit of chaos at the moment, and the outcomes are still very much undetermined. While I feel hesitant in sharing this, I am going to, with the hopes of others, maybe, seeing this as a perspective shift.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The only difference between a catastrophe and an adventure, is attitude.” Anonymous
Yes, our attitude determines a lot. And the attitude we take also impacts our kids, as they look to us for when is a good time to panic or stay calm. If there is an opportunity to turn this experience into an adventure in learning, challenging ourselves to see the humor or fun that can happen during these times, this lightens our hearts and we begin to feel a sense of calm and ease. For example:
This is the key to co-regulation. We have to find something to help us feel a sense of ease, so we can reassure our children. Distraction is a good thing when there is nothing we can do outside of wait.
Anxiety is fed by our thoughts and words, if we disrupt our thoughts with distraction/humor/physical movement/breathe, we overcome the panic. This might be an hourly practice, but one worth practicing. In some cases, we may even need to dive into understanding the virus and go to credible sources to gain perspective, while this is more than likely not going to help in the majority of situations. To be clear, for kiddos who are black and white thinkers/processors or experience Autism, they may need actual facts, see the data, have things explained in scientific terms — this will absolutely dissolve some of the obsessive behaviors/worries if it is presented appropriately with facts — and limited to no emotion. Withholding information when they are asking will cause panic, anxiety, and sometimes aggressive behavior.
Reminding ourselves and each other of what we do have control of will be helpful as we brace for the unknown. The ripple effect with our children can be minimized if/when we are able to co-regulate and present an environment that is as predictable as we can possibly make it.
I truly send this out with the single focus of supporting our youth, at this time of crisis. Trauma can last a lifetime and this is already one that will impact every-single child, let’s minimize the effects as much as possible with constant reflection and adjusting.
Perhaps people can comment with ideas or activities that can be helpful.
Thank you for considering how we can shift.