In the uncertain times we find ourselves in, every family should consider making a family care plan. We know this is a difficult topic to discuss, but planning to make sure those you love are going to be okay is also an important part of managing stress during this incredibly stressful time.
Emotions and COVID: It's Okay to Feel
Meet our Guest Blogger: Emilee Reynolds is a parent and early educator in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. She currently works with families as a playgroup facilitator for Child Care of the Berkshires.
Parents everywhere are anxiously awaiting schools to announce a starting plan. Their thoughts are everywhere: Will they be able to juggle hybrid learning and working? Should they take FMLA through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act? Do they risk coronavirus exposure by sending their child to school? What are the mental health repercussions of homeschooling? - There is no right answer, as all the plans have pros and cons. The waiting for a plan while seeing numbers of cases rising is considerable stress. Stress that every parent has the right to feel.
Children are also anxiously waiting to see what will happen. They have been hearing snip-its of adult conversations, hearing the news, learning about proper mask-wearing, and feeling the stress of their parents. They present their feelings in numerous ways: anger, lethargic tendencies, sadness, inability to settle down, anxiousness, and many other out of the ordinary behaviors. This is to be expected, especially for younger children. Their lives have been majorly disrupted without warning and understanding. As adults, we can process things better because we understand the many moving pieces of the pandemic. The children are really only grasping that there are too many germs making people sick. They are still figuring out that there is a world around them that has billions of other people.
Our society isn’t the best at handling emotions. It is common practice to push feelings away or think our feelings are an overreaction. Emotions present themselves differently in people. You may have two children showing being nervous different. One may be overly busy while the other just wants to sleep. It is okay to let them sit in this emotion. It helps them recognize and process in their own way. The emotions both adults and children are feeling will not go away with some quick mindfulness exercises. Emotions will continue to change as the pandemic progresses. This is normal and okay.
This is a time where any emotion you have is entirely valid. We should not attempt to erase the emotions, but there are some things you can do to help yourself and your children cope with emotions:
1. Limit social media and news.
The constant stream of coronavirus updates is a trigger. Just when you have calmed down, there is another article. Many of these articles are based on the same information but written for different news outlets. Pick one 15-minute block a day to check news outlets. Wait a full 24 hours before reading anything else news related.
2. Keep the news off when your children are awake.
They are hearing pieces of news that are tailored to adults. They may not be able to understand everything being said, but they can understand the tone of it. A constant stream of fear and negativity is going to alter how they feel.
3. Talk about how you are feeling.
Let your children know that you are feeling nervous or overwhelmed. Give them age-appropriate answers as to why you feel this way. Let them express how they feel without judgment. Validate their emotions by saying something like, “I understand how hard this is.” or “You have every right to feel this way.”.
4. Take time to recognize how you are feeling.
Allow yourself to mourn the time lost or the things you have missed. If it is important to you, then it is not too trivial. Remember, it is okay to cry.
5. Watch Sesame Street together.
There are many segments for children to learn about coronavirus in an age-appropriate way. Watch your child’s face and body language during the screening. Make time to talk about how everyone is feeling after. Children will often say they are fine right after but bring it up hours or days later. If this happens, take the time to talk about their emotions. Stop what you are doing to give your child the attention they need. Don’t dismiss their emotions. Everything they are feeling is valid.
This blog post was originally featured on Transforming Early Childhood Education.
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Parenting is stressful even in the best of situations, but the unprecedented events surrounding the COVID-19 global crisis is adding a new level of anxiety for parents. Whether you’re balancing working from home while homeschooling kids, dealing with anxiety about finances, or simply feeling isolated in this new era of social distancing, experiencing stress is normal. You are not alone.