Understanding and Helping Your Child Adapt in the Time of COVID. Christina Gallo, MS, OTR/L
Take a minute to imagine you’re a kid during this strange time.
From the perspective of a child, you might think:
I suddenly stopped going to school and all my activities changed. My parents started helping me with school and I got to stay home and do lots of fun activities. But, I’m still a little confused...
Understanding Fear and Security During Change
Parenting has always been challenging but it seems a little extra complex now. How do you help your children navigate these changes? This uncertainty. This fear. It’s a big undertaking.
But, amazing parents take this encouragement: There are many ways to build safety and security – even in times of change.
Children thrive when they feel safe and secure. When they know boundaries and expectations. This provides a foundation for exploration and creativity. Many parents have done an outstanding job of supporting their children this year by following flexible routines, creating space for emotion, and finding fun things to do at home. Children will have memories of spending days in pajamas, building forts, and spending more time as a family.
But the truth is, COVID has introduced a new situation of uncertainty. Routines changed suddenly and drastically. And even with the ending of shelter in place restrictions, things are still different.
Social distancing and mask-wearing represent changes to accepted social norms to allow people to function safely in a world where Coronavirus still exists. It can feel like a big task to explain social distancing and COVID with your children – without causing fear.
So keep reading to learn some tips and how to help your child adjust to current change. And, how the staff at Child’s Play Therapy Services will provide support.
Tools for Responsive Parenting Following Shelter in Place
Change doesn’t need to be bad or scary. You just need to take steps to help your children process and adjust. Certainly, school in the fall will look different. Taking small steps now will ultimately help prepare children and reduce overwhelm from altered routines.
Children with Difficulty Seeing People Wearing Face Masks
Some children might have a difficult time seeing people wearing masks for a number of reasons:
To work on seeing people wearing masks, try putting a mask on in front of your child so they see you wearing one. And even try to make it a fun game.
Before going out, Talk about how people will be wearing face masks. And explain doing this helps everyone stay healthy. You might also want to discuss that different people make different decisions in case your child sees someone not wearing a mask.
You can also start to show your child pictures or videos of people wearing masks so they can start to see it as a normal thing. Here are some pictures of the staff at Child’s Play Therapy in face masks. Show your child and help them prepare for their next therapy session
We’re wearing face masks during all our clinic sessions for safety, but it also provides a good chance to practice seeing a familiar person with a mask on. Plus, when staff interacts with children in the clinic, we have the time and training to talk children through the experience.
Children Who Won’t Wear Face Masks
Many children refuse to wear face masks because they’re uncomfortable. Adults can use reason to overcome discomfort. However, children are quick to refuse something that feels uncomfortable, especially children with underlying sensory challenges.
To work on wearing face mask:
The world is going to be full of people wearing masks now so we feel this is an important functional skill to start incorporating. The more we practice, the more we get used to it.
We aren’t requiring children younger than age 11 to wear face masks in the clinic. But, we will be available to troubleshoot with families regarding any issues surrounding face masks. Whether that is helping your child adjust to wearing a face mask, communication issues that result from mask wear, or finding adaptive options for shielding the face.
Hand washing for Children
Hand washing has always been an important daily living skill – but it's even more important now. Many kids, especially those with sensory or developmental differences, have difficulty with hand washing.
To work on this at home:
Pediatric occupational therapy is a great way to work on the skill of hand washing and applying it to a variety of settings. Each therapy session starts with hand washing so there will be plenty of chances to practice.
Children love to play and hug and poke and giggle. It is a normal part of childhood. Now, personal boundaries aren’t just about manners but also part of keeping everyone healthy. The amount of distance required around people presents a big change that is hard for children to understand.
Pediatric occupational therapy can help kids on an emotional level so they understand these changes and have a chance to practice in a safe context. We will give opportunities to practice social skills with social distancing guidelines in mind.
Processing Safety and Change
You can work on this at home. Research has shown that talking with parents plays an important part in reducing fear in uncertain situations1.
You can talk about:
A part of pediatric occupational therapy is talking through safety and security. It is fitting to talk about and practice change in a therapy session. Research has shown that using narratives to talk about upsetting events soon after the incident can help improve coping in children. Sometimes children talk more when moving or participating in sensory play. And overall, helping children process trauma and feel safe helps grow skills and support emotional well-being.
Children Are Ultimately Adaptable and Will Form Positive Memories
Children are amazingly resilient. They adjust to change all the time. Sometimes adults benefit from learning about adjusting to change from the young ones!
Children will likely remember this time – because it’s been a pretty memorable event. With parents not going to work, school's closing, and everyone needing to wear masks. But, amidst all the worry and unknowns, it can also be a time of fun memories and recognition of your family bonding through the changes.
By providing a stable base for your children, you support their ability to process change. Strive to help them build a story around what has happened, as forming a cohesive narrative provides a valuable tool for helping your children make sense of and process traumatic events.
The staff at Child’s Play Therapy Services is ready to help your child adjust to change and continue towards their goals. Call for an appointment today!
Therapists at Child's Play