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Tips to Help Children Manage Uncertainty

Deprivation, grief, and loss are complicated emotions for anyone, but especially for children, who may be feeling them for the first time in their lives.

The Woman Post | Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

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All around the world people regret having lost normality and routine, thus it becomes very important to talk about how kids can process losses related to COVID-19.

Mandy Rich from UNICEF spoke with Dr. Lisa Damour, psychologist, bestselling author, monthly New York Times columnist, and mother, about how parents can help their children cope with both large and small losses during the pandemic.

My Son Has a Hard Time Understanding Why We Are All Always at Home Now. How Can I Explain Him?

Using a benchmark with young children can help, saying for example "Do you remember that when you have a cold, we leave you at home so you don't make other people sick? Well, this is the same, only that this virus is more dangerous than a cold. So we stay home to make sure we don't get the virus, and people who have the virus stay at home so they don't spread it to anyone."

Offering kids a partial solution to them being unable to see their friends can help them stay calmer. A good option is to suggest that while they can meet their friends again they can write a letter and leave it in their mailbox.

How Can I Help My Child Cope With Emotions of Grief and Depravations?

Be understanding and honest with children of all ages, especially with younger ones. Children under five cannot be told "we have lost someone," because they will not really understand what we mean. Dr. Lisa Damour explains the best way is to tell a kid with affection and tenderness: "I have very sad news to give you. Your grandfather has died. That means his body stopped working and we won't see him anymore." Although such direct communication can be hard for parents, honesty and transparency are essential. 

Also read: LET’S TALK MORE TO OUR CHILDREN ABOUT CYBERSECURITY

What Reactions Can You Expect From Children When They Mourn the Death of a Loved One?

Dr. Damour says it is not unusual for children between the ages of 6 and 11 and adolescents to react with disbelief or dismay to the death of a close person, or even forget from time to time death has occurred. This is a common and healthy defense mechanism to rest from very hurtful news. But those defenses come and go so they can be followed by waves of intense feelings. Thus a lot of understanding, and patience are what they need and deserve. 

My Son Is Very Affected by Not Being Able To Participate in Important Activities. What Should I Tell Him?

"Children have every right to be angry about the way the coronavirus has disrupted the normal rhythm of their lives," says Dr. Damour. The deprivations seem more tragic to them than to us because the coronavirus crisis covers a greater percentage of the time they have lived. It is easier for adults to look at it from perspective. Adults should try to show empathy and allow kids and adolescents to express their anger with sympathy. Many of the activities they are missing are milestones that only happen once in a lifetime and children may have been looking forward to them for months or years. 

I Am Concerned That My Son May Be Depressed. What Are the Signs That I Should Pay Attention To?

Dr. Lisa Damour suggests parents be vigilant if they see that their child appears dejected or very irritable for several days in a row, it can be crucial to detect depression. "Even in the case of grief, hopefully, the sadness will not be constant; that is, it can be intense at times and then subside. If the child or adolescent is down or irritable all the time, we should think about the possibility of depression." When parents identify these signs, they should go to a pediatrician, family doctor, or a mental health professional for guidance.