We’re in this Together!
Navigating COVID-19’s Tremendous Impact on Families & Children, and Understanding the Science Behind It
By: Cathy Piehl, LMSW, Grow Wellness Group
Repression is a defense mechanism. It is defined as “the action or process of suppressing a thought or desire in oneself so that it remains unconscious.” Children often use repression when abused or experience a traumatic event. Unfortunately, repression can lead to significant emotional and adaptive issues down the road for individuals, especially in interpersonal relationships. So, as parents, what do we want to do to ensure our children and adolescents make it through the current pandemic in a healthy manner?
Don’t ignore what is going on. Inform them and empathize with them; let them know that you are struggling too. I have a question I always ask students when talking about managing emotions; “Which emotion is the bad emotion?” Invariably, I get “angry” or “mad” as a response. I reply with “Wrong! It was a trick question!” I usually get furrowed eyes looking back at me. I then explain that all our emotions are there to protect us. I explain what the amygdala does (it assists our body in instantly responding to threatening situations). (I also have them learn how to say it!) This leads into our discussion of the prefrontal cortex and our ability to process and slow down our body’s response. This explanation helps children understand that we all go through this process of reacting, but it is our ability to think of better or more appropriate ways of handling a situation that makes us healthier and happier. So, modeling for them how you are managing this time is critical for our children.
Let them know that the reason you want the family to have a schedule and routine, is to help us manage the stress of the unknown right now. Activity time, as a family, reminds them that you are all in this together. It is okay to worry, and it is okay to talk about the worries. But also discuss the reasons you have chosen to protect each other by staying home as much as you can, wearing masks and gloves when you go out and that there are scientists working on a vaccine. Have them find ways they can help others out in this difficult time. Model taking time for yourself, meditating, listening to music, watching a funny show. And yes, limit the news. We need to live, laugh, and love together.
However, if your family is also experiencing added struggles because of the pandemic, such as income loss, someone you love is now ill, food or home instability, please be sure to reach out for help. Adult issues do need to remain the adult’s issue. Our older children can handle the basics of the adult problem, but the onus is on the adults to solve the problem. By reaching out, utilizing the resources out there, you are modeling to your children that this is another healthy response to stressful situations.
If you recognize that you are not modeling effective coping skills, or your children are showing signs of deeper anxiety/depression (not eating, sleep terrors, angry outbursts) that’s where we at Grow Wellness Group come in. Call us. We are currently offering 3 free telehealth counseling sessions to anyone needing assistance with how to manage their own amygdala’s response.
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