Anger, nervousness, listlessness, fear. These are common emotions and attitudes in children in these weeks of social isolation due to the coronavirus emergency. We talk about it with the psychologist Giusy Castiglioni
Aurora, seven years old, has always been a serene, albeit very sensitive, child. In recent weeks, in the midst of the coronavirus emergency, it has begun to have sleep disorders (takes hours to fall asleep) e obsessive behaviors (he washes his hands all the time) and refuses to go out into the garden. If we ask her about these attitudes she tells us she has fear of coronavirus. Should we worry? (Mum Viola and Dad Francesco)
The main reactions of children to the coronavirus
“Children’s reactions to theCoronavirus emergency they were many and different, depending on the children themselves, but also on the family history and context, the parents’ willingness to listen and their ability to self-regulate their emotions “says the psychologist Giusy Castiglioni from Gallarate, therapist of the EMDR Italy association and specialized in working with children and adolescents.
For example: “Some children who struggled with school reacted well to the lockdown, especially at the beginning, because they experienced it as a holiday, a recovery of the naturalness of their rhythms”, says Castiglioni. “Others seem to have had no reaction, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one emotional impact. Often in these cases we are dealing with children who are hyper-adapted to situations, always punctual and regular, never problematic, who are used to not letting their emotional world leak out and expressing their needs “.
Others have suffered and suffer from the loss of reference routines, manifesting it with anger, nervousness, listlessness or even shame (they would like to express the desire to go back to school or to see friends but do not allow themselves to do so because they know that due to the epidemic many people have died or have been ill), while for still others, various types of fears. “For example, fear of going out, fear of getting sick or seeing loved ones sick, of the dark, or very strong worries about how long the pandemic will last, whether it will be possible to find a cure and so on” specifies the psychologist. Emphasizing that children do not always give voice to these fears, as happened in the case of Aurora (and obviously they cannot verbalize them if they are still very young), but they can manifest them with different attitudes, from physical discomfort at the listlessness, from sleep disorders to those ofPower supply.
Not just fear
Therefore, even if fear is the emotion that today we most easily identify as linked to Covid-19, we would be wrong to think that all children affected by the emotional impact of the pandemic feel it.
“In reality, children tend to prefer the emotional channel more tolerated by their parents and that the parents themselves know how to manage better and that is why, in addition to frightened children, today we see children who they get angry for nothing, or sad and prone to weep for what adults seem like trivial things (like a game that falls and breaks, but the cry of that game that can no longer be fixed can hide the fear that things will never go back to the way they used to be), or convinced of not knowing how to do anything“.
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How to welcome and manage children’s emotions
As always when dealing with children, the first thing to do is work on yourself. “If adults are the first to have catastrophic thoughts about the future, even legitimate concerns that they cannot contain, terror of going out, it is very difficult for them not to pass them on to children, if not in words, perhaps with the tone of voice and mimicry of the body “explains Castiglioni.
Therefore it is necessary in the first place find your own balance, for example trying not to be overwhelmed by negative information and instead focusing on the positive ones, such as the progressive increase in the number of those recovered from Covid-19 or perhaps the fact that in one’s circle of friends and family no one has been affected in dramatic way.
“It does not mean underestimating the risk, which must always be taken into account in order to implement the appropriate protective behaviors when leaving and returning home, but trying to get rid of a sense of total helplessness that can be gripped if one remains entangled only in the negative aspects” .
2 Offer a confident perspective
Remind children that many professionals such as doctors and nurses are working tirelessly to help the sick and that many researchers around the world are working to identify new drugs and vaccines useful against the virus. Don’t forget to talk about the good news, such as the increase in the number of healed.
3 To transmit affection, safety and attention to children’s needs and emotions
And remember: the emotions expressed by children should not be judged, trivialized or rejected but accepted, even when they are “negative” (such as anger, fear, sadness, disgust). To facilitate the dialogue on emotions with children, you can also turn to books and films suitable for them, such as The colors of emotions and Felix, the collector of fears among the books and Inside out or Lilo and Stitch among the films.
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