Counseling Care | Children and Trauma During COVID-19

COVID-19 is redefining individuals’ realities daily. Classrooms once filled with the sights and sounds of children learning and playing are now silent. Afterschool venues stand empty. The family kitchen table now functions as both a remote classroom and a home office. To an adult who has learned coping skills, these sudden changes can feel emotionally and physically jarring. Through the eyes of a child, living with uncertainty can be frightening.

As our children’s sense of normal has shifted, it is our job as their caregivers to help them feel safe. Children imitate the behavioral cues of their caregivers. If you are worried and anxious, it follows that your child will likely exhibit those same feelings. However, there are ways to help your child adjust to their new reality and restore a sense of normalcy in your home and help your child thrive.

Knowledge Is Power

One way to reduce the stress your child may be experiencing is to help them understand what COVID-19 is. Information from a trusted source, and discussed at an age-appropriate level, can lessen fears (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Academy of Pediatrics, or Illinois Department of Public Health). Empowering a child with the facts helps reduce the fear of the unknown. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services’ website offers a downloadable COVID-19 and Me Children’s Activity Book, in both English and Spanish. 

Building A Home Routine

The therapists and counselors in Hoyleton’s Counseling Care Department encourage parents to establish a routine that mirrors life before the shelter-in-place order. School-age children should follow their typical Monday through Friday school day. Start each day as you usually would have: wake-up, dress for the day, eat breakfast, and prepare to learn in a designated quiet space in your home. Make sure to set aside time for lunch. Encourage your child to help you prepare the meal. Do not forget to incorporate physical activity into your child’s day. Use this time to think outside the box and create fun ways for your child to get moving. Consider a living room obstacle course. Or, take advantage of your backyard to have a fun game of Nerf wars. With a little imagination, familiar spaces can become adventure destinations. 

Staying Connected and Focused on the Positive

Social distancing is making it challenging to engage in-person with friends and loved ones. However, technology can help us bridge the gap and provide a much needed social outlet for kids. Some schools have already put into place a way for school children to use Zoom or Google Hangouts to chat with classmates and teachers. 

Children and teens might find it difficult to communicate how they are feeling. Hoyleton’s counselors encourage dialogue that helps youth to verbalize their feelings in a non-direct approach, “I see you are sad. Do you know what I do when I am sad?” This smooth transition into a conversation removes the burden for children to immediately share their feelings and instead lets children know their feelings are valid and experienced by adults, too. 

Children are resilient, and as their caregivers, we can help them feel safe and supported. However, if you notice that your child is struggling, please reach out to the counselors and therapists in the Counseling Care Department at 618.688.4744. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services is here for you and your family. Together, we will get through this moment and emerge stronger than before.

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