Children’s mental health and adults
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THE whole world is watching, waiting, hoping and praying that more positive times are just around the corner and that circumstances will get better soon. In the meantime, everyone is being affected by the COVID 19 pandemic in one way or another. Some adults understand the stress they are under and find ways to manage and cope with their feelings of uncertainty. They do not want to affect their children or other members of their household. Managing stress is difficult at the best of times without the added pressures of a pandemic. But we must stay optimistic and focused, especially when caring for our loved ones or when spending quality time with children.

If you are feeling low or depressed, try to get some space and time alone, when you can concentrate on more pleasant and pleasing aspects of life. While alone, try to find something fun or entertaining to distract you, such as a funny video, some meditation music or your favourite songs. You can do a word search or crossword puzzle until the mood passes, and you feel a little brighter.

Interact with others from a place of understanding and tolerance, rather than a place of anger, frustration or despair. When we carry around negative energy and share it through our actions or words, it does not help the situation.

Even if you blame someone else for triggering your mood and reactions, how you deal with a situation is a good indicator of your state of mind. Are you exercising self-control? Breathing exercises work if you need to practise staying cool, calm and collective; you can choose from different techniques: breathing exercises can become an easy and effective coping mechanism that costs nothing and is priceless. Physical exercise is an excellent way to clear the mind and keep active; find a sport or exercise routine online that suits your lifestyle. Exercise for a minimum of 15 minutes per day, every day, to energise your body.

The pandemic has mentally affected many parents and adults, but children have also been coping with circumstances and events they wouldn’t usually experience. They have been spending more time than usual with adults and siblings, (a situation which could be toxic), not interacting or playing with peers, or enjoying the consistency that school brings, along with its drama, action and rules. (which is a normal part of their childhood).
Their formation of childhood memories at this time is not typical; for some children, they are already distinctly tainted. Parents and family members can help children by offering support and encouragement, inspiration and motivation.

If adults are staying focused and level–headed, they can help children cope and build resilience for the future. There is no harm in adults asking children and young people, ‘How are you doing’? Or, ‘How are you feeling?’ from time to time. It will help children get used to talking more, because they know that someone cares enough to listen.

Many parents have a habit of comparing how a child feels to how they are feeling: they lack the sensitivity to naturally initiate engagement on the child’s level. They believe their problems and responsibilities outweigh whatever the child is experiencing, therefore, the child has no issues. Only ‘big people’ have ‘real’ stress.
Children are discouraged by adults who are consistently on their phones; or when adults appear disinterested or distracted during a conversation. Disparaging remarks made by adults, with regard to how good children have it and how hard parents struggle, can also prevent children from interacting.

To help children and young people through this pandemic, adults and parents must stay involved in their lives. Showing an interest in the things that are important to children makes it easier to spot when something is brewing or when problems arise. Support their mental health by encouraging their interests, help them to be creative, active and learn new skills while interacting and staying connected with peers when possible. Try to create a structure for children around a routine, so the times they eat, bathe, exercise, do homework and sleep are relatively consistent.
A good night’s sleep is essential for a clear mind and healthy body. Spending long hours on video games is a good distraction, but do nothing for a child’s developing brain. An addiction to video games cannot compensate for socio-emotional stimulation or the structured education that schools provide; so create some balance in your child’s everyday activities.

Reassurance, love and guidance from practical, realistic adults with positive outlooks on life, is what children and young people need. Allow them to talk about what they think and feel; if possible, create a quiet space where they can open up. Listen to them; try to help them understand what they are feeling and the reasons why. We are all under strain in one way or another, but remember, these are their childhood memories, let us make them as ‘normal’ and fulfilling as we possibly can.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY

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