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April 13, 2020
Q: Can children really understand what is going on right now?
Q: My child seems to be a little more emotional. Is that normal?
Remember, it is not likely that we are the best versions of ourselves at this time. It is OK to acknowledge that we are not all right, that we are in a weird state of a new norm where it is pretty much impossible to be meeting all the marks or rocking it right now.
However, parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they feel prepared/informed. If you are worried about your child seeming emotional and are worried about what is/isn’t normal in regard to a reaction during a very non-normal time, consider the following:
Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:
For teens: Irritability and “acting out” behaviors and/or use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Teens can feel overwhelmed by their intense emotions and feel unable to talk about them. Their emotions may lead to increased arguing and even fighting with siblings, parents/caregivers or other adults. Teens can move from invincible to scared quickly/easily.
For children with special needs: Children with assistive devices or other physical limitations might have more intense distress, worry or anger than children without these special needs because they have less control over day-to-day well-being than other people.
The same is true for children who are already dealing with challenges in the area of physical, emotional, or cognitive functioning limitations. Children with special needs may need extra words of reassurance, more explanations about the event - more comfort and other positive physical contacts such as hugs from loved ones.
There is value in focusing on and providing structure, routine, schedules, and predictability (especially during times of chaos, change, and even ambiguity). Consider creating traditions even if you don’t already have them/need them (e.g., Taco Tuesday) as they can serve as anchors during this storm.