Last Sunday, April 26, deconfinement began for children under the age of 14, who for one hour a day and no more than one kilometer away from their homes, can go for a walk and enjoy the outdoors, accompanied by a parent or caregiver. However, having been one of the countries where the greatest mobility restrictions have been imposed due to the number of COVID cases, it is now time to learn how to leave the house in a situation of “abnormality”.
During a long period in which children have been educated about the importance and necessity of not going out of the house, now it is time to educate them to play in the street without touching anything, keeping a meter and a half distance from any person, in order to avoid contagion and therefore the spread of the virus. So, what can happen now? Are children really going to be able to enjoy going out or are they going to be afraid? Psychologist and Psychoanalyst Carolina Álvarez Sicilia, member of Top Doctors, an online platform to find and contact the best medical specialists in private healthcare, gives 6 tips to help parents manage the situation and avoid feeling fear during deconfinement.
“Each child is unique and will process this situation according to his or her unique way of being. In moments of acute and prolonged stress, children may have somatic symptoms, which speak of the impossibility to mentally metabolize what is happening to them. These manifest themselves with headaches, shortness of breath or stomach aches. Older children may also suffer from physical symptoms, but may also experience anxiety, intense fear, nightmares, crying for no apparent reason, fits of rage, excessive food intake, mood swings, among others. Inhibited children should not be overlooked. It is to be expected that a child will become restless and ask questions. But there are silent children who strive to show normality. These children who apparently do not suffer may be having a very hard time. They may be intimately convinced that they cannot share their fears and, consequently, remain alone and overwhelmed by anguish”, assures the psychologist.
Therefore, the Psychologist and Psychoanalyst gives 6 tips to help parents manage and take some control over the new situation and avoid feeling that fear in adults and children.
- Be aware of one’s own state of mind: children depend on adults to modulate their emotions. It is therefore advisable for the parent to reflect on his or her state of mind and whether he or she is ready to leave the house. An anxious parent will hardly be able to create the conditions for an enjoyable outing.
- Time for time: going out is a possibility, not an obligation. Children and adults should give themselves time to readapt progressively to the new reality. Likewise, we should not think that confinement can lead to pathologies such as agoraphobia or cabin syndrome. “We must wait to see what symptoms persist after de-escalation from confinement. If a condition, whatever it is, goes on for too long, then we can start talking about diagnoses,” says the psychologist.
- Creativity gives confidence: The child’s mind may have designed an image of the virus as a huge bug, so take time to find creative explanations to calm the little ones. This will help them not to be afraid to leave the house. A reassuring argument is that there are many people around the world dedicated to ending this virus.
- Be a team player: A child who feels taken into account will adjust better to the new situation. It is important to involve the child in the whole process by asking, for example: Do you agree?
- Explain what “the plan” is going to consist of: the ideal is to present the outing to the youngest children as a plan to be carried out, with the conditions to be met, as well as the consequences of not doing so, adapting the information to their age. The information should be conveyed in simple, factual language. Children tend to fill in the lack of information with their fears, so an informed child will not leave room for their fears to creep in. It is important to convey calm, security and a certain normality, without denying reality.
- Drawing and writing feelings: this process does not end with the walk. When we get home we could ask the child to draw a picture of the walk and to tell us a story about his drawing. This story can be a gateway that allows us to access their fears and concerns. And an opportunity for parents to help them process their distress.