Times of confusion and crisis can bring about strong feelings of fear, especially with children. With COVID-19, there have been many changes in routines, learning structures, and time at home — and all of this can feel overwhelming — even if it seems like your child is handling it well.
At Banyan Tree, we believe in creating a safe space for children that translates into feeling safe at home. Here are ways to help your child feel safe during COVID-19 and how we can help support you and your family during this time:
1. Help Your Child Understand His or Her Responses & Why They’re Happening
We all have nervous system responses to what happens to us. Sometimes these responses take over unconsciously — a fight, flight, or freeze response — making us feel a certain way or even physically affecting us: shortness of breath, feeling of dizziness, clenched fists, etc.
If you notice your child reacting in a certain way, try to help them ‘scan’ his or her body. “How are you feeling right now?” “Does anything hurt?” “Are you feeling calm or stressed?” These simple questions can help your child to think about how he or she is feeling and recognize when his/her system is being ‘hijacked’ by emotions.
After doing the ‘scan,’ help your child feel safe by asking him or her, “What do you need to feel better?” or “How can you feel more relaxed?” As they think about answers to these questions, they will start to play a role in their own regulation!
PS: As a parent/guardian, you can also ask yourself these questions! If you can recognize your feelings and responses, you can better help regulate both you and your child.
2. Help Your Child Feel Safe Through Positive Interactions
Humans are social creatures! As we’ve shifted to virtual learning and more time/activities at home, your child may be struggling with the lack of socialization (especially with peers!). Throughout your child’s week, try to find time for meaningful conversations and socialization, not only with family but with friends, too! Helping your child feel connected will also help them feel supported and safe.
3. Encourage Helpful Habits
The more you teach your child to recognize his or her fear responses, the more you can help guide him/her into safety and calm! At Banyan Tree, we use different strategies to help with regulation: deep breathing, singing, humming, and breaks. During breaks, we offer physical movement (in our OT Room), quiet play (with Legos, kinetic sand, etc.) or games (board games or online games). These breaks help the students to feel more centered and offer a much-needed rest between their work.
These strategies can help your child feel safe and supported, especially if he or she is feeling overwhelmed by the changes of COVID-19. Have a conversation with your child to see what he or she may need, and encourage deep breathing and movement to physically combat the stress responses!
4. Recognize Your Own Emotions
As parents and guardians, you play a significant role in your child’s emotions, especially during this time. As much as possible, try to offer encouragement, smile, and show compassion towards behaviors (especially if they are escalating right now). Understand that sometimes behavior is a neurological response, rather than purposeful.
Also, remember that HOW you communicate right now is important. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect, but try to focus on how you’re speaking as you help yourself and your child feel safe during these uncertain times.
You are not alone during these times! If you would like suggestions, tools, or strategies for your child and his/her unique needs, please send us an email! We are more than happy to share insight into what we’ve observed and help you build a plan for learning at home!