Article submitted by Amber Johnson, United Way of Central Florida Master Teacher
Last Sunday while cleaning the house I was listening to my littles playing in their bedroom. They were playing Mom and Auntie like they do almost every day now that we are “Safer at Home”. All of a sudden, my 4-year-old came running out crying that her sister was sick. I played along asking all the “tell me more questions” that my education and training in Early Childhood Education has taught me. I encouraged her to go back into the room and take care of her sister while she was sick. Several minutes later my 5-year-old came out of the room and told me that she was feeling sick. I quickly and without thinking told her “stop! I don’t have time to play ‘sick’ right now”. She broke down in tears telling me that she was not playing that she was really sick. She ran to her room and buried herself into her bed of blankets.
Frustrated with her behavior, I went into her room to talk to her. I never expected what was to come next. As I attempted to pick her up, she was crying hysterically and saying “don’t touch me, don’t look at me”. I swooped up my baby and held her in my arms tightly while she cried. We worked together to calm down so we could talk about the situation and her feelings. My 5 yr. old daughter started telling me about how “My heart is beating so, so fast and telling me I am sick with Corona and I’m going to die.” My heart broke and tears started running down my cheeks. I realized my sweet child was having a panic attack. I worked with her through it and she is ok now. I spent the next two days so upset, crying, confused, frustrated and doubting my abilities as a parent to support and guide my children through these challenging times that all are facing.
Tips for supporting your child’s emotional development:
- Listen to your children. Let your child talk, share their valid emotions and feelings. Try not to interrupt them while they are sharing. Encourage them to tell you more. Sit close to them, hug and hold them.
- Validate their feelings and emotions and let them know that you have fears and feelings too. Examples, “I see that you are upset” “This scares you and it is ok to be scared” “I have been scared before”, and “I’m scared too”.
- Take the time away from other distractions to spend time one on one with your children. Play a game, read a story, snuggle together and watch a movie.
- Try to limit your family’s exposure to News or Social Media. Even if your child is not focused on what we are watching or seeing they still are picking up bits and pieces. Watch your reactions to these as well. They will imitate you!
- Use resources and materials to help explain what is going on in child-friendly terms. Preview the materials before sharing with your child so that you are prepared to answer questions and to ensure it is appropriate for the age and abilities of your child.