Updated: Apr 24
NOW MORE THAN EVER CHILDREN NEED CONNECTION
The first night before school- none of us could sleep. We tossed and turned in our beds- nervous about the big day. And we were the teachers. For many children it was worse. Head aches and sore tummies ruled- especially amongst the younger children. I marvel that the body of a child expresses distress in this way- why heads and bellies? Most of these children would recover quickly and would soon be racing around- thrilled to be reunited with their friends. But some took longer. These I directed to 'Cosy Corner'.
'Cosy Corner 'was a big pink rug and a selection of pink cushions- it also had a family of toy rabbits with exceedingly soft fur. Children with tummy aches or headaches could sit in 'Cosy Corner'- with a friend- until they felt better. With the help of 'Cosy-Corner' the colour slowly returned to their cheeks and before long they'd be running around with the others- sore tummies and headaches forgotten.
For some of us the coronavirus is a headache. It has turned the world on it's head- and mixed fear, with boredom and distress - enough to give anyone a sick belly. Isolation and social distancing impact children in unexpected ways. Because their young selves are growing and they feel so strongly- they cannot put words to their distress. Instead they express themselves in what psychologists call 'regressive behaviour'. They start to do things you thought they'd grown out of. This can be challenging and exhausting for parents- especially when we don't know why our children 'are being so difficult'. But when we see the cause of their behaviour- we can help them. Below, is a list of ways children can react to stress:
Children may be anxious at bedtime and find it difficult to fall asleep. They may also wake in the night- disturbed by bad dreams- with much fear. Bed wetting may also appear, or reappear.
Tantrums are a common way of responding to stress- shouting, screaming and crying- angry outbursts, hitting, kicking, falling to the floor- followed by sobbing, withdrawing and seeking comfort.
Changes in appetite
Children can lose their interest in food- or crave a particular food. They may be more fussy than usual at meal times.
Children ask lots of questions- they can't stop talking- but answers don't satisfy them. They just lead to more questions.
Children need much attention. They won't do things independently and they hate being left alone- even for a short time.
Children are forgetful- they lose things- they have difficulty focusing and are easily distracted.
When children show these signs- then they need connection and reassurance. Be wary of explaining away their imagined fears- children are rarely satisfied with logical explanations. They want love and connection- only this reassures them. If you're tired and frustrated yourself- it can be a challenge to truly connect. But the effort pays off.
My choir Forest Song has been meeting online during the lockdown. For 5 years we've sung together- many of the children since they were babies. Our choir is like a village with children running around- laughing and singing. People coming and going- babies being born.- it's wonderful. A few days ago I checked in with the parents- how were they connecting with their children? What worked for them?
Listening is the secret to connection- a sort of listening with the heart- what does my child really want? For one Mum, making an indoor sand-pit out of old porridge oats was the answer. For another- helping her son build an enormous den through the house. A third was able to connect through bike riding on the car-free empty street outside their house.
These moments have great power, They comfort and reassure in deep ways. The tell the child- "I'm safe- my parents love me- they know what I need- they listen."
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