The other night, I noticed my 12 year old boy was really struggling with his feelings. Being 12, like most boys, is not always one for "talking" about his feelings. When I noticed he appeared to overreact to the simplest questions and was raising his voice, crying and throwing things, I began to wonder where my sweet and kind child went. He had been quickly for a days but when he displayed intense aggressive behaviors, I knew it was more than just being upset about shutting the TV off or cleaning his room. It was so out of the norm for him, I knew something was going on. Instead of sending him to his room to "calm down", I layed on his bed next to him and calmly asked him what might be going on for him. He cried and said he was afraid but when I asked what he was afraid of, I could tell he did not have the words to express them. I asked him then to break it down and tell me the things he thought might be making him sad or frightened. He said he missed school, missed his friends and was tired of being stuck in the house with nowhere to go. He told me he was afraid we all were going to die. He was worried for his teachers, for us, and even the dog. He sobbed for over an hour. As much as I wanted to tell him to stop crying and that everything was going to be ok, I realized that he needed to cry out his anxieties. All I could do was tell him it was ok to cry, ok to be sad and ok to be afraid. As a therapist, I know it is important to validate his fears, but as his mom, it was hard not to cry with him and for him. It is hard not to cry for the nurses and doctors overworked and overwhelmed. It is hard not to cry for my friends, colleges and those who are out of work and are not sure what to do.
As his mom I want to protect him from the world and shield him from any paid created from it. But this, we can not hide from our kids. We can not dismiss it, ignore it, or shelter them from it. Often times we think our kiddos are not listening to the news or overhearing our conversations, but they are, and they are hearing horror stories of the number of people that are going to be sick, the numbers that are going to die, and can see us scared and frightened, stressed and overwhelmed.
Trying to learn how to work from home (if you still have a job), learning how to homeschool, learning how to survive in a time of uncertainty while trying to keep it all together makes it harder for us to see the little changes that may be happening in your child as they try to make sense of all the chaos and change.
The CDC has great resources and we thought we should share with our community. Below is information we are sharing from their website. Not only is it helpful to know what signs to look for, it should also help to normalize what you may be experiencing in your home with your children.
COMMON CHANGES IN CHILDREN TO WATCH FOR: • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting) • Excessive worry or sadness • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens • Poor school performance or avoiding school • Difficulty with attention and concentration • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past • Unexplained headaches or body pain • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs *https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus