Each day the world we live in is changing and we are all trying to find our new normal.
As we face a global pandemic, perhaps the largest world event since WW2, citizens of the world are wondering how to cope during such uncertain times. In Australia the past month has been particularly turbulent and we are reminded, quite profoundly, that the only way we will overcome this is together. For SPW, this means leaning into our community more than ever, supporting one another and doing whatever we can to ensure our children are given every opportunity to nurture their wellbeing and practice resilience.
Reducing the effects of survival brain
The current circumstances have triggered “survival brain” in many of us. When survival brain is switched on, we are hardwired to manage the perceived threat. The challenge for each of us is finding ways to reduce the feeling of survival and to switch on our “smart brains”.
When our smart brain is working well, we can think clearly, make smart choices, solve problems and manage tricky emotions. This requires a focused effort for adults so, for children, this is not something they can do on their own. They will need your help.
Acknowledge what is happening
The first step to finding ways to manage through this situation is to acknowledge what is happening. An honest, age-appropriate conversation with your child is a good first step.
Calmly convey the facts (edited to be appropriate for your child). This is unlikely to be a once-off conversation. Keep your child updated with changes that may impact their normal routine.
Resources that may assist with this
There are a number of different social stories available that may assist with this conversation:
- Social Story by Carol Gray
- General Social Story about Coronavirus
- Social Story about Coronavirus (for families self-isolating, adapt as needed for your situation)
Still not sure how to have the conversation?
This factsheet may help or check out the video on the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Facebook page
Flexibility and adaptability
Model flexibility and adaptability. There is more than one way to do things. Now may be the time to find new ways to have fun. Share with your children some of the things you used to enjoy.
Rediscover board games, find new hobbies, cook a favourite meal, read together- the options are endless. How can we make the best of spending more time with those in our immediate families?
Focus on the present
Focus on what is happening now. Focus on what is under your control. Support your child to live in the moment. Plan for today. Tomorrow is a new day and there may be new information available.
Strategies in keeping calm and grounded
Consider how you stay calm and grounded in difficult times. How can you support the child/children you care for to do the same? If you are not sure, here are some ideas:
- Create a coping box filled with objects that help your child feel calm and relaxed (e.g. a fluffy toy, a favourite book etc.)
- Use a bubble wand to practice taking deep breaths. Let your child know why they are practicing this (i.e. to help with feeling calm). Take a deep breath in, hold for a second, then slowly release the breath – the bubbles will let you know you’re on the right track!
- Practice noticing five things around you to bring you back to the present moment.
- Get moving! This may be small movements like squeezing a stress ball or bigger movements like running on the spot or doing star jumps. Exercise helps produce the feel-good neurotransmitters (endorphins) that help with reducing stress and improving our mood.
Supporting your child’s health
Support your child to remember steps they can take to look after their health:
- Regular hand washing
- Physical distance (but we can still be socially connected!)
- Coughing or sneezing into their elbow or a tissue
One of the most important things you can do for your child is to look after your wellbeing. As they say during flight safety briefings – put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.
If you are in need of some additional support during this time, the following services are here to help:
p: 1300 22 4636
p: 13 11 14
w: Kids Helpline (support also available for parents)
p: 1800 55 1800
SA Health also provides regular updates and information.
We are in this together and together we will see it through.
This article written by Stephanie Eustice, SPW Psychologist