Resources For Families and Educators

100 Days into a Pandemic and the Process for Children, Teens, and Youth

100 Days into a Pandemic and the Process for Children, Teens, and Youth 100 Days into a Pandemic and the Process for Children, Teens, and Youth

It is just past the first approximately 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic and life seems like it is coming back toward some steps of “reopening” since New York State was in a state of emergency. In fact, the stay at home orders are due to lift in New York State. We have come far, but this time has felt unforgiving for many.

In looking forward now to whatever the future may hold, there is a lot of uncertainty. Basic rhythyms for children, teens, and youth, like summer jobs, a beginning career, summer camps, vacations, and summer fun are a bit of a blur at the present time. The one thing that is admirable with children of all ages is the spirit of belief that resides at their core. In essence, they can be much more hopeful than we are as adults.

This time, however, it has been different. Children and youth too are shaken with all that has changed and happened in this pandemic and the question of what is yet to come looms over them. As a result, denial can serve as an efficacious tool (at least in the moment).

Denial is not always maladaptive. Initially, and short-term, denial can be a helpful thing, giving time to adjust to a painful or stressful issue. It’s a useful temporary strategy to harbor great angst and it reduces stress (for a short-time at least). It is the best we can do during a time that feels so unpredictable. “Will I go back to school in the fall?” “What if there is a shut down again?” “Could I get sick?” These are but a tiny fraction of the myriad of questions that are left at the surface of many of the children’s emotions during this time. Denial can make some of those questions pause for the time being until a better solution comes to mind for this new reality.

Working with children of all ages has presented some great opportunities for their growth – the chance to teach and learn how to cultivate consciousness around their emotions – to be aware of what they are really thinking and feeling as a means to regulate their body states and stress levels. There is value in a fighting spirit during this time, a stoic, accepting perspective of reality that is coupled with an attitude of not feeling hopeless or defeated even when worry looms. It is when denial turns into refusing to discuss the topic, avoiding stating what may be really true, and protecting oneself from showing emotional distress about the situation that it can hinder a person in the long run.

Responding attentively to stress rather than reacting to it with fear, dread and confusion is what it takes to help heal in this time. There is importance in being mindful of negative thoughts and its relationship to stress. Children, teens and youth need to know that low moments or moods can lead to depression if it is not recognized. That can be the dark side of longer duration denial. Before demanding that one face the facts, we need to take a step back. Sometimes it needs to be determined if the person needs some time to work through the issue. Working together with not just children, but their families too, can make the best contribution. There is still a lot of adjusting we all need to do. The pandemic is not over and there is more time needed for us all to process things, make plans, and take action.

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