Taking care of your child’s mental health

L'il Masters Blog Image - Taking care of you child's mental health

It’s no secret how the pandemic has equally affected our mental health. Adults took to TikTok to share how their mental health has been affected, others have done extensive research on ways to cope but what about our little ones? There hasn’t been much discussion regarding how the current epidemic is hurting our newborns and children. Parents are seeing shifts in their kids behaviour, and there are valid reasons for this.

While they don’t have the vocabulary that adults do, children also have ways to show when they are not okay and in this blog post we’ll discuss the effects of the pandemic on children and how parents can help their little ones being born into and growing up in a pandemic.

What has the effect on newborns and toddlers been?

The most common problem that most parents are experiencing right now in their children is perplexing behaviours outside of the usual “kids will be kids”. They’re going through so many changes as well and without the resources, support and mental capacity to understand them, they’re resorting to, for lack of a better word, act out against this new (far from) normal. Routine? What’s that?

Changes to their daily routine or sometimes changes to no routine where they go to nursery today but maybe not for the next 3 months because of a lockdown or stricter health measures that schools have taken on numbers.

Reduced human interaction

This has been the biggest challenge for most children. Children thrive off of human interaction and it’s how they form and develop relationships and interpersonal skills.

Work from whose home?

With most parents working from home, the environment can quickly become less of a warm, safe space for children. Now it’s no longer just mom and dad coming home from work tired or not having time to play because they’re at work but now they get to see them in up close and personal in work mode and let’s admit it, work mode is alot more serious and boring really for children. Babies and toddlers may have been puzzled, sad, scared, and happy all at once during this epidemic.

Because of their limited vocabulary, babies and toddlers aren’t always capable of voicing exactly what they are thinking or feeling. As a result, they can cry more for no obvious reason and they become clingy, sometimes they’ll have difficulty falling asleep or having an uninterrupted night of sleep. Nightmares can also be triggered by this and the meltdowns and tantrums happen more often than not.

How can you make things a little easier for your child

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” There is always a way to deal with the things that our children go through. Here are some ideas that should assist different age groups:

1. Keep an eye on, listen to, and study their play.

It may sound a bit odd, but play is a vital source of developing consciousness. It can provide us with a wealth of information on what is actually going on in the mind of a child! Toddlers will frequently ‘play out’ different scenarios in order to express their concerns. For example, as a means of absorbing what they are hearing and seeing in the news and adverts on TV or newspapers, you may start to see your toddler playing “doctor-doctor” more and imagining or pretending their animals or dolls are sick. You may have observed that they seek to include you more in their game (or they are playing less independently). They may begin to act as if they are a cat or a dog in need of care and comfort. The important point here is to follow your child’s direction and proceed with whatever they’ve begun doing with their play. It’s their way of telling you that they might need some additional comfort right now. Instead of dismissing their play or telling them they’re being foolish, pay attention and remark on what you observe them doing.

2.  Consider your child’s big feelings and what they could be trying to tell you

Babies and toddlers will be filled with mixed emotions right now; they may be excited to spend more time with you but frustrated with other adjustments. Acknowledging your child’s big feelings is the smartest approach to supporting them. You don’t have to be perfect all the time!When parents strive to grasp their feelings, children feel reassured. You may try “naming it to tame it” for them by saying something like, “you’re annoyed because we’ve been indoors all day and can’t go to the park,” or “you miss your grandmother and the stories she read to you.”

3. Encourage questions

Children 3 years and older may be able to inquire about what is really going on. They may ask seemingly little things, for example, will my favorite restaurant be open? This is something important to a child. in a child’s universe. Answer their questions sincerely and don’t brush them off.

4.  In your responses, include factual facts.

Answers should be factual, but also child friendly. I must emphasize that it is normal to not know all of the answers. WIth something like the current pandemic where so much is unknown, you may simply say, “I don’t know if I do find more information I will share it with you.  Your aim here is to make your child feel seen and heard, as well as to make them feel as though you are there if they need to ask you a question.

5.  Reassure your child

If your child is concerned about anything they’ve heard on the news, reassure them. You may do this by including them and updating them on new developments and changes that are happening around them and especially in your home. Most children are less scared when they know that there are ways to keep themselves safe and that they are capable of keeping themselves safe. Encouraging them to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the virus for example.

Easier said than done, right? While you try to keep your little one’s head above the water, it’s equally important that you are just as okay. Even if you don’t do all the tips above, baby steps supermom. Try introducing them to you and your child’s life one at a time, one day at a time.