There's nothing like waking at 3:00 a.m. with the lyrics of country song by Crystal Gayle playing in your mind:
"Three o'clock in the morning,
and it looks like it's going to be another sleepless night..."
When we experience trauma in our lives, even something as innocuous as the forced wearing of a mask can trigger feelings of helplessness. When children are not allowed to move freely because of physical or emotional limitations placed upon them by others, they can feel scared, frustrated, and hopeless. When these feelings continue over time, the child may act out in an effort to regain control, or give up resulting in depression, isolation, and self-harm.
At Encouragers, we have been seeing an increase of children coming to therapy who are exhibiting feelings of hopelessness, anger, shame, guilt, and fear. Much of the problem is exacerbated by the parent's unsuccessful efforts to protect their children, but parents don't have the tools to cope with the ongoing changing world we live in. Parents are exhibiting the same feelings of hopelessness, anger, shame, guilt, and fear and feel at a loss how to help their children. When the parents can become stronger, have better coping skills, and can address their own out-of-control feelings, they can begin to help their children overcome their own challenges. Two broken people cannot help each other. To expect a child to take care of the needs of the parent, extended family, or society's expectations, is unrealistic and crewel. They should not be shamed by the expectation that they are responsible for the lives of others if they don't wear a mask. They are unable to comprehend or process this in their psyche. This rattles their consciousness, and they are told to roll along as if it does not affect them. When the warning signs get so big they cannot be ignored, the child then is further shamed and bullied by their friends, teachers, and family.
Here are a few things you can do to help your children:
Listen to them. Validate their feelings. Give them an opportunity to express their feelings in an environment that is safe and free from criticism and judgment.
Don't try to solve their problems if you don't have the solutions. Don't tell them "get over it" or "don't worry." These phrases invalidate their feelings and make them stuff their feelings resulting in depression.
Be honest with them. If you don't have the answers tell them you want to help and are willing to get them help. Most kids know about therapy and are willing to talk to a therapist.
Hold your children. In a world where 6' has become the acceptable distance between friends and family, give them the emotional and physical connection they need. Daily doses of tenderness, affection, and attention goes a long way to helping a child feel protected and loved.
If your child is exhibiting warning signs of depression, anger, isolation, or self-harm get them into therapy. The trauma they are experiencing if left untreated may result in suicide attempts, or even death.
Remember, no one is going to care for your children as much as you do. Don't leave their mental, physical, or emotional health in the hands of others. Your child needs you. Be there for them.