How to Help Children with their Emotional Response to the Lockdown

Whoa! Where did that come from? When the lockdown first started, I certainly didn’t see the full impact of what was coming, and what it would actually mean in teams of changes to our daily lives. The situation certainly startled me at first, alongside a dollop of disbelief. And then, as I settled into it, I could not deny a background feeling of unsettledness. When I could distract myself by engaging in something absorbing, I’d suddenly be re-startled as I recalled the full oddness of what was going on. Then came the feelings of acceptance, which still had some undertones of bewilderment. I could stay content as long as I didn’t allow myself to become agitated by thoughts of what I would have been doing in the other life. I also noticed that little things became bigger and big things became huge; everything felt more intense than usual.

Many of my books are about emotions and9781472949806 and I am a fan of the idea that emotions need expressing. I think the slight ‘war spirit’ essence of the current situation has made us all a bit stoical. We have metaphorically ‘held our emotional breath’. And yet there is no doubt that this situation will have had an emotional impact. Some of us will have felt this emotional impact at the time, some might have a delayed reaction, and some will have suppressed it, which may cause it to re-emerge in the future. The latter is more likely for those of us who are less familiar with emotional expression.

So, given my interest in emotional expression, I had was just starting to think about how my books could do with a supplement addressing the emotions of lockdown when a seven-year-old named Etta emailed me and shared the pages she thought needed to be added to my book What’s Worrying You? Etta is an emotional genius. I particularly liked her advice to ‘enjoy time off school; it won’t happen again.’ A soothing reminder for many children, I would think.

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Brilliant drawings by Etta

Lockdown has many different emotional components. There are the feelings evoked by the actual lockdown and all that it entails, the anxiety about the actual virus, and the uncomfortableness caused by the uncertainty of the future, as we cannot know how this will ultimately unfold and how we will feel about our eventual return to ‘normal’.

Children are bound to be having some kind of emotional response to these circumstances. I believe it is important to help them find ways of expressing these emotions so they can find resourceful ways of dealing with them. It can be simply about asking your child what they are thinking and feeling. It could also involve:

  • Inviting your child to draw life in lockdown, like Etta did. They could give survival tips or show the pros and cons.
  • Chatting while out exercising, considering how life is different and what we like and don’t like about it.
  • Saying how you are feeling, or making a list of emotions which your child could choose from to express how they feel. They might be able to say what has triggered that emotion.
  • Having a conversation about any worries your child might have about their eventual return to school.

I guess this is just another prompt to remember that emotions have a significant impact on us and in a situation like this, we might need a little more help to focus on them and understand them. Ultimately, by acknowledging and processing the emotions of lockdown and its easing, you and your child are more likely to arrive at a place of gentle acceptance and some calm. Emotions that we acknowledge and process are always more manageable. This links to further consoling advice from Etta: ‘When you are in lockdown, just remember it won’t last forever.’

9781472942425My latest book, It’s OK to Cry, seems timely. It is not a book that explores the emotions of lockdown specifically but a book that helps children find the words to express how they feel. It was written with boys in mind as their conditioning can mean that they are less likely to express how they feel verbally. But it is actually helpful for everyone. It certainly could be used to help a child express the emotions associated with lockdown.

Coming soon is a free online booklet I have written for parents, carers and teachers with some creative activities to tackle boredom during lockdown, as well as activities to help children reflect upon recent events. It invites children to explore what has been enjoyable, what has been less so, and how all this has made them feel. It also includes a couple of activities to help you support your child with the emotions surrounding returning to school. This will be available from Bloomsbury.com. Please email bloomsburyeducation@bloomsbury.com if you are interested in receiving a copy to download.
For further ideas for helping your child with their emotions please visit: https://www.mollypotter.com/blog

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