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  • Writer's pictureChristy George

Help Your Sensitive Child Build Resilience During Tough Times

It makes sense if you’re scared, irritable and some days don’t want to get out of bed. I’m sure your seeing some changes in your children and teen’s behavior and moods as well.

It’s important to keep in mind, you and your children are in the middle of a crisis.  Taking a trauma informed approach toward parenting will help to keep everything in perspective.  If we look at this from a nervous system point of view, our minds and bodies are involuntarily responding to an inescapable attack, from an attacker we cannot see or hear.  As a result, our nervous systems may be temporarily stuck in survival mode, and are reacting to this unseen threat with flight, fight and freeze responses. For example:

A flight response might look like:

  • feeling terrified

  • anxiety

  • wanting to escape

  • needing to leave the house, or run free

  • being unable to sleep

  • having nightmares

  • having disturbing thoughts

  • upset stomach

  • nausea

  • racing heart

  • racing thoughts

A fight response may mean:

  • feeling irritable

  • feeling enraged

  • being uncooperative

  • having low patience with each other and ourselves

  • arguing more

  • aggressive behavior

  • yelling

A freeze response can feel like:

  • low motivation

  • fatigue

  • hopelessness

  • extreme boredom

  • apathy

  • isolating from others

  • a desire to numb out with television, excessive reading, food or substances

All of this means, your headstrong, intense and sensitive children and teens may become even more so as they are experiencing the same crisis you are.  As they continue to adjust to the changes, isolation and disappointments, you may be noticing changes in their behavior as a result.

They need you now more than ever! Even if their behavior has changed,and you are frustrated, now is not the time for punishments. It is important for you to create an atmosphere of safety, be as emotionally regulated as possible yourself, and help them to regulate their emotions.

Here are some ways to help your children feel safer, build their resilience and bring peace into your home:

1. Maintain routines.  This type of structure helps kids to feel safer as they know what to expect next.

2. Spend individual time with them each day doing things they enjoy.  Even 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference.

3. Play with them.  This relieves stress for everyone, helps them to feel connected to you and increases their sense of safety.

4. Have healthy planned activities at home, but don’t over do it.

5. Take a few steps back and go slower if you or they are feeling overwhelmed.

6. Help them to engage in something creative and fun each day.

7. Help them to have something to look forward to each day.

8. Stop, and take a few deep breaths (with long exhales) before you continue when feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.  You can teach them to do the same.

9. Avoid talking about the pandemic in front of them, and minimize their exposure to disturbing and intense information.

10. If your children or teens want to talk about the pandemic, talk with them.  It’s important for them to be able to process their feelings.

11. Tell your children and teens you are doing everything you can to protect them and keep them safe.

12. Give more hugs.

13. Focus your attention on what you have control over and help them to do the same.  This will help to reduce feelings of helplessness and increase feelings of safety.

14. Be gentle. Don’t yell, criticize or be harsh with them.  

15. Always make repairs.

16. Listen to pleasant music together.

17. Laugh together.

18. Be patient with school, and chunk the work to reduce overwhelm, and stress.

19. Take visualization breaks together.  Visualize beautiful, safe places together as you relax.

20. Get fresh air, and go outside if you can.

21. Encourage movement through walks, dancing and playing.

22. Remember, this is only temporary.

23. Talk to someone if you need support.  We’re all in this together!

About the Author:  Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.

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