The St. Francis Connections Series began in the spring of 2020. Our first session delved into the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine could potentially have on our children's mental health. Almost one year later, St. Francis had the pleasure of welcoming Barbie Atkinson of Catalyst Counseling to talk with our very own Laurie Curtis and Ted Lakoski for the latest presentation. They spoke about the effects of the pandemic on children and offered great insights into what we are going through one year into the pandemic. They also discussed helpful tips on coping and staying connected as a family.
If you weren't able to join us, you can view a recording of the entire session here and download the presentation here. Also, below are answers to questions we received but, due to time limitations, were not able to cover in the original session.
Are the anxious behaviors similar for younger students?
In some ways, anxiety presents in younger students as in older ones, but there are some different manifestations. With our younger students, we often see regression in behaviors – some students return to thumb-sucking or wetting the bed or have a more difficult time separating from parents. Some of the manifestations that are the same are displaying temper, change in sleep patterns, changing appetite/food consumption, and head and stomach aches. When signs of anxiety appear, refer to the presentation slide on the 3 R's–Regulate/Relate/Reason.
What trends, if any, are you seeing with how preschoolers have coped with this past year of COVID-19? Any tips for helping them adjust as we head out of the pandemic?
Luckily, young children are quite resilient. Trends we have seen are those described in the first question – regression in behaviors, separation anxiety, and changes in behavior patterns, such as sleeping and eating. As we head out of the pandemic, keep in mind that not all of the social skills in place before the pandemic will automatically be there. Young children will need to be reintroduced to some social skills such as sharing, using kind words, and being mindful of others.
Do you have advice when our kids start asking questions about next school year and either display anger/fear or happiness about what next year and what school may or may not look like? Especially if they are worrying already?
The presentation slide on the 3 R's– Regulate/Relate/Reason is also helpful here. Regulate – try to soothe the child with calm words, rubbing his/her back, deep breathing. Relate – acknowledge the worry and let them know you are wondering about the same things. Truthfully, we don't know what next year will look like, but you can concentrate on the things you do know. You do know that you will be with them and will keep them safe. You do know the adults will make the best decisions possible to keep everyone safe.
How about repairing the brain after too much screen time? Is that possible?
The young brain is constantly pruning and developing new pathways. If screen time is significantly reduced and replaced with new, healthier activities, new pathways will form. The frontal lobes of the brain are not fully formed until the mid-20's so it is still malleable.
Can you send out a printout emotions wheel and last slide for people to print?
Here is a downloadable copy of the emotions wheel.