Pandemic and Emotional Health of Children

Enhancing emotional response to the Pandemic

Ms. Mugdha Chandorkar. Child Counselor, CMIS
MSc in Clinical & Health Psychology
University of Strathclyde, Scotland

The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health. COVID-19 has brought about a complex array of factors (uncertainty, social isolation, and parental angst) that have an impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Children have many worries related to the consequences of COVID-19 such as whether they will see their friends and relatives, go to school, or get sick. It is often difficult for parents to calm their children’s anxieties because of the uncertainty in their lives.

As children it is important that they are taught to control these emotions so that they can deal with situations better. For example- a child who does not have emotional awareness may not even realize that their chosen friendship groups are having negative impact on their wellbeing. If children can listen to their feelings and respond to them, they are more likely to gravitate towards people who make them feel good about themselves.

Feelings are powerful and can be overwhelming at times. To teach students how to explore and regulate their emotions- We at C M International School introduced Emotions Sorting Game based on ‘Inside Out’ movie; where students match various reactions, facial expressions and guess the correct feeling. Along with that we emphasized on Grounding techniques, Mindfulness where students learned how to focus in the present moment. These techniques have helped children to distract themselves from what they are experiencing and refocus on what is happening in the present moment. It pulled them away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative or challenging emotions.

It is common in young adults to develop a fear about unknown or some things that probably will not happen at all (like monsters under the bed). The stronger the imagination is, the more real things can sometimes feel. To overcome this, we planned fun art-based activities for our students. We made them create their own Worry Jar where they can put all their worries, store them, and put them away. They can only think about the worries at fixed time slot every day and write down the daily issues. The Worry Monster activity help them identify at what intervals he arrives, what they feel about it, how they behave and what can they do best to calm themselves down through Art based game plan and journaling. We also organized Mood Tracking exercise to make them aware about their feelings by jotting down the days of the month, color coding the emotions and tracking their own behavior patterns through it.

Stories boosts our feelings towards things like trust, compassion, and empathy. They motivate us to work with others and positively influences our social behavior. We at C M International School have started Healing Story period where we work on brain engagement along with a sense of well-being in children through group sessions. By the end of this period students get Mindful homework, which helps them to remain calm throughout the month. We like to keep the enthusiasm high, so after completion students get interesting rewards for example: Guided Meditation tracks, Calming techniques, Breathing exercises, Anger Management toolbox, Anxiety reduction worksheets– anything that helps soothe their mind.

It was difficult for everyone to get through a day in these challenging times. Many Secondary students reported low motivation, difficulty in perceiving online classroom environment. We worked with children who Procrastinate, guided them with easy yet effective strategies that they can start using immediately and overcome resilience which led to increased productivity. Apart from that, we taught them how to create a Thought Journal through Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (RECBT) techniques. Wherein they could observe the different patterns between Rational and False automatic thoughts that influences our actions.

To make children independent we have recently launched Emotional First Aid Kit. Here the child creates a box which can be opened in the times of emotional crisis such as – Rejection, Failure, Loneliness, Frustration, etc. Having some of your favorite things handy can help them to soothe and feel calmer. For example- photos of family and friends, a souvenir from a trip with good memories, etc. We believe open communication is the key. In C M International School children have a platform to express their innermost thoughts, feelings. They share their struggles, secrets, and problems openly through emails. We keep the confidentiality and help the child with parents’ consent. We address various types of concerns through Individual sessions – Cognitive, Socio cultural, Emotional, Family related or Exam stress, Low concentration, Anger issues etc.

The pandemic has given schools enough time to think, rethink and prepare for a post-pandemic education system. We are looking forward to welcoming our students with the same enthusiasm.