Psychosocial Support During Crises and COVID-19

Conditions such as living with uncertainty, health hazards, fear of losing someone and other significant changes in an individual’s life can have negative psychological impacts such as increasing levels of stress, anxiety, fear, distraction and depression.

Stress is a part of our daily lives, and strengthening our internal (coping skills, cognitive flexibility, hobbies, etc.) and external (our social environment, family, friends, etc.) resources is really important to overcome various stressful situations that we face throughout our lives.

This guide is designed to help reduce the possible psychological effects of the probable disasters and crises, support the socio-emotional development of children, and provide suggestions to strengthen their resources. COVID-19 outbreak is given particular emphasis since it has created a big change in our daily lives and significantly impacted our emotional and mental state.

Suggestions for Adults during the Periods of Stress and Anxiety

Find what comforts you:​

Under such stressful circumstances, you should try to focus on activities that could comfort you. These activities may include listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk, concentrating on your hobbies or attempting to find new ones. During intense and stressful moments, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, light exercises or other physical activities could also help you relax.​

Flexibility and emotional self-regulation:​

Stressful events that we experience from time to time can now get even more intense due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Although we are all living under the same reality of pandemic, everyone experiences it differently. It is very natural to encounter psychological difficulties, feel angry, disappointed or depressed, or lose motivation during social isolation times. What matters is how you manage this process and what you do with these emotions.​

Connections

Keep in touch with your loved ones by strengthening your social networks. Having supportive people around you helps enhance your mental well-being. Connect with those in your social circle and strengthen these relationships. You need people who you can trust and fall back on in times of difficulty.

How to Approach Children and Teens: Recommendations

o-3 Age Group

The well-being of babies, especially the 0-3 years old children, is directly dependent on the well-being of the caregivers. For this reason, it is important to remember that you need to take action to care for your own well-being.

3-6 Age Group

The children between the ages of 3 to 6 need an “observe, play, soothe” approach. Especially regarding the pandemic, parents should be very clear while explaining terms like viruses, microbes and give tangible examples. You can try to instrumentalize games while describing the conditions.

6-12 Age Group

For 6-12 years old children, it is important to adopt an “observe, explain, support” approach. Make clear and accurate explanations while talking to them. It is essential to create an atmosphere of trust and let children know that they can easily ask you questions. Do not judge them about their questions and behavior.

12-18 Age Group

While communicating with 12-18 years old children, the roadmap of “observe, understand, allow” can be followed. The psychological effects of puberty, such as identity crises and anxiety about the future, could increase due to the new emerging conditions of the pandemic, such as problems regarding access to education or cancellation of exams. Therefore, during this period, they may need to know and hear that you will be there for them under any circumstances. Support them without threatening their individualities or freedoms. Let them solve their problems alone while making them feel that you will be there for them when they make a mistake. It is also important to respect children's privacy during these times, especially since the whole family is at home during the lockdowns.

How to Support Children's Stress Management?

ASK QUESTIONS

To be able to understand how your child is feeling, you need to ask questions to them. You can turn this into a game for younger children and find an entertaining way for them to express themselves.

UNDERSTAND AND ACKNOWLEDGE

Especially challenging, uncertain and abnormal situations can cause teens and children to feel anxious or scared, which in return can cause them to react differently than usual. When you come across such emotional reactions, make them feel well understood. Tell them that it is normal that they feel that way.

PLAN

Planning helps alleviate anxiety as it reduces uncertainty.

DO NOT FORGET ABOUT YOURSELF AND INCLUDE YOUR FAMILY TO THE PROCESS:

It is very difficult to understand children’s feelings without understanding yours first. Ask yourself questions about how you feel.

HELP THEM TO LIMIT THE MEDIA CONTENT RELATED TO THE PANDEMIC

On this specific occasion, the COVID-19 pandemic made us even more exposed to the digital media than usual. Take special precautions to prevent children and teens from being subject to the information pollution in the media and negative visual contents that you cannot control. 

DO NOT HESITATE TO GET SUPPORT!

Relaxation and Self-Regulation Exercises to Support Your Children

What About After COVID-19? How to Prepare Children for Normalization Period

During the pandemic, we got used to spending time together with our families more than ever. The normalization period that we are currently living in, also referred to as “the new normal,” might be challenging for some; and the perception that the outside world is not safe socially and physically can be a significant source of stress. Therefore, it is crucial to apply the transition step by step.

While our old routines are coming back, we are also required to adopt some new habits. For instance, socialization now includes wearing masks in public transportations, workplaces and social areas, disinfecting the used items and keeping a social distance from people.

You can use the techniques mentioned above while preparing yourself and your children for the normalization period.

When to Get Professional Help?

You should get support from an expert whenever you think you need it. However, observe your child more carefully and consult an expert, especially for:

  • Children with previously diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder,
  • Children with remaining unresolved problems after the pandemic, such as attention deficit, clumsiness, memory loss and hyper-stimulation,
  • Children who are on psychiatric medication,
  • Children diagnosed with specific learning difficulties,
  • Children with special physical and mental needs,
  • Children who lost a family member,
  • Children with a family member diagnosed with COVID-19,
  • Children who are suspected of using alcohol, cigarette or other substance.
  • Children with long-term malaise, loss of motivation, attention and memory problems, appetite and sleep troubles persist throughout the day.

Reminder!

  • This pandemic taught us to be more flexible and open to new ideas, realize the importance of social relationships, stay and live in the moment, the importance of our emotions, overcome losses, and survive in such a prolonged, intense, stressful situation.
  • Life goes on. We need to be ready and prepared for new, unexpected situations and changes. Let’s create an emotional emergency bag and fill it with our resources so that we can open and look at it when we need it, especially during crises and other difficult times like this.
  • Remember, you need to be “okay” first to be able to help and support those around you.

*This content is translated and summarized from originally Turkish content:

Psycho-social Support Guidebook

Children’s Wellbeing and Pandemic

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