Some of the great challenges that the current situation presents is learn to manage our emotions, help our children manage theirs, and do it in a way that minimizes, as far as possible, the psychological consequences that may arise. But this is not a simple objective, it requires work, awareness and perseverance.
So we have interviewed Silvia Álava and Ángel Peralbo, psychologists from the Álava Reyes Psychology Center team, led by María Jesús Álava, so that they give us clues on how to deal with this situation and also help our children to do so.
In these weeks of confinement we have had to face an unknown and unprecedented situation that has awakened many emotions in us and in our children, especially related to fear, uncertainty, anxiety … How important is emotional management? right now?
Ángel Peralbo: Faced with a situation like the one we are experiencing in confinement, an “technical stop” imposed, necessary and not at all foreseeable because there were no precedents, and where, let us not forget, health problems may be living, inside or outside the family sphere , the first thing that is generated is a state of helplessness from which a certain range of emotions is going to be set in motion, typical of the human being in alarming situations. It is the first protective shield that people deploy against stimuli that, potentially or really, can unbalance us. We must understand that emotions have the task of helping us to adapt, and therefore, one of its main functions is to activate and generate actions that rebalance and return the adjustment that our brain needs to continue to function as normally as possible. We only achieve this thanks to that emotional management that is what will allow us to go from alarm states to sustainable, adequate and even positive states, as those most conducive to living and enjoying.
Right now, proper management of emotions will consist of:
– Detect and identify how we feel, what is the basic or complex emotion that predominates, what internal indicators does our body take advantage of so that we can notice it. Each person is also very different in this regard and, thus, there are children who can show more nervousness through indicators such as blocking or excessive movement, and others may show more concern through behaviors of a certain aggressiveness or isolation.
– Identify why you feel or feel this way specifically, to know both the label, the name of the emotion, and what leads or leads to it. It is not the same to feel frustration because confinement does not allow me to do what I want, that fear of catching or sadness for thinking that this is going to be a real disaster.
– Express what we feel and find a way to channel those emotions, in addition to managing them so that they do not flood us, they do not remain in time and become habitual states and, on the contrary, they serve as signals that from the acceptance of the difficult situation, allow us to implement strategies that calm us and that Help us to think realistically and optimistically, as keys to overcoming this negative stage.
How can we help our children to manage their emotions when many times we are not able to do it ourselves?
Ángel Peralbo: The first precept that we must bear in mind is that emotions in people are the most experiential and least theoretical characteristics that exist, which means that it is not enough to tell someone how they have to regulate themselves, but also to teach them how to do it and make sure you practice.
That said, the most basic mechanism by which the child will learn is by imitation, which, taking into account their great skill as observers, will lead parents to take great care of how they show their fear, despair, and anguish. , etc.
Therefore, as adults, parents will start with their own emotional management, just as in a plane that suffers from a decompression episode, children should not put the mask on first. And they will do it by implementing that emotional management that we talked about before.
However, parents do not have to show that they are perfect and that nothing affects them; rather, they should seek that calm so that children see and validate these negative emotions as normal in these circumstances, and, from there, strive to regulate them, mitigate their effects, helping children to express and channel them, providing them Those strategies, such as relaxation techniques, which both help in self-regulation and which, at a time like the one we are experiencing, may well be an activity to do together, parents and children, as one more way of teaching that we all seek and we find that emotional regulation.
What children are going to be able to regulate themselves will be that they receive help to express what they feel, it will help them understand why they feel it and carry out strategies together to make them feel calm and calm.
We do not want to transmit our fears and concerns to our children, but we also do not want to tell lies and hide the reality from them … What can we do?
Ángel Peralbo: The idea is, as we said before, to identify well what we feel and express it, explain it and lead it to learn to alleviate it and that it does not capture all the answers, neither ours as adults, nor those of children.
What should we not do? Neither deny it nor exceed ourselves.
– We should not deny it or pretend nothing happenedBecause our children may be simple, due to their age, but they will realize that something is wrong, and since they will not know what, they will give their own explanation, which may be even more counterproductive and worrying than what is happening actually.
– We should not give them more information than that due to their age, due to their level of understanding and their capacity for knowledge, they can digest. Information alone does not translate into knowledge; therefore, it is necessary to give them adjusted information, real and accompanied by the safety of the adult, which should not be missing in any case.
Striving to remain calm will allow us to choose well, at all times and depending on how the children are, the right resource. If they are altered, the closeness and security provided by that calm adult presence is appropriate; if they are calm but ask and try to know what is happening, the serene and real explanation will help them to understand.
We hear a lot that we have to resist and be strong, but there are times when it becomes very complicated. Can we choose how to feel, is it in our hands to choose our state of mind?
Ángel Peralbo: First of all, we understand that we do not choose pain, not even the concern, natural in this type of circumstances, nor, to a much lesser degree, the causes that can provoke them, as at this moment the Covid-19. Secondly, we know that, in a natural way, those circumstances, those worries and that pain will lead us to all that set of unselected, visceral, automatic emotions that our primitive and inherited baggage provides us with; but in spite of this, what we can and should do is to exercise the capacity that we have to regulate ourselves, to rebalance ourselves, to adjust ourselves through the possibilities that our brain also offers us and that with work and personal effort, always allows us to go from those automatic patterns to adaptive, regulatory responses that lead us to calm, tranquility, coping with accepted difficulties and directing us to resist, to strengthen ourselves, to see light at the end of the tunnel and to feel strong enough to accompany these vicissitudes with resilience and even as an inevitable opportunity to improve ourselves, putting ourselves to the test and surpassing ourselves to some extent. The life crises that can occur in the face of these adversities are usually times when our state of mind lands to rise, with personal work, higher than ever.
When all this is over we will have to make an effort to recover and return to normal, get up again and help our children too. This is closely related to the concept of resilience; Can you educate on resilience?
Silvia Álava: The term resilience comes from the physics of materials: it is the ability of a material, mechanism or system to recover its initial state when the disturbance to which it had been subjected has ceased. When we refer to humans, resilience is the ability of a living being against a disruptive agent or an adverse state of affairs.
We are not talking about resilience as a static capacity, but as “resilient processes” that encompass multiple factors that can be trained, and that can be taught to children. It’s about building what’s called proactive resilience. For it:
– Avoid being overprotective with your children. Children whose parents have an overprotective educational style, in addition to developing fewer emotional capacities, generate fewer processes of resilience. Giving them everything done, or preventing them from struggling to achieve their goals, is an impediment to building resilience.
– Don’t look guilty. The victim’s attitude is just the opposite of being resilient. It is about seeing what each of us can do to solve or improve the situation. It is about putting the focus on us, not on others.
– Work responsibility. That each child is autonomous and responsible for their things will help them to be more resilient.
– Teach them to focus on the positive of each situation; for example, the good times we are living together, spending more time with mom and dad …
– Promote your self-esteem, that they feel safe and capable of solving situations. Be sure to recognize their achievements, but above all, teach them to be able to recognize them themselves.
– Perseverance works. It is one of the strengths of character most related to achievement motivation and a fundamental key to achieving objectives.
– Be realistic and make no mistake: Resilient people also suffer. Emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration … arise naturally in situations like the ones we are experiencing right now and in traumatic events. Being resilient does not mean that you do not feel negative emotions, but that you have learned to better manage those emotions.
A topic that worries us a lot at the moment is how to overcome the death of a family member or a loved one, especially considering the impossibility of being close and saying goodbye in the last moments of his life. What can we do to carry this in the best possible way and at the same time help our children manage it?
Silvia Álava: During the coronavirus crisis, many people are losing loved ones, family and friends, with the aggravating circumstance of not being able to accompany them in their illness, nor having been able to say goodbye to them. These circumstances make mourning difficult and also affect children. It is important that we also take into account children in this situation, so that they can participate in grief.
We recommend you observe the following recommendations:
Children realize that something is happening. Do not lie to them and give them the news as soon as possible. To do this, you must convey the message appropriate to their age. Explain to them that the family member has died and that we cannot go to the funeral or the funeral, because with the quarantine it is not possible to leave the house, since in addition to the possibility of becoming infected, the rest of the family members could also be infected. That they understand that the grandfather or the grandmother or the uncles, could also get sick … This is not the time to hide the reality from them.
– Leave room for them to assimilate the news. At that time they may not understand it or may not be able to assimilate it. But at some point they will ask and you must be prepared to answer their questions.
– Explain to them that, in this situation, for the Covid-19, we cannot go to see the relative at the hospital when he is sickNor, in the event of death, go to the funeral, nor to the burial.
– When they are little they need to find a culprit because they don’t understand why they couldn’t go see him. Someone to “play bad” or a higher authority. It can be explained to them that we cannot go to say goodbye because it is prohibited, that it is not by our own decision.
– Use physical contact (as long as you are not infected or with symptoms of Covid-19), and shake hands as explained, or pet them. A hug right now can say more than a thousand words.
– It favors that they can say goodbye, by letter or drawing.
– Make a box of memories, where we can keep an object of our family member, photographs … that allow children to access it whenever they want.
Being 24 hours a day with our sons and daughters and having deprived them of the independence they previously enjoyed, how can we avoid falling into overprotection? Above all, taking into account that we are living in a situation in which we are very concerned about the consequences that may arise …
Silvia Álava: The confinement situation is a key moment to work on the autonomy and responsibility of children, which, in addition, is just the opposite of overprotection.
– It’s about working the team idea. Several people live at home and we are all members of a family that works as a team, and therefore we will have to solve things as a team. That means: outside the concepts of “you have to help mom.” No, we all live in this house, things are done by everyone and we are going to distribute the tasks according to the age and possibilities of each member of the family.
– In addition, during confinement we have time; it is the ideal time to that children become much more autonomous. Let them do their things, even if they take longer than adults.
– Educate in responsibility. That each member of the family is responsible for their things. In the case of children, their homework, doing homework, studying … It is a fantastic time for them to do it. It is about giving them more freedom and more space so that they are the ones who act and assume the consequences of doing so.
– This is educar to make our children safer, more autonomous, more responsible, who understand the situation we are experiencing, both its complexity and the dangers it entails, without trying to scare or scare them.
– Promote hygiene and care, to avoid possible future infections. Frightened children have no resources to deal with dangerous situations. Children informed and educated in responsibility, yes.
Speaking of consequences, what are the adverse effects that we and our children can have after going through a situation like the current one? Can we do something to try to avoid them?
Silvia Álava: We have never experienced a situation like the current one, so as of today there is no scientific evidence of how this situation can affect children. However, we can take the following actions to avoid, as much as possible, the negative effects of confinement.
Five actions that can help us avoid the negative consequences of confinement:
one. Explain to your child what is happening. Children are very good at detecting that something is happening and they get a lot of information. However, they do not have the necessary experience to interpret reality. They need their parents to decode the message. In other words, they should explain it to them in terms appropriate to their age and their own development.
2. Require that your physiological and emotional needs are covered. Let us not just focus on homework; We must leave a space for them to express their emotions, so that they can express how they feel in this situation.
3. Validate your emotions, it is normal to be afraid, and parents must know how to manage it. We don’t have to downplay it, but we do reassure them and provide security.
4. Keep schedules and routinesThat will make them feel safe.
5. Take care of how you are. Children need their parents to show confidence and to handle the situation with calm and serenity.