Responses your child might have towards a crisis

When anyone experiences a traumatic event, or a time of intense, serious difficulty, or danger, there are a number of responses we could have towards that event or situation. Adults often find coping with such events to be difficult and overwhelming, but very often we forget that our children can, and do, experience similar feelings that we have.

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Despite how old, or how young our children are, they are usually quite observant and intuitive. They can sense what is going on even if no-one tells them directly. If they feel comfortable speaking to you, they might confide in you the concerns and worries they might have. These concerns might be regarding school, friends, extra-curricular activities, and how to navigate the world in general right now, given the pandemic.

However, whether they feel comfortable or not, there are a few responses that your child might have as a way to show how the pandemic has been affecting them. Below is a list of behaviours, according to age, adapted from the Government of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, that you might notice in your child:

Children 4-6 years Children 7- 11 yearsAdolescents 12-17 years
clinging to adultsbeing withdrawnIntense grief
regressing to younger behaviours they used to exhibitconcerned about others that were affectedShow excessive concern for others
sleep disturbances (waking up during the night, easily startled when asleep)sleep disturbancesSelf-conscious
changing in eating patternschanges in their eating patternFeel guilt and shame
taking on adult roles (feeling like they have to do more at home now)Feeling scared / expressing fearSelf-absorbed
irritabilityirritabilityDefiance of authority
easily confusedaggression / restlessIncreased risk-taking
poor concentrationpoor memory and concentrationChanges in relationships
inactive / hyperactivesomatic symptoms (tummy ache, headaches, etc)Aggressive
stop talkingfeel confusedSelf-destructive
stop playingwanting to talk about the eventFeeling hopeless
anxious or worriedself-blame/guiltRelying more on peers

It is important to note here that each child/ adolescent is different. Some might display one of these behaviours, all of the behaviours (in their age category), or possibly none of these behaviours at all. The way children/ adolescents react to a crisis depends on their age, development, personality and the way others interact with them/ react to different situations around them.

Many children/ adolescents will be resilient and recover if their basic psychosocial needs are met. These needs can be met through normal developmental activities such as school, recreational activities they usually engage in, and getting the time to play.

There are several different ways you can approach helping your child at this time. You just have to take that first step and try!

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