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BIRMINGHAM — With the holidays behind us and the promise of a new year, it’s still overwhelming to think about how much COVID-19 has interrupted people’s lives. Children, in particular, have struggled with being out of school, lack of socialization, disruption of traditional holiday activities, and more.
Still, there’s a fortitude kids have naturally developed during this time. “The good news is, children are more resilient than we give them credit for. They are often more resilient than adults are,” states Lou Lacey, LPC, at Children's of Alabama and Director of Emotional Wellness at Children's.
Kids Look to YOU
One observation Lacey has made over her years of experience is that children often look to their parents or other adult caregivers for guidance on how to recover from traumatic experiences. With that in mind, it’s critical that adults model calm behavior as much as possible.
“If they're looking at their parents during this stressful time, and their parents are very anxious and worried and wringing their hands, then the child is thinking, ‘Oh, something's really wrong. I better panic too.’ But, if the adult is being calm and happy and honest about what's happening—if they're being steady about things—that sets the example for children and they follow that lead,” she explains.
Adults: Talk It Out
Of course, adults need help too. Keeping feelings bottled up inside will only make the anxiety worse. Lacey urges parents to talk to somebody—their spouse, sibling, friend, even a colleague. Connecting and voicing one’s worries actually reduces cortisol, which is the “stress hormone.”
“If you've ever gotten something off your chest, and then afterward you have that feeling of relief, that's what that [process] is,” she adds.
Ideally, the person you confide in shouldn’t be trying to “fix” the problems. Rather, it’s important to find someone who will just listen. Not judge, not problem solve, but just hear you out.
It Won’t Be Dark Forever
Even with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, a level of darkness remains. Lacey encourages people to focus on the things they can control, such as exercising, eating healthfully, getting proper sleep, and being mindful of one’s mental health. And, to be a bit kinder to yourself.
“You know, we're pushing ourselves really hard under these incredible circumstances. But we have to be kind to ourselves,” she shares. “I think it's tempting to [give over] to those dark moments, in the middle of the night when we're just overwhelmed by all of this. We have to remind ourselves it's not going to continue like this forever. We're in the heat of it right now; we're in a crisis. But it's not going to stay at this level.”
For more information about the services offered at Children's of Alabama, visit www.childrensal.org. And, to listen to an in-depth conversation with Lou Lacy, LPC, follow this link: https://radiomd.com/childrensalabama/item/43855