Below is an example of the type of dream sharing people have been doing on one of my sharing sites along with my response:
Dream: My 5 year told me that she dreamt the Corona virus was frozen, and people could go out again. She told me her dream about 3 times.
Dream Interpretation and Exploration: She may be experiencing the stress of not being able to do what she would normally be doing. She may be trying to deal emotionally and psychologically with what is happening. Talking about her fears and reassuring her that many people are working real hard to end what is happening and make it safe for people again will help her through this.
This got me to thinking that many children may be experiencing a great deal of stress right now and I thought I’d throw out a few ideas on how one might deal with them.
As a former school psychologist I thought it might also be helpful to share some ideas on how one might interact with children during this time of high stress and uncertainty. I hope that it will be useful.
Children too have had their lives disrupted by things that they can’t really understand. Many know something is wrong and may be feeling quite vulnerable and anxious. This can come out in their dreams, play activity and in acting out behavior as well as a change in sleeping behavior.
Children are also masters at mirroring what they pick up from their parents what with mom or dad being their number one source for modeling behavior.
Allowing them to talk about how they might be feeling (see feeling pictures above and below) and how you as parent will work very hard to keep them cared for is very important right now. Let them have the feelings they’re having by not adding such things as, “You don’t have to feel that way.” Just accept whatever they say. Often children will give you the adult what they think you want to hear so you don’t want to show any preference for what they tell you.
If they want information about what is going on go ahead and give it to them however, you need not go into great detail for that might only add to their fear, confusion, and stress. Note also that most young children don’t know why they feel the way they do so questions about “why?” should probably be kept to a minimum for this can shut them down.
Sometimes giving a child old enough to draw pictures of people (typically starting around age 4 to 5 and on up through 8,9,10 for purposes of using them as a communications tool) crayons and paper and asking them to draw someone or to draw a family can help ferret out feelings with questions of, “Who is that?” “What are they doing?” “How are they feeling right now?”
Primarily they need assurance and lots of patience and love. Maintaining their routines as much as possible will help to reinforce a sense of normalcy and thus safety (routine is most important to a child’s sense of safety and security).
There are many on-line sites with suggestions for helping children maintain a sense of normalcy. One of the techniques one of my daughters with a 3 year old has used is the following:
If you have access to FaceTime, Zoom or some other computer interactive app, setting up virtual playdates with “besties” can help bring a sense of normalcy and thus security to their routine (this particularly effective with older elementary school kids and with teens as well.
However, it should be noted that with toddlers their attention span for Zoom-dates is short especially if they feel forced to interact. Sometimes they just like to do a project side by side (the projects don’t have to be that same project but just a craft-like project, though some folks have achieved some success with a similar project like building with Legos. Toddlers are still at the stage of parallel play so just letting the zoom run while they are playing and after the initial hello might be enough. Creep up on the Zoom play by starting out with 10 min, then 15 and 20 if you’re being successful (this approach works for so many things). Once a week is preferable and in this way your child can look forward to something special.
After a time toddlers might begin resisting because what they really want is the contact (“nearbyness” or proximity) provided by the other child that’s why I suggested the parallel play together on either FaceTime or Zoom. Though we all believe in not forcing a child to interact is the best way to go, encouraging them to engage on some level and not turning inward or becoming a loner is always something to consider and experiment with. You of course know when your child is done with whatever you’ve done.
Getting outside into the fresh air with the proper protections probably also needs to happen on a daily basis weather permitting.
Sharing observations you’ve had with your own kids with frie3nds who also have kids can be cathartic and sometimes reveal some suggestions that others have tried that have worked. This is a time when parents can increase the tools that they have in their parenting kit bag (after all these little critters don’t come with operating instructions so we sort of have to make it up as we go).
Some parents have also recommended the Daniel Tiger animated series on PBS television as a means of teaching and reinforcing emotions and sharing.
In addition Pediatricians have been reminding parents that even during the pandemic they should be bringing their children in for regular visits and to receive their regular scheduled vaccinations.
I hope this helps and good luck,