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  • How Parents Can Help Kids Deal With Negative Emotions In A Positive Way

    Expert share positive approaches to dealing with negative feelings among children.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
How Parents Can Help Kids Deal With Negative Emotions In A Positive Way
PHOTO BY iStock
  • “It’s okay not to be okay in this time of COVID-19.”

    Developmental psychologist, Dr. Liane Alampay, opened her talk, “Supporting Children in Time of COVID” with this overarching message during a Zoom webinar titled ECQ Advantage. It was co-presented by SmartParenting.com.ph with Stratum Health Partners and Word Prime Reading Lab

    “The pandemic has brought a lot of negative emotions, anxiety, and fear because of a sense of uncertainly. Given this context, it is reasonable to say that it’s okay not to be okay,” she elaborates.

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    How to help your child cope with his negative feelings

    Among children and teens, not feeling okay often manifests in behavior rather than expressed verbally. “Kids many revert to childlike or less mature behaviors,” says Dr. Alampay.

    Some examples of this behavior: A child who was already toilet trained suddenly goes back to bedwetting, or he suddenly found it difficult to stick to a routine that had already been established. Other manifestations may be aggression or withdrawal, Dr. Alampay added. 

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    Among teens, while they can express themselves, they can show feelings of frustration or boredom, especially when some of them have missed what were supposed to be special events in their lives, such as prom or graduation.

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    For both age groups, it is essential not only for parents to continually check in with them but also to help them cope positively with negative feelings and experiences.

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    “There is growth in weathering difficult times,” she says. Here, she gives tips on how parents can help children deal with negative feelings positively.

    Reassure your kids of your care and support

    In today’s time, reassurance is vital among toddlers, says Dr. Alampay. Parents who tell their kids that “we will take care of you and keep you safe” verbally and explicitly can mean a lot.

    When talking to children about COVID-19, it is essential to let them know you are there despite the uncertainty it brings and that they can come to you to talk about it anytime.

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    Be open and available

    “Ask them ‘How are you today?’, ‘How are you feeling?’ but show that you mean it with your body language versus asking how they are while you are busy working on your laptop,” says Dr. Alampay.

    Try to show empathy for your teen by telling them that you’d be anxious too about the future and school if you were in their place. 

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    Channel negative feelings to other activities

    Kids can express how they feel through drawing or writing, and you can frame the activity in these unique times. “Drawing, writing in a journal, or coming up with a story about what’s happening in our world right now is a good exercise and a good way of redirecting their feelings,” says Dr. Alampay.

    Parents can also ask kids to make “Worry Jars” where they can write down what they are worried about.

    Reinforce joy and positivity

    “We tend to be more aware of negative emotions and miss out on the positive,” points out Dr. Alampay. Thus it is crucial to make the home a place where there is positivity.

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    Even when bad behavior arises, parents can still keep things positive. “Give positive direction by telling the child to keep his toys in the box instead of saying ‘stop making a mess.’”

    Dr. Alampay adds that parents should spot when the child is behaving well and praise the behavior.

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    How to keep it positive when talking to a child about COVID-19

    With the pandemic and the uncertainty brought by COVID-19 as a possible source of anxiety, it is only logical that parents talk about it with their children. However, parents need to keep it factual, balance what they say with good news, and be wary of introducing too much fear, says Dr. Alampay.

    “Teach them that the virus has nothing to do with where the person comes from or how a person looks or talks.” If the child asks questions you don’t know the answers to, there’s no need to pressure yourself, know the answers at once, or, worse, invent one.

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    “It’s okay not to know the answers,” says Dr. Alampay. “You can say, ‘we don’t know yet, but people are working to find out.’ When you look for the answers, use trustworthy sources for information such as the World Health Organization website.”

    An attitude of openness and availability is critical when talking about COVID-19 to children. Parents should be open to listening, must always be truthful, and speak to the child at a level they can understand. End it on a positive note. Assure them you are still there for them and that they can talk to you about it anytime.

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