Brianna K. Edwards, LMHC, RPT
On behalf of the quiet kid during this pandemic
As adults, we are responsible for MANY things: Our families, food, income, paying bills, our child’s schooling…the list goes on. With the pandemic, the pressure of these responsibilities can feel all the heavier. Some of us process the stress verbally and outwardly with a spouse or friend, while others shut down or escape to our "drugs" of choice (TV, Netflix, social media, work, etc.) to block out the pain of reality. As a child therapist, I can tell you: kids do the same. My counseling experience is mostly with kids from trauma (trauma is BROAD) – and let me tell you – COVID-19 has the potential of being traumatic in your child’s life (if it’s not already).
Some kids are attention-seeking or vocal about their problems, other kids are not even aware of their anxiety, stress, or what they experience in their bodies, and many know they feel big emotions inside, but do not know how to express it. In our work, we find that it’s often the quiet kids who appear unaffected or say they are “fine” that carry the most inside. Don’t be fooled by your child’s uninterested, seemingly calm, bored, or “meh” (as they say) attitude. Denial, shutdown, and escape are coping skills. They keep us safe (yes, adults, too!).
This is a gentle plea, an encouragement, to see your children – to really see them and be attuned to their emotional states. It’s easy to meet the physical needs of kids, and neglect the emotional needs -- especially in times of stress (because we have our own stress and negative coping skills). What are the clues that show you your child might be feeling anxious OR hiding anxiety? For each child it’s different. You may have never noticed before, but today’s the perfect day to begin noticing! When you see those signs, respond with gentleness, kind eyes, and empathetic vocal tone. Be mindful of shaming or interrogation strategies (those usually do not work)! You can simply say: "I'm here if you want to talk" and leave it at that.
Not every kid has anxiety, but some do. And some are missed.
For the kids who feel unseen, nervous, or scared, and don’t know how to communicate it -- this is for you.