How to Take Care of my Child's Emotional Health in Times of A Pandemic

How to Take Care of my Child's Emotional Health in Times of A Pandemic

Since the beginning of times, human beings have been grouped into social entities, which has allowed them to defend themselves, reproduce, learn, and interact with the environment. Society and culture are fundamental aspects of human identity. Social interaction goes beyond mere genetic transmission, it is enriched in communication and cooperation between its members, which allows them to transmit knowledge and behaviors through learning. This is how culture is formed.

Culturally, social interaction occurs under:

  • A close physical contact,
  • Dates to go to the movies, eat or exercise;
  • Birthdays and Holidays are highly celebrated surrounded by a ton of people
  • Big parties to celebrate weddings, Christmas or holidays traditions passed from generation to generation.

All of them have in common the accumulation of people in closed or open spaces, with close proximity interactions.

However, everything has change since March 2020, when to prevent the spread of COVID-19 we had to build a wall around us, distancing ourselves from everyone. For us adults, it has not been easy to adapt to the new restrictions of distancing ourselves from all those around us. Even understanding the implications, it is difficult for us to get out of a lifetime habit of social interaction, in order to acquire new habits adapted to our current needs. If it has been extremely difficult for us ...

Can you imagine how difficult it has been for teenagers and children?

For adolescents, their main references come from social interaction with their peers in a vital moment where they seek to become independent from their parents and part of the group. It is typical at their age to constantly seek the approval of others, wanting to go out with them and building new experiences, or starting new relationships. For children who naturally seek physical contact through hugs, kisses or even during playtime (with games like tag); it is not easy to explain to them that they must keep their distance from their peers, cannot go to visiting grandparents or is forbidden to touch anything.

Social isolation is a high risk for developing mental health conditions, being loneliness and despair symptoms that could be highlighted by de social distancing. These feelings maintained for long periods of time can lead to the appearance of serious mental disorders in children and adolescents such as depression or anxiety. In a study conducted by Dr. Maria Loades, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, she indicates that the implications of loneliness caused by confinement during COVID-19 will not be measurable until the following ten to twenty years. However, she confirms that it is the prolongation of lockdown, and therefore loneliness, rather than the intensity of it, that usually has the greatest impact on the appearance of depression in children and adolescents.

Confinement has had positive and negative consequences, despite the fact that most of the studies focus on the possible negative repercussions that social isolation may have; qualitative studies indicate that family time has increased, thus strengthening the bond between family members. An emphasis has been placed on interactions with pets and self-care activities that contribute to coping with the psychological consequences of the pandemic. Although we consider that we cannot do anything to compensate for self-imposed social isolation, the truth is that nowadays, as opposed to a hundred years ago when the last pandemic was registered; society has created digital communication mechanisms that allow us to bring together all those who are far away.

To help our children deal with the overwhelming feeling of loneliness, it is essential to do four things:

  • Talk with your children, either through a conversation or with using the little one’s graphic tools; we must open a wide channel for communication to create an environment of emotional safety so that our children can express what they are feeling. This gives them the opportunity to externalize those deep feelings and look for possible solutions to deal with those emotions.
  • Being aware of our own emotions, this allows us to act instead of reacting as a consequence. As parents, we cannot ask our children to learn how to deal with their emotions if we do not know how to deal with them ourselves. The first step is to identify the emotion we are feeling; then we must understand why we are feeling it; to finally find a way to deal with them. This practice will allow us to re-direct our emotions without affecting those we love the most.
  • Maintaining a routine, schedules and routines provide structure and stability to the daily life; allowing us to establish specific times to work, eat or rest. Maintaining habits that accompany our routine such as dressing, bathing, brushing our teeth, eating on time or sleeping, help our body to maintain their biological rhythm and therefore promote our emotional balance.
  • Maintaining good sleep habits, our body needs a recovery period after daily energy expenditure. During this period of time, we give our brain a break, so that it can regenerate itself. By emptying our minds, by resting, we can use it again the next day at their full potential. That is why it is important to take care of our sleep habits and the rituals that accompany it. The alteration of those habits can lead to attention problems, mood swings, decreasing memory, among others.

Now, once we know the four fundamental aspects that we must keep in order to maintain good mental health in balance, we cannot forget that this does not replace social contact in the least. For this reason, we must be creative when coming up with strategies that will help us battling this isolation with our children and adolescents.

Here are some suggestions that you can do with your children:

  • Schedule physical activity with your children indoors our outdoors. They can practice Yoga that contributes to relaxation, or a Zumba class to exercise, or take a walk into the forest to breathe fresh air and change their environment.
  • Play with your children, discover their interests preferably away from the screens or consoles, but that are fitting for their age. Playtime, especially in young children, develops their communication and social interaction skills. In adolescents they allow them to build memories with their parents around playful and stimulating moments. Likewise, through playtime creativity and problem solving are highly stimulated, which is a fundamental part of human development.
  • Organize playdates with their classmates where children can interact with their peers through the screen. This will allow them to have a fun time in the company of those who are further away from them at this time.
  • Plan a meal with grandparents or extended family, thanks to technology we can connect through our screens to have lunch or dinner with the family we cannot see physically. Having a previous agreement with them to cook the same meal and share a moment with them around the dinner table, even though it is through a screen.
  • Limit the use of screens , especially if they are taking online classes. The use of screens is highly addictive and leads to the appearance of mental health problems. It is important not to exceed that daily limit, especially in teenagers it should not exceed a maximum of two hours daily (one hour when they are in online classes).
  • Maintain a positive attitude, despite the difficulties we should teach our children to build resilience. It is imperative to limit the access that our children have to the news which generates uncertainty and anxiety in ourselves and furthermore in them. Also, it is helpful to encourage the occurrence of moments that promote good humor and joy at home; Starting a tickling war, creating a comedy time, where everyone has to tell a joke, or sing along on an improvised karaoke. Humor is essential to maintain a positive attitude, and to transmit it to our children.
  • Express how much you care to your loved ones por ellos; sometimes we take for granted that our loved ones know how important they are to us. However, at times like this, it is worth reminding them and even thanking them for the role they play in our lives.
  • Encourage your teenagers to learn a new skill in the company of their friends, they can work on a common project and share their impressions about learning this new skill or hobby. They can learn to draw with watercolor, to make cartoons, to knit; there are multiple options available where they can share the learning sources and strengthen the skill they want to learn, interacting with their peers.
  • Act as a role model for your children; Our kids tend copy everything we do, especially the little ones. For that reason, it is essential for us to be an example for our children. Either in the quantity of time we use our screen, or following our daily routines or how we cope with our emotions; if we set a good example, this contributes directly to the well-being of our children.

Now that we have given you some strategies to deal with social isolation, choose one and get ready to do it, you will see that you will feel better afterwards. Remember to live one moment at time, making the most of it.

References:

Impact of children’s loneliness today could manifest in depression for years to come.
Recovered from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200531200333.htm

How to maintain our relationships while in isolation.
Recovered from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/es/blog/como-mantener-nuestras-relaciones-mientras-estamos-en-aislamiento

Coronavirus: how to help children through isolation and lockdown.
Recovered at: https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-how-to-help-children-through-isolation-and-lockdown-133990

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé

Back to School and Separation Anxiety

Back to School and Separation Anxiety

September has been a tough time for everyone, especially for teenagers and children.

After a very long time away from school, they had to go back with a lot of restrictions and measures for their safety and their teachers.

Most of them have shown an incredible amount of strength, giving us a valuable lesson adapting to our new normal. They have learned the proper distance they need to maintain from their peers, they wear their masks at all times, wash their hands as many times as we remind them, and learn new ways to greet their peers and adults. And they have made this whiteout complaint.

They know that there is a virus out there that could endanger their family and friends. They don't want to be held responsible for hurting one of their loved ones, and this has been their main motivation to follow up all the rules and restrictions we have submitted them too.

Nevertheless, with all the changes and uncertainty they had gone through, over the last six month, and with the constant reminder of the possibility of getting ill with the virus, separation anxiety has been a common feeling for some children and teenagers over the past month.

This disorder appears when children believe there is a higher probability of something terrible happening to, mainly their parents or to their most closer caregiver. 

If we also take into account that for the past six months, most of them have shared their home with their parents regularly seeing them, and having them close, they have grown more attached and used to be always with them. Now they have to go back to school, which means they will be away from their parents for at least five hours, where they are not going to see them and make sure that they are safe.

They are afraid of something terrible, like having the virus, happening to their parents or loved ones. Likewise, they are scared of making any careless mistake at school that would put their families in danger.

What could we do to help our children and teenagers to help them cope with this anxiety?

The first thing we need to do is recognise the fear they have, and put feelings into words. Ask questions like are you afraid of something? Does going back to school scare you? Why? Then empathise with them with phrases like:

  • "If I were in your shoes I would feel the same"
  • "It's okay to feel like this/or feeling these emotions"
  • "Going back to school must be tough nowadays, I think you are courageous/sting".

By empathizing we encourage them to talk to us about their feelings so we can help them overcome them.

Once we have gathered their feelings and named them, we need to set strategies to battle those fears.

  • Comfort your child, don't lie to them telling them that everything is going to be okay because you don't know if that affirmation is right.
  • Accept your feelings and share your fears with your children. Tell them that it’s okay to feel scared, but you are going to approach the school with baby steps. Each day that he spends at school is a battle you and your child have won against the anxiety.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before going to bed and before entering school. With little children, you can use a balloon, ask them to fill it slowly and then as you let the air out of the balloon expel the air that has filled your lungs very slowly. Use the square of breathing, breath in, retain the air for five seconds and then exhale it very slowly. Repeat it four or five times.
  • Write down or do a draw about their fears, what happens with them, which are their thoughts, their feelings, what they are most afraid of. This would help them to elaborate on their feelings and put them behind. Writing and drawing could be very therapeutic.

On the other hand, as parents, you should be aware of your feelings. Most of the time children and adolescents reflect their parent's emotions and behaviour.

Suppose you are worried about our current situation and are nervous regarding the uncertainty that represents the future. In that case, it is important for you to be aware of all these thoughts and feelings.

Once you recognise your feelings and thoughts the next step would be to accept them; realise where those feelings and thoughts are coming from; if they are based or not on reality; If they are accurate with the situation; After that, the following step would be doing something to cope with those feelings and thoughts, to lessen the overwhelming effect they could have over yourself. Any activity that would help you reduce your anxiety would be beneficial.

It is very important being in tune with your emotions, knowing where they are coming from will help you to recognise them in your children and find ways to cope with them.

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé

Teleworking Challenges & Children

Teleworking Challenges & Children

From March 11, when the provinces in Spain were confined, our lives changed radically over the next few months. A new way of working emerged with the support of technology. The teleworking that has been implemented for a couple of years gained a greater boom, becoming the new way of working.

On the other hand, homeschooling has become a new strategy for bringing education closer to children. In addition, to provide the usual comfort, our houses became offices and outpatient schools during confinement. The internet and new technologies were fundamental sources of socialization, as well as balconies and terraces the ingenious way of communicating with our neighbours, exercising, applauding the health workers and contributing with our posters to provide moral support to all those who were fighting in the front row against the pandemic.

With the passing of the days, we have adapted to a new normal that has put our limits to the test, showing us that human beings have the skills to adjust to the different obstacles they face.

Among the things that have been experienced during this challenging season, some changes have shown how effective they are. Among them teleworking, which seems to be the new way of working for the near future. This new way of conceiving our workspaces has advantages and disadvantages that it is important to take into account.

Among the main advantages are:

  • Greater job opportunities
  • Increase in productivity
  • Unification of family goals
  • Possibility of combining work with family life
  • Personal choice of work environment
  • Promote access to training
  • Organization of your own time

Among the main disadvantages are:

  • The environment in which the worker develops their work may not be the most suitable for carrying out their activities
  • Increases of a sedentary lifestyle
  • Increases in conflicts or distractions in the family nucleus
  • Loss of socialization
  • Unlimited working hours
  • Increase of isolation feelings, and loneliness

However, with the confinement of families at home, family conciliation was altered by the space that parents shared with their children, where they had to assimilate the role of the teacher in addition to the different tasks, they had to perform within their house walls. In the beginning, teleworking emerged as an option in the search for a balance between family life and work life. During the months of confinement, this could not be achieved, since most of the people, in addition to carrying out their work functions, generally had to accompany their children in their studies and at the same time they took care of their home chores. Given the imminent arrival of the new school year, it has been put on the table the maintenance of teleworking in order to preserve the social distancing so necessary in the prevention of contagion by COVID-19.

From March to June, most adults have manifested high levels of discomfort when having to attend their children's online classes at the same time as they had to comply with their work obligations.

In addition to dealing with the uncertainties inherent in the situation we have faced, psychological consequences have been noted such as high levels of stress and anxiety, increased family disputes, excessive fatigue, loss of space and free time, among others.

In the same way, parents have seen their role unsettled by having to be attentive to their children connecting to their online classes maintaining their routine and stability.

Because all of this, in recent days it has become clear that continuing children online schooling is not an option. The presence of children at school is extremely necessary, firstly because teachers are trained in the goals that they must achieve at an academic level, the role of parents has been distorted when they have to teach their children school activities.  

Second, children's interaction with their teachers is totally different from what they usually have with their parents, so that sometimes the transmission of knowledge is better received by them when it comes from the external figure of a teacher. This has been one of the leading causes of family disputes and frustration.

Third, children need to socialize with their classmates; this not only contributes to their emotional stability but also has a significant influence on the learning process of academic content.

For all this, it is of the utmost importance that the little ones go back to school, of course taking into account that it is a somewhat atypical return. Before the start of school, we must talk with our children about the measures that will be taken before returning to school grounds.

Among them take into account:

  • Children over 6 years old must wear the mask at all times
  • Hygiene always has to be at hand, we can send our children with a sanitizing kit that contains hydroalcoholic gel and if we wish, their own soap
  • Teach them to wash their hands for 20 seconds with the method recommended by specialists
  • They should wash their hands every time they change activities
  • The new greeting is bumping the elbows
  • Hands should be kept away from the face
  • Once we get home, we must get rid of our clothes, air them and take a bath in order to avoid possible risks
  • Explain that they probably will not be able to interact with other children other than those in their class, thus keeping then school bubbles

These rules, if possible, should be explained prior to the start of classes and reinforce them whenever we can. The return to class will entail a period of adaptation for all parents, teachers and children. The little ones need our accompaniment at all times, paying special attention to the presence of fear, nervousness or emotionally distraught. It is vitally important that they feel comfortable to be able to express their emotions freely by providing strategies to help them deal with them. Children can cope with this by elaborating their feelings while parents must validate those emotions, name them, and empathize with them.

The return to the school routine will bring infinite benefits for children and parents, especially if telework is here to stay. This will surely give us more stability to adapt to our new normal.

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé

Quarantine in Children, what can we all do to mitigate the impact in the little ones?

Quarantine in Children, what can we all do to mitigate the impact in the little ones?

In these difficult times, when the situation forces us to be isolated and stay at home; Children may feel like the most vulnerable in the family since many fail to assimilate the current state of day to day life in which their entire environment, routine and habits are affected. Their activities, sleep schedule, their games, hobbies, friends, neighbors, or schoolmates, every regular aspect of their life changed dramatically.

For parents it can be a difficult situation to cope with and it is very important to have the tools and techniques that help to cope with these circumstances, hence, the importance of being aware of the various methods to best deal with these family challenges.

According to the biopsychosocial model, humans’ beings are integrated by three main aspects biological (genetics), psychological (thoughts and emotions) and social (social context). Optimal development of the human being must contemplate their biological potential, adding the psychological aspects that define it, and integrating it in a social context where they can explore their potential until it is fully developed.

The social context is crucial to foresee the individual as an independent entity. From the first interactions with primary care-givers, human beings explored his social context and integrated it as a fundamental part of his being. These social interactions then expand first to their nearby family, and then to their interaction with peers until they form a proper social network.

School settings allowed the interaction with peers, in a routine, regular, and safely context, which let them explore their world based on such interaction.

Given the current situation,

What happens when children are forced to be socially isolated?

Due to the mitigating circumstances that accompany us at the moment because of the presence of the coronavirus (COVID-19), individuals have been forced to renounce the social part of their being, generating an imposed social isolation. They have not only been forced to isolate themselves socially but to stay locked up at home without being able to go out except to go shopping or take the dog for a walk. Likewise, their freedom has been restricted to the length of their houses, which have become offices, playgrounds, schools, gyms, spas, among many other things ...

Although we continue with our usual work from home, there is an imminent loss of the usual routine, fresh air, and daily movement. The necessity to go from one place to another; take the children to and from school, or to go to their jobs; has been eliminated, limiting their current field of action. Besides, everyone has to comply with their work schedule and other house activities, in the same physical space, adapting themselves day by day to new forming circumstances.

Another fundamental consequence is the forced distancing of our loved ones. People has lost the physical contact as the principal source of vital affection, essential for human beings.

How can parents support children in this vital moment? How can we mitigate these effects?

Managing this situation in the best possible way implies knowing the psychological impact that affects parents, in order to empathize with the emotions and the impact that these has on the little ones.

Parents should set an example for their children, adapting the information they share with them to their age; taking each day at a time talking honestly about the changes produced by their current situation.

Emotions like "exhaustion, detachment and anxiety" are natural and expected in the present context. As a consequence, feelings of irritability, apathy and nervousness in young children could arise, triggering behaviours such as insomnia, poor concentration, lack of academic performance, rejection to tasks that require cognitive effort, among other.

Parents should accept those emotions and let their children express their thoughts and feelings to help them cope with this situation. Parents must recognize these emotions in children, help them put it into words and calm their fears or concerns with accurate and precise information adapted to their age. Through the recognition of their own emotions, parents can share those feeling with their children, making them feel understood and supported.

Some positive recommendations to follow with children would be:

  • Take advantage of one of their most potent tools their imagination, which stands out above us. Their imagination allows them to create, invent new games, have fun initiatives, applying their own "magical solution". With this, they found a hopeful perspective for the outcome of the current circumstances.
  • Another enhancing ingredient is to use humour and laughter. Sharing good moments with them helps to activate feelings of well-being and pleasure, very much necessary at the present moment.
  • Introduce and involve them in the chores at home, especially those that involve movement, stimulating their "self-concept". Let them find the ability to feel useful with their effort and work, as well as a fundamental part of their family. If teamwork is stimulated, the benefits could be tremendous.
  • Encourage interaction through creative activities, physical exercise, playing instruments or painting. Use actions that maintain a balance between their mental and physical health. For this matter, new technologies could help them share their activities and keep in touch with classmates and extended family. Not losing contact with all their love ones, even though they have to do it through the screen.
  • Resilience has led us to find initiatives to alleviate, not only social isolation but also the lack of clean air. Sharing balconies with neighbours has been one of the main initiatives to help people cope with social isolation. Through songs, applause and drawings, everyone has been able to participate in social interactions hoping for a speedy recovery, and an early return to their routines. Also, challenges have been created to share on social media, trying to generate positive social interactions with our loved ones and friends.

This particular circumstance has changed lives in multiple ways, learning to appreciate aspects and details taken for granted in the past, which has brought out the best in every person. Such circumstances would allow people to emerge stronger, not only at an individual level but as a society in general, setting a former precedent for future generations.

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé

How to encourage autonomy in my child

How to encourage autonomy in my child

A fundamental part of growing for children is to achieve full autonomy. This encourages their sense of responsibility, self-confidence, willpower and self-discipline.

Autonomy is the ability to adhere to norms without external influence. When children can decide which rules will guide their behaviour, they are able to do what they think should be done. Moreover, children must develop their moral conscience and reasoning to promote, not only their autonomy, but also their freedom, willpower and self-esteem.

What happens when children are forced to be socially isolated?

Building up children’s responsibility is a fundamental part of the acquisition of autonomy. For that, children need to understand the impact their actions, assuming the consequences of those actions. The consequences of their actions are learned through experience, so it is important for children to be allowed to make decisions, mistakes and discover situations on their own.

They need to realise that they are the captains of their existence and become their own motivational moto.

Therefore, children who develop the ability to be responsible are those who are able to assess a given situation according to their own experience and what parents expect of them, in order to make an appropriate decision.

For children to achieve autonomy it is important to take into account the following:

  • Parents must know the abilities of their children understanding what they are able to do according to their developmental stage.
  • Parents must give their children freedom. Understanding that there is a continuous learning process.
  • Children learn to automate processes by practicing, so it is necessary to give them enough time to learn those processes.
  • Instructions should be simple, clear, concise and precise; leaving little space for them to misunderstand what is asked of them.
  • The consequences of the decision the child makes should be established at the same time as the instruction.
  • Small efforts should be valued, even if the final goal has not been achieved. It is important to consider the effort that they have put in to achieving that goal. Behaviour should be shaped until they reach their goal.
  • Setting an example is the best way for children to learn what is expected of them. Sometimes they do not know what they have to do, if their parents show them what to do, they can imitate that behaviour and perform as expected.

It is important, from a very young age, for children to be responsible for the things they do. For example, if they spill water or milk on the table, parents should give them a cloth so they can clean it up; when they are one year old they will do it with difficulty, but when they are three they could probably do it without leaving a drop on the table; they will also be more careful when drinking from a glass.

Another example is when they refuse to go out without their coat. Usually parents get pulled into an argument that ends with the child crying and the father or mother being angry. It is difficult for parents to let them make this decision and learn from their mistake. Which is why they should let them go out without their coat, at least one time, in order for them to feel the cold and understand the consequence of their decision. After that one time, as hard as it is for parents to do, the experience would be enough for the child to learn the relevant lesson.

According to their age there are some things that parents can let the child learn, to build up that autonomy, such as:

  • Between three and six years of age children can begin to take responsibility for certain activities, such as dressing by themselves, picking up their toys, putting on shoes, brushing their teeth, going to the bathroom by themselves, helping to set the table, helping around the kitchen and eating by themselves. While the task is being automatised, it will surely take more time to carry it out for them than for their parents. However, it is important to be able to properly learn the task and this can only be achieved through practice. The parent’s role would is to supervise and shape the performance of the child, making the necessary corrections. Likewise, parents can support the child’s autonomy by letting the child make small decisions, such as choosing between two changes of clothes to go to the park, or choosing their afternoon snack, or what activity they want to do with dad or mom on the weekends. These small choices can become a way to negotiate with children to carry out tasks that are tedious or boring for them, such as tidying up after playtime.
  • Between the ages of six and nine , parents should allow children to take responsibility for tasks such as preparing their backpack, taking a bath, keeping their room tidy, helping to prepare food, folding and tidying away their clothes, filling the dishwasher, writing down notes, taking care of their school supplies, taking care of their pet, setting and clearing the table alone, doing their homework, taking out the garbage. Therefore, parents should be willing to support their children to create appropriate habits. During these years it is fundamental to keep in mind that limits and rules should be very well established. The routines that have previously been created could be narrowed a bit more with the inclusion of academic duties. This is a time for children to understand that there are rules that can be negotiated and others that can’t. Parents must show firmness in their decisions without becoming authoritarian, explaining why a particular rule must be adhered to, what is the final goal pursued and the benefits that can be obtained by complying with that rule. It is also the time in which children need more motivation to carry out certain tasks. Which is why parents have to do as much as they can to make these activities as attractive and motivating as possible. Scheduling and dividing home chores for each member of the family could help to create a sense of responsibility, improving the relationship among family members.
  • Between the ages of nine and twelve , once certain habits have been established, parents should increase the expectations on their children. Activities such as cleaning their room, making their bed, taking out the trash, writing down phone messages, making small purchases, organising and planning homework, preparing simple dishes, tidying the bathroom, helping to clean and keep the house in order, walking the dog, having a set of house keys, going out on their own, sleeping at a friend's house. During this stage children begin to demand more and more independence, parents go from being supervisors to being more of an observer. This does not mean that the rules have to change, they should always remain firm without falling into authoritarianism. An activity that can contribute to the autonomy of children is to assign a weekly allowance so they can learn how to manage finances. This allowance should not be very high, enough to buy some snack or sports cards or to save it to buy something more significant. So that parents can teach their children how to manage their money, the consequences of spending it all on a whim and the importance of saving.
  • Between the ages twelve to sixteen , being an observer parent can be difficult to maintain, especially when their children become teenagers. The challenge of this stage is maintaining rules and limits, teenagers need to differentiate themselves from others, specially from their parents. At the same time, they have the necessity to recognise themselves in their own family history without dissolving their new found independence. Which is why parents must encourage at the same time as limiting their move towards independence, adapting the rules and limits to their age and individual characteristics. In order to do this, parents should listen to their children, take their opinions into consideration, explain why particular limits should be maintained and show confidence in their abilities and judgement. During this age parents should educate their children on freedom as a fundamental part of forming their self-respect which is the ability for adolescents to choose the best way to live their life. It is necessary to let them create their own criteria so they can choose and decide for themselves. By nurturing this, they develop the ability to consider the positive and negative consequences before making any decision.

To sum up, autonomy is a fundamental part of a child’s development, and parents must help build it as much as they can. It is fundamental that while parents promote their children independence, they also encourage their study, hygiene, sleep and food habits, by stimulating their commitment, generosity and self-confidence. Therefore, they should encourage the development of confidence and security in their children while allowing them to explore the world by learning a sense of duty and responsibility.

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé

First day at school

First day at school

With the arrival of September, the time comes for children to return to school. Seasoned veterans of the back-to-school routine already know what awaits them after the summer. For some however, the experience is completely new, while others have observed older siblings wishing they could pass through the doors of knowledge, enjoying the same experiences as brothers or sisters. When it comes to teenagers, some start with a little less motivation, and others with a little bit more enthusiasm, but they are veterans with the first day of classes, they have been doing this for at least nine years, so they know perfectly well how it works.

However, everyone has something in common, the butterflies in their bellies which, no matter how much of a veteran you are, can appear on that first day of school. Many children hide it quite well, or the excitement of seeing teachers and friends again hides any anxiety they may feel about the adventures they will face in the new school year. However, the nerves are not only felt by children but also parents, who in many cases can unwittingly transmit their anguish to their children.

It is normal that doubts arise, such as:

Who will be their tutor ?

Will they do better this year in science?

With the new class groups, will they get along with new classmates

What if he or she has a bad time at school?

What if he or she doesn't get to grips with the maths?

What if a classmate hits him or her?

What if they’re given a lot of homework?

And the list goes on and on. This can overwhelm not only children but especially parents who place their full trust in the educational center to care for their most precious treasure.

So what can be done about the imminent situation of the first day of school?

  • Many experts agree that, regardless of whether it is the first day of nursery, kindergarten, primary or secondary education, one of the golden rules in preparing for the transition from summer to back to school is to establish, at least a week before, the routine that is intended to be maintained during the school year. In this sense, it is imperative to establish bedtime and waketime; as well as mealtime, as close as possible to the one they will maintain during the academic year. It is also suggested that they are entertained with similar activities as the ones they will carry out during their school day. The aim of this is to make the return to the regular schools routine a little more gradual and easier.
  • In the case of little ones who start kindergarten or preschool, parents can help with the transition by taking them to school beforehand, for them to familiarize themselves with the facilities. Ideally they should meet their teachers and even practice some activities with them. Tasks such as to how to paint or tell little stories, which will closely resemble what they will do inside the classroom, could be practiced at home.
  • Another golden rule that contributes to fostering excitement aroundthe return to school is to allow children to participate throughout the planning of the new school year. Everyone still remembers visiting the bookstores to get the material for the new school year, or how fun it was to choose a trendy backpack. In this case, making children active participants in the purchase of school supplies, uniforms, and school enrollment, not only allows them to familiarize themselves with the idea of starting school but also encourages the excitement around the experiences they will have in the new school year. If this process is accompanied by positive anecdotes from either or both parents, it will be an unforgettable moment for the child.
  • It is normal that on the first day, especially the little ones, shed a few tears. Parents should respect and normalize the feeling of anguish that the child may have when facing a new situation. Of course, they must arm themselves with the courage to be able to wave them goodbye at the door, avoiding as much as possible that the farewell is lengthened too much. When parents demonstrate the security they need, they will feel safer. Younger children receive emotional signals from parents, so they must transmit calm, tranquility and security to their children. Keeping a smile along with a happy disposition will give the child the courage to face this new situation.
  • Most schools offer adaptation periods for all children, especially with the youngest ones, they are usually quite flexible. It is possible to negotiate to carry out this adaptation for small periods, extending the departure time a little more each day, until their absolute adaptation. Sometimes they also allow them to take an object to class, such as a stuffed animal or a blanket that accompanies them throughout the day and is an attachment figure. For this reason, it is always good to maintain open communication with the tutor who is the one who will guide how this adaptation will take place. The teachers of the educational centers are prepared to handle this process, so in case of doubt as to how it will be carried out, it is always good to consult with the expert, in this case, the teachers.
  • Talking with your children about what will be done when at the end of the school day can contribute favorably with adaptation. First when events are anticipated it makes the unknown known, and second, it also gives them the certainty that the day at school has an expiration date which will allow them to meet again with mom and dad.
  • When that first day of school ends, receiving them with a huge smile is the best reward you can give them. It is always important to provide words of support that praise the achievement of having stayed at school all day. Asking about what they did, showing interest and being surprised by the things they have learned during their hours away from their family environment, gives children motivation to return the next day with more new stories to tell. In the case of the less chatty, it may be advisable for parents to initiate the conversation, telling them a little about their workday, in this way parents model with their behavior what is expected of the child.

Be careful if after the first day of school there is a clear rejection of the school environment. It can be manifested by violent opposition, big tantrums, headaches or stomach aches, vomiting or diarrhea, these symptoms disappear completely when the child doesn’t go to school or when they are withdrawn from the school environment.

In those cases, it is important to detect what is happening inside the center. If the situation persists, you can consult an expert like a psychologist or approach the counselling department of the school who can advise you of what should be done in these cases.

Each child is different, therefore, you have to be patient and persistent during the adaptation process, allowing children to adapt to the unfamiliar situation by motivating them in every possible way. Constant communication with the school for keeping tabs on how the adaptation is going is the key to this transition being made successfully, providing vital information that calms the anxiety that any parent can feel before the new experience. Likewise, the smile on your children's faces after the storm passes, when they have become familiar with the environment and have established relationships with their peers, are the best indicators that the test has been passed and that they are in for nine months of unforgettable moments.

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé

Como incentivar a autonomía do meo filho

Como incentivar a autonomía do meo filho

Uma parte fundamental do crescimento das crianças é promover a autonomia, o que fortalece seu senso de responsabilidade, autoconfiança, força de vontade e autodisciplina.

Autonomia é a capacidade de assumir normas sem influência externa. Quando uma criança decide a norma que irá guiar seu comportamento e qual não, ele é capaz de fazer o que acha que deve fazer. As crianças devem desenvolver sua consciência moral e raciocínio para promover a sua autonomia, mas também sua liberdade, força de vontade e autoestima.

Mas, ¿Como podemos ajudar as crianças a promover sua autonomia?

A responsabilidade é uma parte fundamental da aquisição de autonomia. As crianças precisam saber qual é o impacto de suas ações, assumindo as suas consequências. Esta responsabilidade é adquirida a partir da experiência, por isso é importante que possam tomar decisões, cometer erros e aprender com as situações que enfrentam.

Eles devem assumir que são os capitães de sua existência, tornando-se o motor motivacional de si mesmos.

Sempre em quanto desenvolvam a sua capacidade de serem responsáveis são capazes de avaliar uma determinada situação de acordo com sua própria experiência e o que os pais esperam dela, a fim de tomar uma decisão apropriada.

Para que as crianças alcancem autonomia, é importante ter em conta:

  • Os pais devem conhecer as habilidades de seus filhos, e assim compreender o que eles são capazes de fazer de acordo com seu estágio evolucionário.
  • Os pais devem dar liberdade a seus filhos, deixando-lhos cumprir com o processo contínuo de aprendizagem.
  • Para que uma aprendizagem se torne automática, requer prática e tempo, por isso é necessário dar-lhes tempo suficiente para aprender.
  • Para dar uma instrução, esta deve ser simples, clara, concisa e precisa, deixando pouco espaço para malos entendidos.
  • As consequências sobre a decisão que a criança toma devem ser estabelecidas ao mesmo tempo que a instrução.
  • Pequenos esforços devem ser valorizados, mesmo que o objetivo final não tenha sido alcançado. É importante levar em conta o esforço que as crianças têm usado, o comportamento pode ser moldado até atingir seu objetivo.
  • Definir o exemplo é a melhor maneira para as crianças aprenderem o que se espera delas. Às vezes eles não sabem o que devem fazer, mas os pais dão o exemplo para que os filhos imitem o comportamento que se espera deles.

É importante que crianças desde muy pequenininhos sejam responsáveis pelas coisas que fazem. Por exemplo, se derramarem água ou leite na mesa, devem colher um pano para poder limpar a mesa. Talvez com um ano vão fazê-lo com dificuldade, mas com três anos pode ter a certeza de que a criança vai fazê-lo sem deixar uma gota na mesa, assim também serão mais cuidadosos quando queram beber do copo.

Outro exemplo é quando eles se recusam a sair com o casaco. Geralmente os pais ficam viciados em uma disputa que termina com a criança chorando e o pai zangado. Embora seja difícil, o pai tem que deixá-lo tomar sua decisão e aprender com seus erros. Portanto, devem deixa-lo sair sem o casaco uma vez para que passe frio e perceba a consequência da decisão que tomo.

Este será sem dúvida um aprendizagem definitivo.

  • Entre as idades de três a seis anos, as crianças podem começar a assumir a responsabilidades como vestir-se, arrumar os brinquedos, colocar os sapatos, escovar os dentes, ir sozinho a casa de banho, ajudar a pôr a mesa, ajudar a cozinhar coisas simples, comer sozinho, entre outras coisas. Enquanto a tarefa é automatizada, certamente levará mais tempo para realizá-la do que para os pais, mas é importante ser capaz de automatizar essa atividade, isso só será alcançado através da prática. O papel dos pais deve ser supervisor e adequar a execução dessas tarefas, fazendo as correções precisas. Da mesma forma, os pais podem apoiar a sua autonomia deixando a criança tomar pequenas decisões, como escolher entre dois conjuntos de roupa para ir ao parque, ou escolher o lanche da tarde, ou que querem fazer no fim de semana com os pais. Essas pequenas escolhas podem se tornar uma maneira de negociar com a criança para realizar tarefas tediosas, como recolher os brinquedos.
  • Entre as idades de seis e nove anos, os pais devem permitir que as crianças assumam a responsabilidade de preparar a sua mochila para escola, tomar banho sozinho, arrumar o seu quarto, ajudar a preparar uma comida, dobrar e colocar a sua roupa, encher a máquina lavar louça, cuidar do material escolar, cuidar do seu mascote, colocar e retirar a mesa sozinho, ajudar a tirar o lixo, entre outros. Os pais devem estar dispostos a apoiar seus filhos para criar hábitos apropriados. Durante esses anos, é vital ter em mente que os limites e normas devem estar bem estabelecidos. Igualmente, as crianças precisam entender que existem regras negociáveis, mas há outros que não podem ser discutidas. Os pais devem demostrar firmeza nas suas decisões sem se tornarem autoritários, explicando por que uma regra deve ser cumprida, qual é o objetivo perseguido e os benefícios que podem ser obtidos pelo cumprimento dessa regra. Provavelmente, é o momento em que mais motivação a criança precisa para realizar certas atividades, por isso os pais têm que tratar, tanto quanto lês seja possível, que a realização dessas atividades é atrativa para as crianças. Estabelecer um cronograma ou divisão de tarefas para cada membro da família ajuda a gerar um senso de responsabilidade que facilita a coexistência entre todos os membros.
  • Entre as idades de nove e doze anos, uma vez que certos hábitos tenham sido estabelecidos, os pais devem aumentar a responsabilidade das crianças. Atividades como limpar seu quarto, fazer a cama, tirar o lixo, escrever mensagens de telefone, fazer pequenas compras, organizar e planejar o trabalho para escola, preparar pratos simples, arrumar a casa de banho, ajudar a limpar e ordenar a casa, passear o seu mascote, ter as chaves da casa, sair sozinho, ficar a dormir na casa de um amigo, entre outras coisas. Durante este estágio a criança começa a exigir cada vez mais independência, o papel dos pais passa de ser um supervisor para ser um observador. Isso não significa que as regras tenham que mudar, elas devem sempre permanecer firmes sem cair no autoritarismo. Uma atividade que pode contribuir para a autonomia nestas idades é alocar uma quantia semanal de dinheiro para que a criança possa economizar ou comprar o que quiser. Esta atribuição não deve ser muito alta o suficiente para comprar um doce ou poupalo para comprar algo mais significativo. Isto ensina as crianças a administrar o seu dinheiro, as consequências de gastar-lho tudo e a importância de poupar.
  • Entre as idades de doze e dezasseis anos o papel observador dos pais às vezes pode ser difícil de manter, especialmente durante esse período em que as crianças se tornam adolescentes. O desafio das regras durante esse estágio é parte fundamental do processo de autonomia, os adolescentes precisam se diferenciar dos outros, especialmente de sua família, ao mesmo tempo em que precisam reconhecer se na sua própria história sem dissolver sua individualidade. Os pais devem promover e limitar os passos da independência dos adolescentes, adaptando-os à sua idade e caráter. Ele tem que ouvir a os filhos adolescentes, ter em conta as suas opiniões, explicar por que a regra deve ser mantida e dar-lhes um voto de confiança. Durante esta fase, os pais devem educá-los para a liberdade como parte fundamental da formação de sua dignidade, que é a capacidade dos adolescentes de escolher a melhor maneira de viver. É necessário infundir critérios para saber como escolher e decidir, é promover a capacidade de analisar as consequências positivas e negativas antes de tomar uma decisão.

A autonomia é uma parte fundamental do desenvolvimento da criança que depende do estágio evolutivo em que se encontrem. É de muito importante que, ao promover a independência dos pequenos, sejam estabelecidos hábitos relacionados aos estudos, higiene, sono e alimentação, assim como a sua capacidade de compromisso, generosidade e dignidade. Os pais devem transmitir confiança e segurança às crianças, permitindo-lhes explorar o mundo para aprender o senso de dever e responsabilidade.

Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Carmen Irene de Lisa Marques
Psychologist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese
See Resumé