Children are manifesting many puzzling behaviors today. Parents are reporting unexplained tantrums. When asked why they threw a fit, most children can’t explain it. Others are avoiding work that they once would tackle without trouble. I believe we are seeing the impact of a prolonged period of unnatural stress and fear. Many students are absorbing the unexpressed tension of those around them. Covid has become a focus of their family discussions and it is all they are watching on television. They see pop ups on their computer that insight fear. Every commercial is presenting some kind of danger. Children don’t need to know all the details, because they don’t know how to process them.
One boy shared his reason for not doing his work, “Why should I bother? We are all going to die anyway.”
Another child was scared of people coming near her because they were going to kill her with their germs. She couldn’t concentrate on her homework, because in her mind, she constantly saw a woman without a mask coming at her.
Not all children have the emotional maturity to process what they hear, see, and read, and unconsciously internalize it.
I encourage all parents and teachers to offer some fun and refrain from talking about how bad things are or how bad they can get.
Traditional stories of courageous people who suffered for their beliefs need to be saved for times when children are not stressed to the max. After 911, My class read Beverly Cleary books that were funny and light hearted and allowed them to escape from the stress created by the fears of future terrorist attacks.
As a child, I remember worrying that we would be bombed by the Russians with an atomic bomb. The teachers made us practice ducking and covering for years. In retrospect, that wouldn’t have done anything for us, because an atomic bomb would have incinerated us.
I will never forget 1950’s Time’s Magazine headline, “Moving into an Ice Age.” those 5 words scared me when I was not more than 6, because I hated being cold and I didn’t have enough warm jackets. I wasn’t old enough to process what an ice age was. I had nightmares from that headline until that summer when we had record heat.
99% of what we fear never happens. So we don’t need to share anything that children have no control over. Offer the statement, “We don’t have control over that, so we aren’t going to worry about it.” We will still wash our hands and be respectful of others. Then change the subject. Dwelling on the topic won’t help. Even if you are concerned, don’t let it show.