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Preserving your child’s mental health during crisis

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The past few weeks shook the country and in light of the recent EndSARS protests, it is not unlikely that as adults, we are overwhelmed and faced with stress, says Gbonjubola Abiri, a consultant psychiatrist and Medical Director of Tranquil and Quest Behavioral health.

The traumatic events following the protests and the many pockets of violence have had significant impacts on us all. We may have found that we are more irritable, appearing confused, tensed, sleeping and or eating poorly, having fluctuations in mood, showing signs of anxiety, with elevated blood pressures or using substances of abuse such as alcohol to cope.

Dr. Abiri said that as so many varying events are unfolding, a population whose needs are likely to be neglected are the children. This is often so because parents often believe that children are young and are unable to understand what is going on around them especially as they are often shielded.

Children are, however, like sponges and are able to perceive using their senses even when they appear not to be observing actively.

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As parents, it is pertinent that we attend to our children’s needs be it physically or mentally. In addition, no matter how overwhelmed you may feel, your children need you to be present now more than ever. You definitely should take care of yourself as well.

The mum of two who is passionate about child health said that there are so many uncertainties that children wouldn’t readily understand which may present themselves and so while the kids remain kids, adults must take on the responsibility to cater to the children.

Dr. Abiri, however, gives a few recommendations that parents can do for their children in view of the current situation. They include:
Communicate with them often with a view to finding out how they are feeling
When they ask questions about these recent events, don’t shut them up!
Answer them as simply and as honestly as you can without creating panic and fear. Be truthful while trying to reflect hope.
Understand that there is a possibility for them to throw a few tantrums
Ensure your home remains a safe haven as you avoid quarrels with your significant other in their presence.
Create time to play with them no matter how little it seems.
Allow them have some outdoor time also depending on how safe if it is
Allow them communicate regularly with friends and family.

Keep your devices to yourself and be sure they don’t watch any untoward news that would incite more questions, fear and anxiety.
She added that if they exhibit behaviour or emotions that are problematic and or distressing, it is advisable to seek for a child and adolescent mental health specialist. All together, be the parent through and through, shield them from the negative news as much as you can and allow them remain children that they are.

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