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As this pandemic crisis and communal social distancing policy continues beyond the initial two-week period that we first heard about, we are witnessing a number of responses among children that signal an urgent need for crisis intervention. Here's a list of some of the things to watch for:

Fear of anything that could possibly be contaminated overgeneralizing to a fear of touching, using, and/or eating in general;

Anger that is being externalized and projected onto siblings, parents, and even pets;

Agoraphobia, an irrational fear of going outside at all...even to the extent of keeping curtains and blinds closed all day;

Oppositional defiance involving extreme risk-taking behaviors, risks not just associated with catching the virus, but risks about other things, as well;

Regressive behaviors, behaviors that would be typical of a child who is age four or younger;

Sleep disturbances that affect cognitive functioning and ability to focus during the day, especially when it comes to completing academic activities from home.

Loss of any empathic ability demonstrated before this pandemic occurred.

False assumptions, self-blame, and other cognitive distortions created by the child, in his or her mind, in an attempt to make sense of a pandemic that they can't understand;

Self-harm and/or harm-to-others stemming from an inability to regulate anger and/or an attempt to control.

If you are seeing any of these disturbing behaviors, please call us (724 733-2928) or call your county crisis-line for crisis intervention assistance. Deerwood Family Services is keeping at least three hours available daily for rapid, tele-health, crisis intervention responding with children and families. These hours range from 6 to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. 

We are also seeing some amazing signs of resilience and strength among the children we work with or have contact with. Many of them are applying the distress tolerance skills we taught them previously in ways that are actually helping their parents and others cope.  Don't be discouraged if the child you are with is not one of these resilient little helpers.

Children change during a crisis.

The changes that occur can be positive ones, especially if they know that someone cares enough about them to try to help. Sometimes the changes associated with that little bit of help are seen immediately. Sometimes, those changes don't show up until years later, but they tell us---years later---that the crisis they went through, and that little bit of caring and help that they received during the crisis, made all the difference. We call it "post-traumatic growth" and it is very real and long-lasting.

We are all in crisis right now. It is too easy for adults to lose their empathy when in crisis. This is empathy that the children have to have if they are going to come out of this with post-traumatic growth as opposed to post-traumatic stress disorder. Please do not wait to call for help. Neither you, nor we, will ever know or get credit for what we prevented. We have a responsibility to do that prevention work now so that we can try to insure that the children and youth of our generation come through this pandemic with resiliency characteristics that will carry them through the later crisis situations that come with the vulnerabilities of life. Helping the young people we are able to have contact with is something that all of us can do. Some of us can't be with our children or grandchildren right now for safety reasons. It hurts us, but it hurts them even more. If this is the situation you are in, think about giving that smile, communication, or resource that you would share with your own to someone else's child. You might be the only one who is able to demonstrate that "caring enough to try" that will make the difference between post-traumatic growth versus post-traumatic stress disorder in their later life. 

Copyright:2020 Deerwood Family Services