Keeping Sane during COVID-19

The COVID-19 stormed into our lives, and now, some of us are still under certain restrictions or even lockdown, and some are starting to return to some kind of new-normality.

While all of this is happening in adult life (and lots of people still need the time to process what just has happened), the question is how this impacted children? What this immense curve will leave them with?

By now, you might notice some changes in you, your partner, friends, or even your children.
These changes can appear in many forms, for example, changes in sleeping habits or eating habits, the amount of laughter around you, things you used to enjoy with might have changed, shifts in areas of interest, likes and dislikes, patience and the ability to cope with things you used to do offhandedly.

What we can do to make it easier for ourselves, our children, and family?

First, acknowledge the tough situation. Understand its hard for many people and you are not alone. It’s hard for both adults and children. Most of the world was asked, at some point, to stay home (or still at home), in many cases it included home-schooling and working from home, but the main thing is that our daily routine life has been disrupted. We didn’t choose it, we have been forced to this scenario due to an external force, a pandemic.

Therefore, acknowledging that this is an unprecedented and prolonged situation, might help you keep the balance and be kind to yourself. 

Children experience this abrupt change as challenging too. They have been forced to stay home, not seeing their friends and having no school, being in some ways isolated from their peers and surroundings, this is hard! especially if your children are young and cannot perceive the rational reason behind this change. The isolation of younger age groups is more substantial; they do not capture the digital medium as a bridge to communicate with others, trying bonding through the virtual medium is harder for them.

Second, reconnect, ‘go back to basic’ for yourself.

Recall the basic things you enjoy with, maybe the things you liked to do as a child, what was the special thing that always made you happy. This seed of happiness, can grow and expand within you, which may also influence other family members. Connecting to deep passions is the core to ignite happiness in tough times.

Being at home may be the perfect time to go back to your passions:

  • Create art
  • Read
  • Sing
  • Play a musical instrument

Alternatively, you can use the time to try out the thing you always wanted to. Maybe you can share this activity with others, and have a meaningful time together? The important thing is to re-connect with yourself.

Third, ‘back to basic’ for your children. This situation brings emotions up. Your kids’ emotions can be seen in different ways, like fears, anger, tantrums, refusals behaviors, or even withdrawing and not feeling joy in anything. Try to observe your children, as old as they are, in a new pair of eyes; observe them as they were younger from their age, even as toddlers or newborns. What are their basic needs? what do they need from the world, from their parents and caregivers? The most basic needs of humans according to Maslow’s hierarchy are taking care of physical needs, safety, and love & belonging (the top 2 layers are self-esteem and self-actualization). Children (and adults!) need to feel and know that someone “out there” is caring for them, will keep them safe, and love them. Thus, give your child a loving smile and a warm hug even if he or she doesn’t seem to need it.

Noting that stressful times may lead to regression in emotional needs, try to connect with your child in a similar way you have been connecting with them as toddlers, giving them sense of safety. If you can, increase playtime that includes positive touch; these can assist greatly in producing good hormones in the body and reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) on the other hand. These kind of activities and games are useful for this purpose:

  • Writing on each other’s back
  • Family circle massage
  • Playing tennis balloon 
  • ‘Sushi roll’ on a blanket
  • Hold a pillow between parent-child and walk across the room
  • Follow the leader (you can add funny faces!)
  • Drawing together following youtube videos

If your kids are too old for such games, you can simply have joint virtual family activities like trivia night (e.g. “Kahoot!”), or watching funny youtube together. Find ways to connect and have joyful family time. 

Although playing games seem simple, they have such a profound impact. Our children’s bodies will remember the positivity they feel. 

Lastly, don’t be shy to take “time outs” for YOU.
It is natural to feel exhausted sometimes! be open and compassionate to yourself, try to be aware of internal clues that signal you’re heading into ‘that’s too much’ zone, and take some “time out” for yourself. Tell your spouse, or your child, that you need a few minutes alone (making sure your children are safe). These days, “time out” places might be more limited but find the appropriate, safe, and available solution for you. Some options for “time out” can be: 

  • Take a few minutes alone in your bedroom, balcony, or garden.
  • Do some physical activity by yourself at home.
  • Go out for shopping, a walk, or run.
  • Enjoy cooking time alone while hearing music you like.
  • Talking with another person that always makes you feel good. 


And don’t forget – be compassionate to yourself, you are doing your BEST! 
 

Sand in the Play Room

The Play Therapy method uses a variety of tools to allow children to express themselves; Sandplay is one of these tools.
In this blog, I will explain what is Sandplay, the history and some of Sandplay’s principles and practice, as being used in Play Therapy.

History
Sand, earth and water are ancient elements of our world and universally part of our experience since childhood.

Sand-play is a form of therapy that gives both child and adult clients the opportunity to portray non-verbal feelings and experiences often inaccessible and/or difficult to express in words. The client (child or adult) uses a blue-bottom tray and a variety of miniatures elements.

Dora Kalff (1904-1990) formulated Sand-play therapy; she based her method on Jungian ideas as well as on Margaret Lowenfeld’s work (1890-1973).

Kalff’s vision was to allow the client a “free and protected space” to create a sand world using miniature figurines and images while creating a trustful therapeutic relationship.

Principles and Practice

By using symbols and objects, the client builds, expresses and explores his or hers inner-world in a symbolic way. Kalff supported the notion that the therapist should be attuned to the client during the creation of the sand tray as part of client’s process and healing.

From a neuroscience perspective, researchers show that touching sand triggers certain brain activities; this sensation travels in the brain and produces a tactile input ( the same feeling that we feel while walking on a beach sand). As the therapist stay attuned to the client during the creation in the sand tray, the client’s inner-world (which is presented in the tray), meets positive feelings, such as empathy and kindness, in a safe space. Such a positive experience fosters carrying-out new inputs into the brain; a new sensation is being released with positive hormones and healing starts.

Moreover, using symbols to act out events and experiences can promote deeply the right-brain usage, which houses feelings and emotions, and brings them to the surface.

In Therapeutic Play (or Play Therapy), the child can choose which mediums he or she wants to play in each session: Art, Music, Clay, Movement, Drama or Sand. For sand-play, usually, there are two options: dry or wet; water can be added to the wet sand tray according to the child’s decision.

There are many figurines and symbols the child can choose from in order to play out and present his world and experiences, for example, cars and animals, stones, shells, sea creatures and insects, magical figures and superheroes to spiritual images and domestic play with houses and furniture.

In the Play Therapy method, the child is given the space to use the miniatures in any way he wants (as long as it is safe), no words are required as a must, and the child will lead the play. This allows any child (or adult) to use Sand-play therapy, no prerequisite is needed, and there are no constraints of language or “art” abilities.

The therapist’s primary goal is to give the child the confidence to express his needs without being directed by an adult, as this can miss-out the point of self-expressing and exploration of the child’s world.

However, the therapist may take an active role in the child’s play according to the child’s needs and his lead. The therapist will be curious about the child’s creation in an unthreatening way and might explore it with him (if appropriate). In any case, the therapist must give the time to the child to re-act the events he needs and will support the child to find his inner strength.

To summarise, sand-play is a rich and versatile tool. The creator can change its shape and structure, as well as use external symbols to express his inner world. Furthermore, playing with sand is a primitive experience; hence it can promote an integrative connection of body and mind.

The next time you and your child is at the beach or playground with sandpit, we can all use sand to express ourselves!