As the effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue to seep into everyday life, it can be hard to stay present rather than focusing on the myriad of concerns and questions everyone has. Unfortunately, this can be true for kids too.
Younger kids can perceive their caretakers’ stress and older kids are better aware of what’s going on for their families and in the world around them. As we navigate our own stress each day, it can be hard to know how to protect children from theirs. Traditional Chinese Medicine can support you in doing so, maybe lightening your personal load in the process.
It’s important to remember that children and young adults often react differently to stress and fear than adults. Some kids react right away and are able to be very verbal about their feelings, while others may have a delayed reaction or more difficulty verbalizing their feelings in general. For some children, their fear may even express itself as a physical response; kids may experience physical pain or discomfort as an expression of their stress. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, practitioners are trained to look at each patient from a holistic, well-rounded perspective, meaning they already consider the mental and physical aspects of health. While they are not therapists, your acupuncturist may be a great resource for guiding kids through talking about how their bodies are feeling, maybe offering insight on the mental factors that may contribute to those physical responses.
For kids at many stages of development, they may react to stress by reverting back to a younger age or previous stage. This could be reverting to sucking on their thumb for younger kids or seeking extra attention and care from their caregivers for kids that are a little older.
Whether through acupuncture, dietary supplements like Chinese herbs, or other modalities such as acupressure, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) helps people of any age release stress and anxiety and reinvigorates energy flow within the body that can get stuck by prolonged feelings of fear. Children are especially vulnerable to extended periods of stress, because their immune systems are still developing. TCM is especially well-suited to build up and support adults’ and children’s immune systems, which can become worn down by too much stress. In a time when everyone is afraid of getting sick, no matter their age, a strong immune system is our best defense against illness and stress alike.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, practitioners use the word Wei Qi, which is a concept comparable to the immune system in Western medicine. Wei Qi is our first line of defense against external pathogens. Certain acupuncture points support balancing our Wei Qi as well as the energy flow to and from our lungs, which in TCM, are the first barrier to outside pathogens. The lungs disperse Qi to the body’s surface to protect it.
For kids, it’s common to be scared of needles. In that case, acupressure is a great alternative. Practitioners can activate specific points to support the immune system without using any needles. They can also activate points to relax the nervous system and regulate the digestive and hormonal systems. Cultivating and maintaining balance in all of these systems allows the body to heal and stay strong in stressful situations.
No matter how your kids are experiencing stress, the most important thing is to make sure they feel loved and cared for. There are plenty of things you can do yourself, at home, to support your kids through this stressful time.
It’s important as a caretaker to be a good listener. Caretakers, whether they are parents, teachers or friends, can help their kids to express their emotions through creative activities like drawing, playing or singing.
Let kids know it’s okay to feel sad and scared, and to express those emotions. Crying can be a helpful release of those emotions, and creative activities can be a helpful way for kids to access and express what they are feeling.
It’s also important to allow kids to ask questions. Asking your kids questions is also a good way to learn how much they know about what is going on and what support they might need to understand the changes happening in their lives.
Kids, just like adults, benefit from engaging in positive actions to help people affected by the virus or to do their part in preventing its spread. Talk to your kids about good hand washing techniques. They can also write letters or draw pictures to send to families who have been affected or organize a drive in your neighborhood to gather medical supplies to send to particularly affected communities.
Through all this, make sure you’re encouraging activities that have nothing to do with the coronavirus outbreak. Turn off the news, spend time with them playing games, maintain a regular routine and talk about other things. These distractions may even be a good excuse for you to shut off your worries for at least part of the day.
For you and your kids, it’s very important to maintain healthy self-care habits. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches a holistic view of self-care, which includes a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting enough exercise and getting enough sleep. The better you take care of yourself during this time, the better you’ll be able to care for those around you.
Acupuncture can be a great way to manage stress and anxiety for adults too, and it can be a very safe option. If you and your family are healthy, a visit to your acupuncturist can be safe. Acupuncture needles are single-use and completely sterile, and practitioners can take other steps to make sure you are comfortable with your visit.
Remember, kids respond to fear and stress in a variety of ways, so it’s important to be present, to listen and be loving toward any kids in your life during this outbreak. As communities rally to support each other in big ways and small, consider offering a little extra support to let any adolescents and young adults in your life know they are cared for.
May your family stay safe and healthy during this uncertain time.