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Children may be ‘regressing’ in response to parents’ coronavirus stress

Top Tavistock Relationships therapists are offering free 10-week counselling sessions

28 April, 2020 — By Tom Foot

CHILDREN may be showing signs of “regressing” in response to seeing parents stressed-out by the coronavirus lockdown.

Relationship therapists say children will be picking up on changes in behaviour and mood swings triggered by living in isolation.

Some may seem more morose, irritable, overly-sensitive, argumentative and hyperactive – but this may be them responding to friction in the family unit.

Experts are inviting parents – separated or couples living together – to sign-up for free programme of weekly sessions run by the Tavistock Relationships charity.

Dr Sarah Ingham said: “People are feeling stressed and anxious, and this will be impacting on their children and the children’s behaviour.

“We are seeing that some children are regressing – bed wetting, having nightmares, that sort of thing. And this is probably because of parental stress.

“The child will take all the cues – they will pick up on it, and it will manifest itself in certain ways. It is about understanding the needs of the child and seeing how acrimony and disagreement can provoke reactions in them.

“Kids are really resilient but parents will feel guilty. If we do work, we feel guilty. If we don’t work, we feel guilty.”

She added: “We help people think about how they are communicating, how they are responding to one another – are they stuck in patterns of behaviour?

“We can help partners better understand a position from someone else’s point of view.

“It is about changing the scripts that you have been telling yourself about them.  It’s about not jumping in, and taking time to respond.”

Couples have been put under intense pressure from having to spend long periods at home together. Many will be living in overcrowded homes.

Separated parents may not be seeing their children as much as normal. One parent may be taking the weight more than the other.

Dr Ingham said: “People feel trapped. They do not know when it is going to end. Everyone is having a unique experience, and it is about recognising that. But if parents don’t get that space, it can obviously have an adverse effect.

“One idea is to plan what your day is going to look like each day. Then clearly communicate, be kind to each other about that. It is about realising that we are not all going to respond [to lockdown] in same way, on the same day.”

She added: “It is too early to say what the long term impact of this will be – on sex, or mental health, and social norms.  At the moment, what we can try to do is keep communicating, keep checking in.”

The service starts with a brief assessment and programmes are run online, one-to-one and over four or tens weeks.  Anyone interested can contact www.tavistockrelationships.org/free-services or call 020 7380 8288.

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