Your child’s well-being through Egypt’s turmoil
Egyptians have been going through more than two years of continuous agony and a challenging degree of stress. The mere instability of daily life and not knowing what to expect just a day ahead is emotionally stressful for any human. We have brilliantly developed coping mechanisms and have become masters at using our defense mechanisms as well, but my concern is all the children who are amidst all these stresses! Personally, through my family counseling clients, I have noticed a dramatic increase in three particular problems; Anxiety, Phobias and Depression, all caused by exposure to the challenges we are facing..
As we all can sense, the coming days might pressure us further, so, let me give you some examples of what NOT to expose your child to.
Protective procedures and what to avoid:
1. Avoid making general statements of despair like “Egypt is going down” “I can’t live like this” “Our life is terrible” “There is no future” etc. These kinds of statements are taken seriously by children and could cause them to be really scared, concerned or depressed.
2. When you are having political discussions with family or friends, make sure the children are in another room and are not listening. The same applies to watching political talk shows or the news on TV.
3. Keep your daily routine and life as stable as you can. If you cancel the daily activities your child loves, you will notice an immediate change in behavior. Children need a stable daily routine that is repeated everyday, which helps them feel more secure because they know what is coming and what to expect.
4. “The BAD people”. It is noticed how Egyptians are being grouped into different categories which is very judgmental and teaches your child to be a type of racist or to be terrified of any diversity.
It is preferable that you discuss actions and not how people look, and that is only if your child is old enough. I prefer to postpone this till at least 8 years of age.
5. When you do speak of people’s wrong actions, help your child to think how we can guide those people out of their wrong doings. This will give him a positive role that will help him feel in control thus avoiding feeling scared or vulnerable.
6. Mothers; Please avoid crying in front of your children, this makes them insecure and can read to fears and phobias.
7. Fathers; please avoid cursing, fighting or anger bouts in front of your children. You can empower your child by making them feel you are strong but in control. If your child sees you angry or fighting, he will be scared of you. On the other hand if he sees you exercising or lifting weights, he will feel more secure.
8. If you own any kind of weapon, please keep it locked away and make sure it’s secure. If your child is old enough explain that you will only hit or shoot for protection and you will aim for legs and not the body because you want to stop them not kill them. (Don’t mention this at all, if there isn’t a danger possibility).
9. Schedule a daily family “Play time” for having fun together, even if it’s just dancing together for 10 minutes or playing a quick hide and seek.
Family Prayers are also a magical healing power.
10. Work on your own happiness and how you can personally de-stress in order to be able to deal with your child calmly and lovingly.
Always work on transforming any negative situation into a positive one. For example; waiting in the long queue for petrol, sing with your child or play “Car colors” and when the electricity is cut, teach them to run for the torches because you are going to play “shadow” games ☺
Lastly always remember this is for your own and your children’s well-being, you will be the loser if you submit to the pressures and your children will start suffering consequently.
Humans and particularly children are created very resilient, so I am sure we will all cross these tough times successfully, I just hope we can avoid any possibility of a child suffering afterwards.
Best wishes for Egypt and for all Egyptian children, and children currently living in Egypt.
Dr. Mona Youssri is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, family counselor and certified trainer accredited by Oxford Press. She has a Masters of Arts in International counseling from the American University in Cairo, is an affiliated International member of the American Psychological Association and a life time member of the International Honor Society in Psychology (PSI CHI). She is founder and owner of The Creative Learning Center, an early literacy based preschool with a unique child psychology based curriculum.