The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic affects and will affect our lives forever. The record of traumatic began to manifest itself in people with anxiety, panic, and different forms of grief and sadness. As part of the campaign #EnCasaconSalud, a joint action between Facebook, Instagram, INECO Foundation and Infobae, with the support of UNICEF, They proposed 8 practical keys to improve the mental health of the youngest during quarantine.
Children in these situations, due to their own immaturity and helplessness, need adults to face them in a better way and, even so, they also suffer severe consequences.. In dialogue with Infobae, the doctor Teresa Torralva, PhD in Neuroscience, Director of Neuropsychology at INECO and President of the INECO Foundation, explained: “It is not easy for anyone to adapt to this time of such marked changes. In less than a month we went from vaguely knowing the existence of the coronavirus in some remote part of the planet, to being all in mandatory isolation, locked in our homes, over-informed and with a whirlwind of new emotions. The truth is that the coronavirus has crossed us all and has turned our routine around, turning it upside down. ”
“Being a teenager is complex in itself; adolescents go through a particular brain process in which there is an imbalance between the areas of the brain related to emotions, hyper developed and an immaturity of the prefrontal cortex, an area related to impulse control, risk assessment, planning, organization and empathy, “he added.
For the neuroscience expert, The actual impact of quarantine on this developing brain is not yet entirely clear, but current reviews on the subject suggest that the psychological impact appears to be greater in this population than in others.. Isolation generates particular feelings and emotions in each person, even more so in adolescents, young people eager to learn, socialize and challenge life. Adolescents seek independence, long to be with their peers, and think of their future with high expectations. How can we accompany our young people whose wings have been cut off, who see their dreams of spending time with their friends, of going out, dancing, and finally going on their long-awaited graduation trip frustrated?
What are the effects of losses related to your events, social gatherings, your outings, physical exercise, study? For Torralva, “We do not know yet, but even less do we imagine how they will cope with these new challenges such as remote work and study, so much exclusive time with the family, changes in their routine, only virtual contact with their friends, and the great uncertainty of what will happen.“
A survey conducted by the INECO- INCYT Foundation after 10 days of quarantine, he responds forcefully to this. Argentine youth have more intense symptoms of depression than older people and it was specifically feelings of loneliness that appeared as the most important factor associated with emotional symptoms. This finding confirms the importance of the face-to-face social element in the regulation of the mood of young people as different studies have been showing worldwide.
Young people feel more limited in their social life and show a greater need for contact and physical activity than groups of older people. At the same time, they have a lower perception of danger and risk of contagion than the other groups, making it possible that the cost-benefit ratio of isolation is more disadvantageous to them. This hypothesis is consistent with the theory of the developing brain of adolescents with a sort of “myopia” towards future rewards. (immature prefrontal areas) and hypersensitivity of the brain structures related to emotions (amygdala and nucleus acummbens).
“That is why some simple and selected information on how to accompany them could be useful. They are a generation that is in full construction of their identity, they are our generation of the future. Will they come out strengthened? Probably yes, but while you have to accompany themTorralva reflected.
Some practical tips for parents on how to deal with teens “behind bars”:
According to the president of the INECO Foundation, it is important to provide space for frustration, helplessness and sadness. Research studies report that The structures of the brain linked to stress and fear are hyperreactive in the brains of adolescents, so it is to be expected that the presence of these emotions is exacerbated in the face of the uncertainty experienced in these times.. Feelings of anxiety, mood decline, and stress are the most frequent during this quarantine period. It is important that adults create a space to talk about what they feel. Let us explain that it is normal to feel anxiety since this emotion is positive since it alerts us that something is happening and that we must take care of ourselves. It is consistent to feel it at the moment as a reaction to current information about the pandemic.
It is expected to encounter friction and discussion in relation to the measures taken in relation to social distancing, isolation or quarantine.. Be one, more or less strict than the rest of your community, there are likely to be comparisons about it that lead to discussions. Clearly explain your decision and the reason behind. The indiscriminate use of social networks, or the types of online connections, can end in hyperconnected and disorganized adolescents. This will create conflicts. However, it should be clear that activities such as sleeping, studying, creating, exercising, and time spent in face-to-face relationships with those who live at home are important to achieve greater well-being.
Set clear and reasonable limits. Although no adolescent will ever accept him and less in front of his parents, the vast majority feel that their parents are almost always reasonable. They know how to distinguish between parental rules that have logic and those that are arbitrary. Living together in isolation requires rules and limits. Make them respect.
Allow them privacy and time “alone”. Constantly being around other family members is likely to be stressful under current circumstances. It is important that you participate in household chores and assume your responsibilities in the family plan, but you also need your privacy. Give it to her.
Considering that functions such as empathy, and putting yourself in the shoes of the other is just developing in this period, Let’s take advantage to train them in this capacity. Let us show him, as many times as necessary and even putting it into words, how to put yourself in the other’s place, how to look at life from another place. They are functions that are trained, and it is a great opportunity for them to learn by imitation. We are their models and we are very close. And your brain is under construction so what you learn there will stay.
Adolescents are tremendously creative in solving problems, so we invite them to intervene in solving the problems that appear.. Let’s discuss your ideas, validate them, and appreciate your ability to think of alternatives other than ours.
Let’s change the focus. In difficult times science suggests that teens feel better if they shift their focus to helping others.. Altruism, sometimes forgotten, seems to be the best reason to keep focus on why we are doing what we do. We stay at home to take care of older adults, sick and at-risk people and because only all of us together and with a common goal, we get out of this.
The 8 keys for the little ones:
Studying at home and learning to organize is a challenge. Plan one day at a time. Organize your important activities such as: waking up early, exercising, cleaning up, your homework, housework. Collaborate in ordering your house and your study space.
Did you know that free time can stimulate creativity? It is good to do things you love and learn something new, but doing nothing and resting is also important. Let your imagination run wild What do you think about having quiet moments so that your imagination and creativity flow and then draw, dance, record?
3-Use the Internet responsibly
Try to be active and aware on the Internet, selecting the time and quality of what you consume or produce online. Seek information only from trusted sources and enjoy what’s good about the Internet!
4-Take care of your fingerprint
Digital platforms have many advantages, but also several dangers. It is important that you take care of your privacy and security on social networks, knowing that what you post and share later is difficult to delete or control. It is also essential that you talk to trusted adults if you suffer cyberbullying, grooming, sexting or have any negative experience on the internet They can help you!
5-New ways of being with friends
Find new and different ways to talk to friends and be together virtually, use your creativity! If any of your friends is quieter, take advantage and offer support along with a good ear if the person needs to vent.
6- Be kind and tolerant
Although staying home is sometimes boring, it’s worth a little effort to live well during this period, right? So let’s practice being nice to people at home, friends, and yourself. Right now, respect and empathy are essential. So much time at home can become a challenge for living with the people around us. At this time, these values are essential. Let’s be nice at home, with friends and with ourselves.
7-What about bad feelings?
Being concerned about what is happening is normal, as well as the physical distance with friends, boyfriends, routine and even school or university. If you find yourself very discouraged and nothing excites you for days, it’s time to talk to someone you trust and ask for help. Social isolation is not loneliness! You can ask for help!
8- Continue with your treatments
If you take any medication, never stop or change the dose without talking to your doctor, this can be very bad and complicate things. If you find that your thoughts take you to difficult places, if you want to hurt yourself or think about committing suicide, ask someone you trust for help, do not hesitate.
Facebook, Instagram, the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO), Infobae and UNICEF joined forces to promote the emotional health of people during this period of social isolation that affects millions of Argentines.