The ways of dealing with complicated situations are different in childhood and adolescence than in adulthood. What resources do they have?
Like our bodies and immune systems, we all have psychological defense mechanisms against the invasion of the strange and unpleasant. Childhood and adolescence show, these days, the specificity of their own.
There is much talk about the fragility of children in situations like the one that is being experienced with the coronavirus. It is said that you have to tell them the truth, but softening the contents. It is true, it must be so. But we must also take into account the reactive characteristics of the little ones or adolescents, when they have a problem ahead of them. The ways of approaching it are very different from those of the elderly.
HOW DO CHILDREN UNDERSTAND THE CORONAVIRUS AND CONFINEMENT?
The youngest, up to seven or eight years old, for better or for worse, have an imaginative capacity that is immense. Their little heads are permanently giving meaning to everything that surrounds them, but always, introducing it into schemes that help them to locate themselves and not die trying.
They will always create fictions in which anything is divided into “good guys” and “bad guys.” Their universes and galaxies are full of evil characters that heroes have to face, and always manage to defeat. There is still no clear difference between fantasy and reality and the latter will be built very little by little. It is not that they are not in reality, only that they frame it according to their mental capacities.
In this way, the one who in his environment speaks of a bad character called coronavirus, will only reactivate that division. It is about “hiding so that he does not see us”, as a two-year-old girl used to say.
In his stories, video games and other children’s productions, these figures are always present. Even, and we all know of the existence of a stage in children in which mild phobias occur, they build them from a stain on the wall, or from any indefinite silhouette.
They also dream of ogres, which means that if they don’t really have them, they make them up. It is a way of assimilating that dark side of life. Thus, integrating an entity like the evil “coronavirus” is not going to be as difficult as it may seem to adults.
Another very different thing will be confinement, because another division that creatures introduce is the “I like” or “I do not like.” There, and to the extent that the current generation has become accustomed to doing a lot of activities outside the houses, there will have to play the ability to convert and change what is unpleasant for pleasant activities.
Whether they help with domestic activities, whether they have to follow their homework, we have to know how to reconvert them, suggestively, into something interesting where they, and what they do, is very important. Children need to feel the center of the universe in order to compensate for their real insufficiency, in front of a scenario that they have not yet mastered.
HOW DO TEENAGERS COPE WITH QUARANTINE?
Another group highly involved in this situation of a state of alert for the coronavirus is that of adolescents. Also, all of a sudden, all your routines have been broken. You stop being able to see your classmates, friends.
But for them, the confinement not only does not bother them too much but, at present, self-seclusion in their rooms and with their mobile phones or computer, is already part of their lifestyle. Since they are very young, their companies are Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp groups, etc. For them, the world of adults is another parallel world, who live secondary to digital.
They are aware of the situation, but it remains in the background with respect to its central axis, which are their groups, apps, their influencers and youtubers. They identify and live through social networks, thus escaping from a reality that although they understand, they do not want to take responsibility, at all, of the seriousness of the situation.
It is undoubtedly a way to get out of the way, but it can lead them to an unawareness of the danger that they may run and, at the same time, the possibility they have of infecting other more vulnerable people. It is for this reason that many young people continue to promote meetings or parties with their friends, ignoring the “stay at home”. Being a group that have very powerful immune reagents, they believe that with this they are safe from everything. It is a way of denying a reality that they do not like because it restricts their freedom. Obviously not all young people behave like this. There are many others who, within a framework of general solidarity, have found ways and tasks to do with this pandemic, thus helping to mitigate the personal consequences that are occurring. They help older neighbors to do the shopping, to distribute meals to the neediest, or to feed the colonies of cats and animals that, these days, are more unprotected and abandoned. In short, to the extent that it is now time to live this abrupt and unexpected present, each group is responding from the mental resources that are its own in these emergency situations. It will be later when we can really calculate how much they have served us, what is the emotional price we have paid and if, despite everything, we have advanced and learned something from this experience.