Healing the Heart During a Global Pandemic: Author Q&A
Healing the Heart During a Global Pandemic: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 by Andilynn Feddeler

In this time of uncertainty and constant adaptation, children and their parents must find new ways to learn, support one another, and maintain motivation at home. Healing the Heart: Helping Your Child Thrive After Trauma provides parents with specific, evidence-based tools to help their children through times of intense stress and trauma. Learn more about how to cope with and heal the effects of trauma in this interview with the author, Christine Fonseca.

 

Q: Why is Healing the Heart important to you? What led you to the development of this book?

A: I wrote Healing the Heart as a way to help parents and educators support those impacted by traumatic events. I have witnessed firsthand the impact of trauma on children and adults, not only the trauma created by adverse childhood experiences, but also the resultant trauma from natural disasters like the Paradise fire or Hurricane Harvey and community violence like the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. Seeing the impact of trauma on educators, parents, and students touched me deeply. It compelled me to explore the ways adults could help children move through trauma and then share that information widely. Healing the Heart is a result of that exploration.

 

Q: This is such a stressful and traumatic time for many. How do you think parents should talk to their children about the current global pandemic, both during and after?

A: This is one of the most common questions I receive now. First, I think it is important for parents to check in with themselves and regulate their own emotions. Many parents are feeling anxious, worrying about the fiscal and medical impacts of this pandemic. Take some time to process through your feelings first. Understand that you may be struggling with feelings related to grief—grief for the loss of our life before. Most, if not all, humans are struggling with this right now. Once you have regulated your own emotions, focus on your children. Answer the questions they have honestly, but within developmentally appropriate ways. Focus on ensuring safety to the greatest degree possible. Focus on affirming positive relationships. These two things—safety, especially psychological safety, and positive relationships—will help children with post-trauma recovery. When we have passed this crisis, we will all need to focus on moving through our grief. Depending on the personal impact within your family, you may need to have conversations around any environmental changes, losses, and other impacts to the family. Again, focus on safety and relationships. Between now and then, develop the connections within the family unit and actively build emotional intelligence skills and resilience by focusing on social-emotional skills like self-awareness, empathy, emotional regulation, and optimism.

 

Q: What are some strategies for dealing with stress, anxiety, and trauma during this time? 

A: Now, more than ever, it is critical to learn strong coping skills to manage the feelings that are likely surfacing as a result of the global crisis. I would start with a strategy I call ROAR: R = relax, O = orient, A = attune, and R= release.

  • Start with Relax—Take several deep breaths and relax your body. Engage in meditation or mindfulness practices often. Yoga, dance, and taking a walk are all ways to begin to relax both the body and the mind.
  • Once you are relaxed, orient yourself to here and now. It is very normal in times of great trauma to disconnect from your body and your emotions. Reconnect back to your body. Engage in dance or yoga as a way to connect. Pay attention to what you are doing and try not to mentally or emotionally tune out. 
  • Now, attune to your needs. What are you feeling right now? Label those emotions. What do you need right now? Identify the resources you have to get your needs met. Open up to others to get your needs met. Differentiate between things in your control and things out of your control. 
  • This leads to release. Let go of those things you cannot control. When we are scared, as we often are in times of trauma, we get rigid and cling to our fears. Limit the news and social media as needed to break the cycle of the stress. Learn to release. This works hand-in-hand with relax. Try this: Inhale a deep breath and say, “I am safe.” Exhale a slow full breath and say, “Everything is okay.” Slowly repeat three times and note the changes you feel as you release the stress and anxiety and begin to calm your physiological reaction.

 

Q: Is there anything you would add to the book now or an additional message you want to share about healing during this time?

A: The entire world is impacted by the events unfolding around us. It is so important to find optimism and hope. Start a gratitude practice every day. Find one thing you or your family is thankful for and share that daily. It could be something small or something big. It doesn’t matter what it is—it matters that you do it every day. Even better, connect with others as you do gratitude work. Ask others to share what they are thankful for as well. As others share their hope, you can become more hopeful, too.

 

Christine Fonseca is dedicated to helping children and adults find their unique voice in the world. She has taught parenting classes for more than a decade, works with educators to understand the social and emotional needs of the gifted, and is a frequent presenter at statewide conferences on topics related to children and education.