Cecilia Moreno: “Behavioral changes tell us that the kid is going through some atypical process”
The Director of Calidad e Innovación* of the Fútbol Más foundation, an expert in issues of mental health in contexts of emergency and post emergency, delivers a psychological outlook of the community regarding how to catalyze boys, girls and teenager’s behaviors (BGT) in the current social context of Chile, where she highlights the role of the parents/adults in the protection of the rights of the child.
From the psychologIcal point of view, how are the BGT problems demonstrated in contexts of emergency and post emergency?
Boys and girls do not possess many resources that allow them to express themselves emotionally. Us adults can talk about what is happening to us and do something about it. The adult thinks, feels and does. For the BGT is different, they do, feel and say, hence, language is not the natural channel of expression of their emotions. This is demonstrated in their behavior, for instance they are quieter, unruly, restless and they demand more time and attention.
Behavioral changes tell us that the kid is going through some atypical process. This is fundamental specially regarding kids between 0 and 8 years old, since this is the stage in which they experience a strong attachment with their caregivers. Many times the changes in behavior of the BGT is due to changes in the adults’ own behavior. One must be aware of what may trigger these conducts.
What type of mechanism have proven to be effective to develop processes of resilience in BGT in environments that have been systematically violated, specially in the current context?
In the first place, resilience is generated from a healthy recognition and expression of the emotions, however, Chile is a country with a high emotional illiteracy rate. It is very difficult for us to talk about emotions, make distinctions between different emotional states and in our language we have more words to describe negative than positive emotions. This is why the ideal thing would be to create spaces of expression for boys and girls, which can be made through drawings and different games, in order to channel the expressions and then talk. Activities like playing football and running allow the kids to channel that energy.
After the game, the intimate space allows a better understanding for the boys and girls about the atypical context they are living in. Many times the adults, by trying to protect them, keep their problems to themselves and the BGT do not understand what is going on, which leads them to believe that that state is their fault. This arises from the unconscious. If adults were able to explain with simple words the reason of this abnormality, the kid would start to think on how he/she can express himself/herself and feel that it is the natural thing to do. Boys and girls learn how to deal with problems and emotions by seeing how adults struggle with them, which is why it is very important to not hide these problems but involve the kids and make them part of the solution.
Who are the main participants called upon to contain the BGT?
In the Convención de los Derechos del Niño* it is stated that the State (Estado) is the main guarantor, however, all of us have responsibility in the matter. As well as the adult caregiver, any other common citizen has this responsibility, whether the boy or girl involved is or not related to them. For instance, if I’m walking down the street and I see a BGT being attacked, or if I heard of some type of abuse or mistreatment I have the obligation of reporting the incident. We all play a role, where parents are fundamental for the upbringing and containment of boys and girls. On the other hand, the organizations that work with children should do it and strengthen it in the citizenship.
We understand that promoting resilience is not an easy task, it may become something somewhat abstract…
Our job is to secure some minimums. Within chaos it is necessary to create safe spaces, where kids can freely express and share their emotions, knowing who to call in case they need any help. This is a key point, since many times kids can start to carry in their minds harmful ideas if the problems are not discussed. It is the same as a wound, it may start as a scratch, but if it is not cleaned and instead remains hidden under the clothes, the wound gets infected and it rots, and then the damage is much worse than what it was at the beginning.
As long as the kids have safe spaces to express themselves, know when to ask for help and share with peers of their age, they will be developing a healthy personality that can allow them to face other kind of stressful situations.
Specifically, when can these spaces be generated?
Routine is very good for people, since it allows them to give an order to things and create a sensation of safety. If we eat with the TV on, it is better to turn it off to create a special moment. We need to find meaningful moments inside ordinariness that permit us to talk about what we are going through to give meaning to the situation we find ourselves living in.
Here are some tips to contain a BGT. In addition, we share some family games for small/confined spaces given the current context of our country:
- PLAY: Organize activities or games or practice a sport, preferably a non competitive one.
- ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS: To write, paint or draw freely, since these allow unconscious feelings to flow and one can reinterpret them in a healthy way. Corporal representation through role play or theatre, that allow to embody and integrate feelings and thoughts.
- SHARED SPONSORSHIP: Every member does an accompaniment with another. Both watch and keep an eye on each other, asking one another how they feel. To remember to eat and do physical activity.
- BREATHING: Relaxation techniques, managing deep breathing and meditation help in the process of recovery. To give oneself a moment for 5 deep breaths, where exhalation is longer than inhalation.
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