Month: <span>April 2020</span>

Top traumatic and the most stressful life events, before the Corona virus Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria death divorce

Top traumatic and the most stressful life events, before the Corona virus

Top traumatic and the most stressful life events, before the Corona virus or Covid-19

Covid-19 certainly is one of the most stressful life events ever.  The world has stopped and people right over the world are in lockdown. The corona virus or Covid-19 indeed is certainly one of the top traumatic and the most stressful life events.

What were known as the top traumatic and the most stressful life events until recently when Covid-19 hit us?

  • Death of a loved one.
  • Separation or divorce.
  • Getting married.
  • Major illness or injury.
  • Starting a new job.
  • Job loss.
  • Workplace stressors.
  • Financial problems.
  • Move to a new house.

 

What is the definition of trauma?

Trauma is defined as stressful events, over which a person has no control. This stressful events can cause highlevels of anxiety which threatens or harm a person’s emotional, physical, and / or social well-being and interferes with his / her normal daily functioning in such a way that reevaluationof his / her actions and thoughts are needed. These strong emotional reactions have the potential to interfere with a person’s ability to function in the traumatic situation or later (Van Niekerk 2014).

Suddenly all of us as human beings have to face the reality of Covid-19. So many people wonder what’s wrong with them and wonder whether they are loosing themselves and whether the lockdown might be the reason why they suddenly experience negative incidents from the past to bother them now. Trauma research indicates that during times of trauma it is most possible that negative incidents of the past comes to the surface and bother you again. These negative past incidents are however “normal” to experience in an “abnormal situation”, like COVID-19. These incidents are most of the time things that a person hasn’t dealt with properly in the past. This is one of the most important things to take good care of your own as well as your families’ emotional well-being.

Trauma crying divorce death Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist

 

This sudden anger, sadness, confusion and guilt that suddenly came into your life, can be addressed through therapy. Therefore do what you can do during the lockdown time, but if these emotions and feelings with regards to incidents that happened in your past, keep on bothering you and interfere with your everyday life, it might be time to talk to a professional person who specializes in trauma.

The importance of working through traumatic incidents from the past, as well as the trauma of Covid-19 can’t be highlighted enough as you don’t want and need to carry ‘unfinished business’ for the rest of your life. Therefore “face” your fear, sadness, anger, etcetera and make your own as well as your loved ones’ ‘unfinished’ issues of the past, ‘finished’ learning experiences for the future.


I am an educational psychologist and trauma specialist in private practice in Pretoria, Midstream, Centurion, and Midrand areas. I have completed my master’s and doctoral degrees in trauma with teenagers and adults. I had been a teacher (both pre-primary and primary) for 18 years and later on a school principal who completed my honors degree in early childhood development. My specialization area of working with trauma starts from the age of two years up to 92+ years of age. I have more than 26 years of experience in working with children, parents and other adults.

Read more on trauma counselling on my blog. You can also connect with me on my Facebook page to read more on other educational psychology topics.

Reference:  Van Niekerk, M. 2014. Unpublished doctoral thesis: ‘The psycho-educational use of mental toughness in dealing with trauma.’

 

Photo credits:
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash
Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash
Dealing with the covid-19 change Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria

Dealing with the Covid-19 change – corona virus

Dealing with the Covid-19 change – corona virus change

Dealing with the Covid-19 change has severely impacted and turned our lives upside down. Being upside down means that a lot of change has happened and are happening in your lives. Change usually bring with and forth a lot of uncertainties and insecurities in our worlds.

Dealing with the covid-19 change Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria
Change is constant – prepare for it!

 

 

We want to know what is “ok” and “normal” and it causes anxiety within us if we hear and see on social media and the television daily that there is no “normal” anymore. If you want any practical guidelines on how to set a new normal in this abnormal time of Covid-19, read my post here.

Dealing with the Covid-19 change however does not only mean negativity. Read more about change and what it implies in this post on “who moved my cheese” here.

For more information about Covid-19, and many other educational psychology topics, please visit my Facebook page. Or, if you are looking for some easy-and-fun arts and crafts activities for your children during the lockdown period, you can visit this post here.

 


Photo credits
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
Photo by Bluehouse Skis on Unsplash
How can doing nothing be good for you? Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

How can doing nothing be good for you?

How can doing nothing be good for you?

The corona virus or Covid-19 forces us to deal with change and to stand still. To rethink our values, priorities, the quality of our relationships and our dreams of the future. Who of us haven’t dreamed, before the corona virus, about time to sit still, to be free, ‘stand still’ and come to a halt, read a book, watch our favorite movie or television program, spend time with our family and friends maybe next to the pool while enjoying a nice braai. Maybe we have dreamed about having our own individual time, or having time without people around us as a family, time at the beach, time in nature, time to play with our children, relationship time with our spouses, and so our list can go on and one. But something which totally opposes our dreams of just having our own time, is confronting us during the period of the corona virus: Most of us don’t know how to switch off. Let’s examine the question: how can doing nothing be good for you?

How can doing nothing be good for you? Isn’t being active the same as winning?

Time is money – which is nothing new. Time is also limited and we don’t have time to waste. The social media, technology and ourselves tend to put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to stay on top of new knowledge. Competition in the corporate world waits for no one only and the strongest, most informed ones will win! Or will they win?

Have a quick look at this two minute videoclip “How Boredom Helps You Do Your Best Thinking”, a TED Talk (technology, entertainment, design) by Zomorodi in 2017.

How can doing nothing be good for you? Boredom can create brilliance!

Boredom can truly create brilliance because when we are bored our thoughts start to wander off. Boredom activate a network in your brain which is called “default mode”. When we do things where we don’t need to think, for example walking the dog, do the washing, raking the garden and more, our body switches to autopilot. Autopilot doesn’t mean it switches off. This wandering off is our brain’s way to find something to stimulate it. These stimulation triggers our brains to start to think creatively  according to Sandi Mann, psychologist and writer of the book “The upside of downtime: Why boredom is good”.

How can doing nothing be good for you? Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria
How can doing nothing be good for you? Doing something peaceful like fishing can be an excellent opportunity for creative thinking!

When we daydream, we go deeper than just the here and now thinking of our conscious mind. Our brain starts to dig into a much deeper level which is called our sub-conscious minds. Our sub-conscious minds can be compared with files where all the highlights and lowlights of our lives are stored. Our sub-conscious mind connects stored parts of information with each another. These connections can’t take place when we are busy with our phones or social media. A prerequisite for creativity, self evaluation and planning for the brain is relaxing and day dreaming. Our subconscious minds help us to set new aims and find ways to reach these aims (Johnathan Smallwood, American psychologist; Andreas Elpidorou, researcher in philosophy University of Louisville.)

How can doing nothing be good for you? Do this and find out!

Put your cellphone down (where you can’t reach it), put the sound off as well. You owe yourself “creating of ideas time”. Our brains are not wired to be constantly busy. By having quiet, peaceful, day dreaming time, your subconscious mind will be ready to provide you with creative ideas, brilliant solutions and new exciting ways to discover yourself and to enjoy life with much more exciting plans. The secret of your success will be to add day dreaming time while doing nothing, to your every day schedule. Enjoy it!


What is a TED talk?

A TED talk is a video created from a presentation at the main TED (technology, entertainment, design) conference or one of its many satellite events around the world. TED talks are limited to a maximum length of 18 minutes and may be on any topic.

 

References:
Rooi Rose, Februarie 2020, ‘Broeikas vir Briljant’.
Photo credits:
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
Divorce family counselling Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Why do you as parent need to consider post-divorce recovery seriously?

Why do you as parent need to consider post-divorce recovery seriously?

On my blog I have earlier discussed why post-divorce family therapy is of such importance, and why you should consider post-divorce recovery. Before you consider a divorce or if you are going through a divorce or being divorced, think of the following traumatic changes which your children will most possible get through (depending of your circumstances):

Let’s just refresh our minds. What are commonly accepted to be the most traumatic incidents in life?

Impact of divorce on families Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

The top traumatic events (as also mentioned here) are listed as:

  • The death of a loved one.
  • Separation or divorce.
  • Getting married.
  • Major illness or injury.
  • Starting a new job.
  • Job loss.
  • Workplace stressors.
  • Financial problems.
  • Moving to a new house, town of country.

I recommend the following books that you could use to talk to your children about divorce: “Mama and Daddy Bear’s Divorce“, “Two Homes” and “Living with Mom and Living with Dad“.

The impact of divorce on children can be profound, and long lasting

Impact of divorce on children Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Traumatic changes which children of divorced families are facing:

  • Having a second home. Imagine yourself as parent to be moved weekly from one house to another, where rules and routines differ (even slightly, it differs).
  • Not all their belongings are there, some of which might let them feel at home or secure.
  • Forgetting belongings at the other parent’s house which they haven’t even thought of.
  • The impact of dealing with a new girl-or boyfriend in their parent’s life.
  • New “siblings” to get along with.
  • New “siblings” at home who might occupy or cling to his / her dad / mom and who says it’s my dad / mom and more.
  • Sharing a room with a new sibling (essentially a stranger at first).
  • Adjust to new friends in a dad’s or mom’s life.
  • New ways in which a dad or mom acts and socialises (as age doesn’t matter – whether you are 12, 16, or 82, love sets free feeling good hormones of which endorphin is one, in your brain, and you act differently).
  • Dealing with feelings like: ‘Does my mom / dad still love me?’. ‘Won’t she / he forget about me because his new family lives with him now?’
  • A new baby, and / or ‘siblings’ and divided attention from a parent.
  • A new school.
  • A new caretaker to adjust to.
  • Less financial privileges.
  • More financial privileges.
  • Different financial privileges at the two different households.
  • New unknown emotions and feelings like sadness, guilt (many children believe it was their mistake that their parents got divorced), anger, isolation, depression, insecurities and more.
  • Identity and role changes (not being the youngest / oldest in the family any more).
  • Perceived ‘unfair’ discipline by mom’s / dad’s new boy- or girlfriend.

Put yourself in your children’s shoes

It really is important that you put yourself in your child’s / children’s shoes and try to experience what they might be experiencing. Remember every child is different and not all of them will experience the same emotions and feelings. What a child will experience will depend on aspects like his position in a family, personality types, previous trauma and setbacks in his / her life and more.

Conclusion: Why do you as parent need to consider post-divorce recovery seriously?

Important: The aim of this information isn’t to make you feel more guilty about your divorce. You might have been in a verbal / emotional / physical abusive relationship or in a relationship with a spouse who is addicted, cheats on you and more. Sometimes you don’t actually have another option but to get divorced (and depending of your circumstances it might be better for you and your children). The aim is however to give you a better perspective of what the theory says about divorce, and the impact thereof on families, and to understand what your children might be experiencing when dealing with parents’ divorce. This will give you good tools to help them deal with these huge challenges.

 

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin for more information on Educational Psychology and other Child Development topics.


Photo credits:
Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash
Photo by Kat J on Unsplash
Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash
Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Play and emotional wellness – child development

Play and emotional wellness

Play and your child’s emotional wellness: part 1

In my previous article? Easy and fun activities to keep your children busy during cold days as well as during Covid-19 days”, I have explained the importance of play with regards to your child’s development (emotional, physical, brain and social). Today I want to discuss play and emotional wellness are linked to child development.

Examples of some of the benefits of play on emotional wellness and development can be seen below:

  • Physical, body development
    • Examples: Catching and throwing a ball, running around, climbing onto, building things like houses, cars, robots, etc. (construction play).
  • Brain development (cognitive development)
    • Examples: Gaining knowledge about the meaning of big/small, loud/soft, up/down; sorting of things according to colour, shape, size and learning to solve problems.
  • Emotional development
    • Examples: Learning to express his emotions, develops self confidence, helps to better deal with conflict.
  • Social development
    • Examples: Learning to work together with peers, to respect others, helping to form his identity and teaching a child about leading and following.

Play and your child’s emotional wellness: part 2

Play is an important and invaluable “tool” which empowers a child.

Today I want to zoom in on play as an important “tool” which is used by children (without being aware of using it) to deal with feelings of anxiety, fear, insecurities, conflict, rejection, unfairness and many more.

Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria
Play and emotional wellness – play is a way for your child to express his feelings

 

Play further becomes a “tool” through which children practice role play and role identities.

Slavon describes the process which takes place through plays as: “Through play the child expresses traumatic fixations, conflicts and hostilities. The child also uses play to disguise genuine conflicts and difficulties, or he may use play to relax tension and anxiety. Of greatest importance is the fact that the young child discharges aggression and seeks to overcome traumatic anxieties through play; it acts as regulative mechanism.”

Every preprimary school which is worth his salt will have a variety of fantasy play activities like a dollhouse (with a kitchen and play food, dolls, a sitting room etc.), a variety of clothes (cowboys, dress up, clowns, animals), farm, space, shop, gym, garage with cars, and more.

Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria
Play and emotional wellness – fantasy play for children, an important part of child devlopment

 

But don’t rely on the school alone. It is even more important is that you also create the opportunity for fantasy play at home. Collect a lot of boxes, crates, hats, clothes, shoes, jewelry, etcetera that your child can use to build constructions like a house, shop, racing track, and more. Children only become more capable to verbalise (tell us) about their emotions at an older age, but even six year olds still struggle to verbalise what they feel and experience. Therefore play is of utmost importance, as it becomes the “tool” through which your child expresses his anxiety, anger, sadness as well as his joy, pride, happiness, etcetera.

Every day children, like adults, are challenged with a lot of emotions and insecurities which you might not even be aware of. Take the step and provide your child with the “tools” that he needs to change his “unfinished issues” into more “finished issues”. He dearly needs it!

 

Photo credits:
Thank you to the below authors for the amazing pictures used in this blog!
Photo by Steven Libralon on Unsplash
Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash
Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash
Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist in Midstream Pretoria

Easy and fun activities for children during Covid-19 days: Dr. Marisa van Niekerk

Easy and fun activities for children during Covid-19 days

Easy and fun activities to keep your children busy during cold days as well as during Covid-19 days

One of the most frequently asked questions by mom’s over the years is “What else can I do to keep my children busy on cold and rainy days?”. Nowadays this has become “I’m running out of ideas of what to play”. Or “What creative activities are left, as the lockdown already lasted for 21 days and there are two more weeks to come?”. “My children are so bored now.”

Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist in Midstream Pretoria
Sorting shapes and colours – playing and learning at the same time

But let’s take a step back, why is play important, and what are the benefits of playing?

What does play really mean?

Let’s just pause for a moment to think why children need to play. Playing is not just keeping your child busy to have peace for hopefully a few minutes (if you are lucky!). A child’s play is an art and science on it’s own. Hymes describes play as ”….. thinking time for young children. It is language time. Problemsolving time. It is memory time, planning time, investigating time. It is organization-of-ideas time when the young child uses his mind and body and his social skills and all his powers in response to the stimulus he has met.”

What do parents give their children through play – the benefits of playing?

  • Physical, body development
    Building with blocks – another great play learning activity
    • Examples: Catching and throwing a ball, running around, climb, building things like houses, cars, robots, etc. (construction play).
  • Brain development (cognitive development)
    • Examples: Gaining knowledge about the meaning of big/small, loud/soft, up/down; sorting of things according to colour, shape, size and learn to solve problems.
  • Emotional development
    • Examples: Learn to express his emotions, develops self confidence, helps to better deal with conflict.
  • Social development
    • Examples: Learns to work together with peers, to respect others, it helps to form his identity and teaches a child about leading and following.

Playing improves concentration

Play improves concentration in children. All the above mentioned areas of development forms the foundation for spelling, reading and mathematics. Please read this again, play is the basis for reading, spelling and maths. For the mom’s who need to keep all the balls in the air (house keeping: cleaning, preparing food, washing, ironing as well as keeping the children busy with activities and play and who are forced to stay within a limited budget) I salute you!

For the mom’s who ‘don’t have time to play’, I hope that you will realise what difference you can make in your child’s development by creating play activities.

Visit my Facebook page for examples of easy and fun activities for children during Covid-19 days

If you are looking for creative easy and fun activities for children during Covid-19 days, look no further. I have put a lot of easy, fun activities on my Facebook page. Pictures are added which make it easy for you to scroll through and to get new ideas. It will also trigger your brain to create new ideas. Have fun!

 

Photo credits:

Thank you to the following authors for the amazing pictures used in this blog.
Building blocks – Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Sorting shapes and colours – Photo by Soraya Irving on Unsplash
Child playing with cars – Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash
The world is temporarily closed COVID-19, coronavirus

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown

Need to regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown?

How to regain structure in a world struck by the Corona virus?

The Corona virus came unexpectedly and with force. It turned our instant and fast lives upside down. When we opened your eyes the next morning it was still there, it became our new reality, a very unwelcome reality. Let’s explore how to regain control of your life during this time?

The corona virus overwhelms our lives. Worst of all, we start to realize that the Corona virus or Covid-19 virus will stay with us for a while, unless a cure or vaccine is found. The corona virus took over all parts of our being, especially since the introduction of the lockdown period in South Africa, and many parts of the world.

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown
Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown

It is impacting us socially (we can’t go out and spend time with others), emotionally (we feel down, depressed , anxious, angry, etc.), physically (we can’t go for a walk, jog and gyms don’t count as an essential service (!)), and mentally (our thoughts keep on coming back to the corona virus).

What I hear as educational psychologist from clients, the media and from experiences in my own life every day, the Corona virus evokes emotions like anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, loss of control, depression and many more. People want to know why they feel so knocked off their feet all the time. They want to know what’s wrong with them or whether they are loosing their minds.

No, you haven’t lost your mind

Corona caused tremendous losses in our lifes which implies aspects like routine, space, jobs, income, freedom, social life and control. The moment when we loose something, we experience a loss. During any loss we’ll move back and forth between the following phases:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Negotiation
  • Acceptance.

It is quite natural to experience the phases of loss mentioned above, and people spend different amounts of time in each of these phases. Don’t worry too much if you spend too much time in a phase, however, if you are really stuck in one of these phases, and it is interfering too much with your life, do contact me for a consultation.

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown: What to do

What can I do to make Covid-19 better?

Questions which arises are “What can I do to make Covid-19 better?” or “How can I regain control in my life?” Research tells us when dealing with a loss and trauma, structure plays an important part in regaining a sense of control in your lives. The most important aspect is to get a routine, similar to the one before Covid-19 existed, for instance:

  • Get up at the same time each morning.
  • Don’t get up too late (this means that you should also go to bed on a decent time the night before).
  • Exercise (in your house if you can’t go outside). Any form of exercise can work, and no excuse is accepted. Walking inside your house, or garden counts; skip, jump on one leg, put on a happy song and dance for a few minutes.
  • Take a shower.
  • Put on your clothes, make-up, comb your hair – look in the mirror and see a well taken care of picture of yourself.
  • Do what you normally do during the week, for example working, keeping your kids busy, etcetera.
  • Take a break and have coffee / tea outside, together with your family members – if they are there (sunshine provides vitamin D which adds to your positive feelings).
  • Go back to work and remember to take regular breaks. Put on a happy song during your second break to lift up your feelings.
  • Go for a walk after work.
  • Read / do something that you never have time for (make a list and tick them off every day).
  • Spend time with your family, or on your own if you are alone, make a nice fire, play a board game, spend time on your hobby or do something new or something that you like).
  • Prepare and enjoy some good, healthy food.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Clean up your kitchen and house.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Have time apart from the television and internet, as it might easily become all that you do most of the time.
  • Be brave: this implies spending time on your own and “face” your fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, etcetera.
  • CONTROL what you can, which are all indicated above.
Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown
Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown: Structure equals routine

If you want to regain control of your life, you need routine. Routine, even if you aren’t a very routine person, brings structure into our lives when it seems to be falling apart. The moment when you realise that there are things that you can control and start doing them, you will discover that routine provides you with a sense of security. Control and security cause our brains to release “feeling good hormones” of which endorphin is one. The challenge is however to stick to a routine.

Isn’t it time to take up the challenge of setting a proper routine and to regain a sense of structure in your life?


For more relevant information, please connect with me on my Facebook page.

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