Heartaches to Bellyaches. Recognizing and Calming Pandemic Stress in Our Kids (and Us)

Lu Hanessian
6 min readApr 13, 2020

Our children’s radar is relational. These days, we are all on edge living in isolation, fear, grief with no safety net. Except one. Here’s what can help our kids cope as we navigate the unknown.

Lu Hanessian, MSc

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

One day, when my now teenage son was six years-old, a bird flew into our window and died. He cried hard for the sweet creature. That night, under his covers, he whispered to me, “My whole body hurts, Mom. I can feel it.”

We’re all feeling it, now. Living and loving in isolation, blanketed by uncertainty, disoriented, frightened, flooded with fear. This crisis which has forced us into social avoidance has also pushed us to face deep discomforts brewing in us and our families. Stories of heartache and hardship are all around us, in our news, in our feeds, in our own homes.

We’re anxious. Confused. Making calculations for a future we can’t measure. Trying to keep things moving and ‘normal’ for our kids, even as we intuitively know that the old norms have collapsed and some of the old rules, in many ways, caused and held our pain.

Were trying hard to see through our fog of anguish during these long days. Days blur. Breathing becomes shallow. Patience runs thin. Tempers flare. Tears flow. Conflicts arise and simmer without resolution. Old habits seem like the only familiar variable in a world of unknowns.

Maybe we are longing for old routines, and realizing, now, that part of our grief is the mourning of all that we tolerated while silently aching, of all we didn’t know about other people’s suffering, of all we overlooked, rationalized, put on a shelf — of all that we didn’t confront in our own restless hearts.

Our rhythms are off. We don’t have to say any of this for our children to notice and know that the rhythms are different. Off kilter. Routines are upended. Our kids are meaning-making beings, pattern recognizers, predictive analysts.

Red, red, green, red, red, green, red, red ______ blue?

Our body is always scanning and sensing our outer and inner environment. Scanning for the sudden blue that surprises our nervous systems and defies expectations. And our children…

Lu Hanessian

Adjunct Professor, Journalist, Former NBC Network Anchor/Discovery Health Channel Host, Host & Exec Producer of “The Foreseeable Now” podcast.