Free therapy for children and teenagers suffering during Italy’s lockdown

By Álvaro Caballero

Rome, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- Children and teenagers in Italy can access a free telephone therapy service to help with the physical and emotional problems some of them have suffered during lockdown.

Giampaolo Nicolais, head of a team of 35 therapists behind the scheme at Rome’s Sapienza University, said: “We thought it would be useful at this time, after the first weeks I received many calls from families asking for help.”

Nicolais explained the telephone service is not just a “listening line” but a “specialised psychological consultation” on problems caused by the quarantine.

He said the confinement imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak can result in a number of issues for children, including irritability, nervousness, sleep disturbance.

“They have a great need to get out, to explore space,” he added.

Youngsters in Italy have been confined to their homes for six week and can also suffer from being separated from their friends, classmates and extended family members, such as grandparents.

General advice for families is to ensure children have regular video calls with their friends and family to continue reinforcing these bonds, which are especially important in early childhood.

A common problem with teenagers is “their need to be separated from their parents, to be isolated”, something that becomes more difficult during quarantine, Nicolais said.

“In small houses, where children do not have much privacy, forced coexistence ends up being a problem,” he added.

His main advice to parents of teenagers is that “it is normal for them to want to be alone”.

He also warned of the risk of youngsters developing phobias linked to the pandemic and gave an example of a five-year-old boy who was scared of a parcel which had arrived in the post because of fear of the contagion.

Nicolais said this type of behaviour will become more frequent, as well as agoraphobia, although he added that “trauma is not objective, it is subjective, it depends on each case”.

He recommended parents explain what is happening to their children and maintain “a good family and emotional climate”.

The Italian government has allowed children to go out for walks near their homes if they are accompanied by an adult.

Nicolais said they must “absolutely” leave the house, since they are the ones who suffer the most from the confinement.

The service, which began operating on 8 April, is currently serving 25 families from across Italy and will continue to run after the confinement ends, “since the problems resulting from the quarantine will last for months,” he added.

A team of volunteer psychologists who specialise in clinical psychology and psychotherapy have donated their time to make the scheme possible.

Sapienza University also has activities and exercises for families to help them through the lockdown. EFE-EPA


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