Anxiety. We all feel it to some extent. For some, it’s a chronic mental illness. In fact, for 40 million adults, it affects day-to-day behavior. For the rest of us, COVID-19 has likely poked a usually tame bear. If you haven’t gone down a trail of worry at some point during this pandemic, consider yourself enlightened and blessed. For the rest, we cope by talking to a spouse or family member, meditating, practicing yoga or doing some form of exercise (there may be chocolate involved, too). For our children, the story is a bit different. They don’t know what anxiety feels like. They don’t know how to identify it as an emotion. As parents, it’s our duty to identify the anxiety in them, pull it out and coddle it like a newborn baby. We must identify their troubles and make all it better (at least to the best of our ability). Let this blog be a tool to navigating the anxiety your child might feel during these uncertain times. Here is some guidance on how to keep your child’s anxiety at bay during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important to talk with your children about what is going on in the world around them. Yes, this goes for children of preschool age, too. Rachel Ehmke, contributor for the Child Mind Institute, says “not talking about something can actually make kids worry more.”
At this point, it’s the elephant in everyone’s living room. Talking about the Corona Virus will help a child feel more comfortable.
But Ehmke warns that you need to be calm first. “If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.” The Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also warns “that children will react to both what you say and how you say it.” The CDC has provided wonderful talking points to help you engage in a conversation with your children. Give them a read here before starting the conversation. Also, remember that the age of your child will really dictate the structure and setting for the conversation. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provided a press release at the beginning of the U.S. infiltration of COVID-19 with in-depth guidance on how to talk with your children about the pandemic. Schools were still open so some of the advice is not applicable right now (schools are not open). In it the association observes that “it is very typical for younger children to ask a few questions, return to playing, then come back to ask more questions.” Some may not ask questions at all! In that case, it’s up to you to know when and how to bring up the subject.
In the meantime, the media are doing us no favors when it comes to lowering anxiety levels in our children. It’s important that you strictly monitor your child’s media intake about COVID-19. For many of you, that may mean forgoing your favorite morning talk show or local news before dinner. According to the CDC, “too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.” For young children, the NASP says an overdose of information can lead to “anxiety or confusion.” So, please turn down the noise. Even Sesame Street has an hour and a half special that answers children’s questions about COVID-19. It’s meant for children and it’s an hour and a half. You don’t have to be an expert to know that’s just too long and too much!
Beyond controlling the message that your children are getting from other sources, it’s also important to maintain a routine. Having a daily schedule can cut down on anxiety. Ehmke advises that “structured days with regular meal times and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy.” I’ve heard plenty of friends tell me that bedtime is tough right now. I feel ya. But keeping a nightly routine will go a long way, to having a happier child.
Oh, also – the best way to make a kid feel secure is to tell them you love them. It’s simple and it’s one of the best home remedy’s on the planet.
Keep your child’s mind engaged in fun activities like games and outdoor exercise. The less they think about COVID-19, the better. Leave the worrying to us adults.
Reassuring our children that the world is still a safe place is critical to ensuring anxiety stays at bay. Reinforcing healthy habits, experts say, is a great way to make them feel like they are part of the solution.
The NASP says “teaching children positive preventative measures, talking with them about their fears and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.”
Tell them that by washing their hands, they are helping to stop the spread of infection. This will provide them with an instant sense of relief. According to the CDC, simple measures like coughing or sneezing “into a tissue or their elbow, then throwing the tissue in the trash” is a great preventative measure.
All the experts agree, talking to your children is critical but so is the notion of keeping it simple. You and your children are on the same team. Make sure your team has accurate, simple information that helps them understand that the world around them isn’t a scary place, it’s just a little different right now.
GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY
There is amazing and ABSOLUTELY FREE kids yoga channel on YouTube called Cosmic Kids Yoga. It takes Fairy Tales and other popular children’s stories and turns them in to Yoga adventures. Try it out here with your kids today! NAMASTE:)