With the recent onset of Covid-19 both nationwide and globally, anxiety is on the rise. With so many unknowns, how do we help our kids navigate a new normal and keep their anxiety in check?
Here are a few tips that you may find helpful:
- Know the signs of anxiety. When kids feel that they are out of control of their surroundings and their situations they may misbehave, have trouble sleeping, experience shortness of breath, and ask the same questions over and over again – in hopes of getting consistent answers. They might also appear to have a lack of focus, experience cold sweats, dizziness, nausea, feelings of panic and even irregular heartbeats.
- Teach your child to practice mindful breathing. Kids and adults tend to hold their breath or “breathe shallow” when they get uptight or feel scared.
- Limit screen time and highlight offscreen accomplishments. Build confidence and positivity through activity!
- Be sure you and your child are getting adequate sleep. Poor sleep can lead to irritability, increased anxiety and increased depression.
- Be the person your child trust and can talk to. Every human relationship revolves around two things: trust and communication. Be appropriately truthful with your child. If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, it’s ok to say, “I don’t know how to answer that question, but let me find out and we can talk about it later.”
- Talk to your child about their feelings. Identifying feelings is an important first step for understanding their emotions. Though children experience feelings, understanding their emotions can be difficult. A feelings chart can help parents help their child connect an abstract concept (feelings) with a concrete visualization (chart). Check out the printable “Feelings Chart” Julia developed with Safe and Sound Schools here.
- Listen to your child’s perceptions and gently correct misinformation. It’s always a good idea to listen to and understand your child’s perceptions before you tell them what you want them to know. This way you do not risk introducing new worries or information that your child is not ready to absorb.
- Genuinely accept your child’s concerns. Every child needs to be seen, heard, and feel validated. Listen carefully and validate what your child is saying. You might say, “I can only imagine how you must be feeling. Let’s talk through what’s in your head and we’ll work together to try to make some sense out of all of this.”
- Focus on the CAN-Do’s and the GET-To’s. Nobody likes to be told what they have to do, but we all like to be told what we get to do. Even though our choices might be more limited than ever, we still have choices—and that can be empowering.
- Limit your child’s media exposure – and yours too! It is very important to stay informed, but over-watching interferes with cognitive balance and coping abilities.
- Establish a predictable routine at home and follow it. The inability to predict what might happen and feeling out of control of a situation can fuel anxiety. Work with your children to establish a predictable routine at home. The more involved your kids are in establishing the routine, the better!
- Set expectations—and consequences. Don’t confuse anxiety with other types of inappropriate behavior. Set limits and consequences so that you don’t allow anxiety to enable your child.
- Do everything you can to NOT pass your fears onto your child. People are like snowflakes – we are all unique. Every person deals with anxiety differently. Keep in mind–although you are your child’s expert, you are not your child. Just because you feel a certain way, does not mean your child will feel the same way.
- Designate a DAILY fun time that kids can anticipate and plan for. Planning for and looking forward to a “positive feeling” event is a great way to counteract the unsettling feelings of anxiety.
We are all currently sailing in uncharted territory with so many things to worry about. Now more than ever, it is important for you and your child to remember that together, we are strong!
National Award-Winning Children’s Author/ Parenting Expert