Families across the nation and throughout the world are facing all kinds of uncertainty as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
While problems of employment, housing, bills to pay and infection rates seem like inherently “grown-up” problems, children are not immune to the stressors and anxieties of COVID-19.
Experts at the Child Mind Institute say that one of the best things that parents can do to help ease their kids’ worries is to deal with their own anxieties. If you or your children are feeling worried, it’s a good idea to find healthy ways to cope with your anxieties. Not only will this help allay fears during the pandemic, but it will help you raise your children to be more resilient too.
Signs of Anxiety
None of us feel quite like ourselves right now as we social distance, work from home or try to conquer virtual learning. So how can you tell if what your child is experiencing is something bigger—that they may be struggling with anxiety? Kids might not always have the right words to tell you that they are feeling anxious, but they may show you.
Here are a few signs to look out for that your child is experiencing anxiety:
- Agitation or restlessness.
- A new inability to focus, inattention.
- Complaints of a headache or stomachache without other health symptoms.
- Tantrums or crying.
- Frequent meltdowns, especially about school.
- Difficulty settling down for bed.
- High expectations for school work and activities.
So if you do see your child exhibiting some of these signs, what can you do about it? Here are some ways you can help your kids handle their COVID anxiety.
1. Check In With Your Child Regularly
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, it’s probably a good idea to talk to them and conduct daily “check-ins” to listen to how your child is feeling. You can support your child by hearing their concerns, validating their emotions and keeping the line of communication open.
When you check in, it’s OK to let your children know if you have anxiety too—and how to cope with it. You never know how helpful it can be to hear that these feelings of anxiety are normal and that you are there to help.
There’s strong evidence to suggest that naming our emotions helps us manage and transform the feelings we are experiencing, and it’s no different for kids. Naming their anxiety can leave your children feeling empowered, not nervous.
2. Help Your Child Focus on What’s in Their Control
So much of our world feels out of control right now; it’s no wonder our kids are feeling anxious!
You can teach your child to stop dwelling on the big, scary issues and focus instead on what is in their control. By letting go of the “what-ifs” and the worst-case scenarios and paying attention to what they can do instead, your child can release some of the anxiety they are feeling.
What kinds of things are in your child’s control when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s what they can do:
- Wash their hands frequently.
- Wear a mask.
- Practice social distancing.
It also might help channel anxiety if your child can do something productive to help others, like making masks for family and friends or for essential workers.
3. Find Coping Mechanisms That Work for Your Child
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to help your child overcome sudden bouts of fear and anxiety; the most important thing is finding solutions that work best for your unique child.
So what kinds of coping mechanisms can you and your child try the next time they start to feel anxious? Here are a few ideas to talk about and practice before they start to feel anxious. Think of these as things your child can add to their “anxiety toolbox”:
- Have your child write their worries down or draw them in a journal. Or ask them to write down what’s making them feel anxious and let them throw their list in the trash.
- Get rid of stress with physical activity. Activities like stretching, pushing against a wall with all their might for 10 seconds, going for a bike ride and getting in some exercise can reduce your child’s anxiety.
- Have your child put down their computer, phone, tablet, gaming device and all other technology for a while, and maybe even go for a walk. We can reconnect with ourselves when we disconnect from technology, and your child can too.
- Practice mindfulness. There are so many ways to practice mindfulness, but this can be a calming way to regulate emotions, slow down anxious breathing and let go of anxiety. You can read more here, or check out some ways kids can practice mindfulness here.
By giving your child some ways to deal with their anxiety, you are empowering them to take stock of their own emotions and find healthy ways to manage them.
Seek Professional Help When It’s Needed
Some situations make us all feel a little worried. However, a global pandemic is an extraordinary circumstance, and many adults are having trouble finding ways to deal with their anxiety. Managing stress and anxiety about COVID-19 as a child is a lot.
Sometimes you need to call in the reinforcements when working with your child to develop anxiety coping skills just isn’t enough.
If your child really is struggling with anxiety, talk to their school counselor, a therapist or a psychiatrist about getting them the help they need.
- They’re avoiding situations, people or activities.
- They start to fixate on what can go wrong.
- Their fears are starting to interfere with their daily life.
- They have persistent distress despite your help.
- They’re having trouble sleeping at night, or they insist on sleeping in your bed.
- They are experiencing physical symptoms like an upset stomach or headache that aren’t associated with a medical condition or illness.
The bottom line? You know your child better than anyone. If their anxiety has a big effect on them, the best thing you can do for their wellbeing is to get them the professional help they need to deal with it.
Some kids may be feeling anxious about virtual learning and whether or not they can handle learning at home or stay caught up with their peers, creating all kinds of stress and anxiety surrounding learning.
If your child is experiencing anxiety around their German classes or they’re worried about losing their language skills, why not reinforce the skills they have with German kids’ books that are as fun as they are educational?
At Kinderbooks, we have the books you need to remind your child that learning can be an enjoyable, stress-free experience. Help them fall in love with learning again. Check out our wide selection of books today.