Connections Academy school counselling consultant shares time-tested recommendations to help your children cope with anxiety
Children are pretty resilient but the events of a global pandemic this past year have been unlike anything else they have experienced. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down for many children and although they may not understand everything that is going on in the news, they do notice the changes in their own world.
To help you let your children know they are safe and loved during stressful times, try these time-tested approaches recommended by Connections Academy online school councillor.
How to recognise the signs of anxiety in children (and adults!):
· Difficulty concentrating
· Trouble sleeping
· Seeking reassurance (“Will we be okay?”)
· Tantrums or meltdowns
· Irritability or agitation
· Feelings of worry, panic, nervousness, or fear
· Frequent comments about death or dying
· Racing heart
· Shortness of breath
Be an example
Uncertain situations can cause everyone to feel anxious sometimes, many parents have more anxiety about the pandemic than children do. Most children pick up on their parents behaviours and cues to determine when and to what level they should also be worrying. Don’t try and hide that you are stressed and anxious, instead demonstrate to your child how to handle anxiety calmly and reassure them that you can work through it together.
Help your child find a healthy balance
It is important to help your child find a healthy balance. The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety completely with research showing a certain amount of anxiety can be helpful and can motivate us, but it is important to help your child develop the tools to manage it. Openly discuss your child’s fears and anxieties; then help them talk through some ways to manage them.
Establish a routine
Developing a routine of basic activities during a time of uncertainty can help provide some comfort. Whether your family is distance learning for the first time or regularly attends online school, having a structured daily schedule is beneficial. Be sure to include self-care when establishing a “new normal” in your home. Create a healthy routine that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep.
Changing our perception of situations can ease anxiety. Help your child develop the habit of finding the positive in negative situations. An example of this would be complaints about not being able to physically spend time with friends, point out that this is an opportunity to learn more about technology and socializing online.
Limit exposure to media and news reports related to the virus
This is a good time to teach your child about reliable sources of information. Ask your child to come to you instead of social media if they have a question regarding the pandemic. You can also set a limit on how many articles or news features your family is exposed to each day.
Kids need some reassurance, especially in stressful times. However, they can learn to depend too much on reassurance as a way to deal with anxiety—a habit that could follow them into adulthood. Instead, remind your child of all the ways they are already able to take care of themselves, and encourage them to use strategies for reducing anxiety, such as exercise or deep breathing
Karen Muston, School Counselling Consultant at Connections Academy comments: “Although the situation may feel overwhelming right now, you’ve got this! With your parenting skills and some expert advice, you can help your child succeed at distance learning and cope with anxiety. Remember to be patient and loving with each other—and you may even emerge from this challenge as a stronger family!”
For free online resources including knowledge articles, step-by-step visual guides, activities and materials please visit Connections Academy.