During this time of uncertainty, illness, and new norms, it is only natural that our mind and our children’s minds will try to protect themselves. As parents try to manage their fears and anxiety, we must watch out for those of our children as well. Children can show their anxiety in different ways based on their ages.
Signs that you may notice if your young child is stressed or anxious:
- Regression: bed-wetting, thumb sucking, tantrum. Tantrums are often brought on due to big feelings they have never experienced before and do not know how to handle
Signs that you may notice if your older child is stressed or anxious:
- Irritability, possibly from lack of socialization and fear of the unknown
- Physiological changes: appetite change, sleep change, headaches, stomachaches, lack of motivation
How Can Parents Help: Your child's anxiety is real because there is a real threat we are dealing with. Allow them to feel it while helping them find ways to manage it.
- Keep a consistent schedule, while also allowing the schedule to be flexible when needed. Children thrive on routine, but also may need a break during this unprecedented time.
- Give your child some control. In a world where things seem out of control, try to give your child choices on small things within your home. For example, let them choose what your family will eat for dinner, or what they will wear, or if they like to watch television before or after bathtime, etc.
- Limit their exposure to the media. Make sure all information they are receiving is factual and age-appropriate.
- Let your child ask questions. Speak to them truthfully about the virus in an age-appropriate way. Answer their questions, but do not over share.
- Teach them relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and mindfulness.
- Reassure your child that they are safe at home, and that your family is taking all the necessary precautions.
- Allow and encourage your child to socialize with friends and family via Facetime, Zoom, or other online platforms.
- Counterbalance screen time with outdoor time.
Although children are very resilient, and most will get through this time with no long term mental health effects, we should be mindful of the families that are dealing with illness or loss of a loved one. They may need more support in the future.
Here are some more resources that we hope help through these times. Remember to take care of yourself. Look for happiness in the unexpected moments!
Take care, and be kind to each other!