Helping Kids Deal With Anxiety Related to the Coronavirus
Adults aren’t the only ones facing anxiety and mental health issues thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Kids are facing more challenges than ever before as they learn to cope with distance learning, scary news, and a nearly constant feeling of missing friends and activities.
More: How to Make Homeschooling Less Stressful for the Whole Family
It can be especially difficult to feel that we are doing our best with parenting during this challenging time, as we are all facing our own anxieties and mental health challenges. Fortunately, there are some strategies we can use to help our children deal with COVID-19 related anxieties.
Here are five ways that parents can help kids cope with their anxieties related to this time of coronavirus:
Finding the Good
Children may be overwhelmed by hearing about death and sickness and all that they can no longer do. To combat this pervasive sense of negativity, it can be helpful for both children and parents to be on the lookout for good news to share with each other on a daily basis. This can be a perfect regular topic for dinner time as a family.
While you might be able to easily check good news sources such as Good News Network, it can take some practice for children to discover good news on their own. You might help them look to nature for examples such as spotting a different kind of bird or seeing a new tree or plant bloom. Maybe they finished reading a book they have been working on or they learned to draw a new kind of animal. As you all learn to look for the positive and share good news with each other, it will help everyone stay more positive and find little things to look forward to.
So much has changed in the routines of both parents and children everywhere. When we lose our sense of routine and familiarity, we can all often feel untethered and anxious. This is especially true for kids who need the comfort of routines and predictable transitions.
Setting up a clear schedule on a white board or as a list taped to your refrigerator can be helpful to many kids. It is especially helpful if they can help you plan the schedule for the next day or week as a way for them to preview what is coming up. This doesn’t mean that you need to overschedule your family, but having certain markers throughout the day of when things tend to happen can be helpful. Choosing at least one special task or activity to add to the schedule each day also gives everyone something to look forward to. These activities can range from baking cookies to doing a scavenger hunt to watching a family movie.
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Limiting Media Consumption
Right now, we are all probably staring at screens more than we ever have in our lives. There is no need to pass judgment on this as we are all doing our best to get through an unprecedented time. That said, it’s especially hard to keep news updates, sad stories, and hard to watch videos from flashing across our screens.
This is an important time to be talking with kids about navigating the digital world and digital citizenship safely and with more awareness. Even if your child is at an age that you deem appropriate for taking in most kinds of news, the gravity of much of what is being reported these days can be too much for anyone to handle. You might consider looking into the parental controls that are available on both your TVs and technology devices.
Check out: Is The News Bad News for Kids?
None of us are at our best right now, and being honest with kids about this is important. As we try to navigate this difficult parenting time, we want to try to avoid extremes. Having meltdowns can be as equally unhelpful for our kids as pretending everything is just fine. We need to find some authenticity right in the middle.
Consider sharing that you sometimes feel anxious or that there are things that you miss during this time. Reflect aloud about how it helps you to talk about it and that you are glad to have a family member who can listen. You can also pose questions to your children about what they think you can do as a family to cheer each other up or to feel better when feeling sad. If you can be open with them, your children can learn over time to be open with you and to try to give voice to the feelings that they are experiencing.
If you are having a hard time sharing your own anxieties and challenges with your child, you can always use a story to open the conversation. Heather Wallace, Positive Parenting expert shares, "I find the best way to work through any anxiety a child has is through a book. There have been many social stories created to discuss the topic of the coronavirus and why we have to stay home. Children are quite curious and books are a great conversation starter." Check out The Best Books About Anxiety For Kids: An Age-by-Age Guide for ideas.
Staying Active Together
Self-care has never been so important. Unfortunately, this is hard for many of us to add to our overwhelming schedule as we try to work and parent and guide remote learning at the same time. It can be helpful to recognize that when you set aside family physical activity or self-care time, you are helping both yourself and your family at the same time.
You might all enjoy de-stressing together by taking long walks, going on scavenger hunts in nature, or playing a family game of wiffle ball. Maybe you decide to try a virtual family yoga class or follow a guided meditation podcast together. You could also consider challenging each other with outdoor or indoor obstacle courses. The more you move your bodies together and with intention, and the more that you practice caring for your minds and your bodies, the better everyone will feel.
Looking for ways to keep the kids busy and learning during social distancing? Sign up for the Prepared Parent, a daily newsletter filled with everything to help mom and dad in their roles as teacher-parents.
Unsure how to explain the upcoming school year to your kids? Check out our tips for talking to kids no matter how you're schooling your kids this year.
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Charise Rohm Nulsen is a writer, social media influencer, activist, and perpetual volunteer.