It’s tough enough to be an adult during a pandemic.
But imagine what it feels like to be a kid during this time. You don’t fully understand the virus—all you know is that everything is changing, you can’t see your friends, and many adults are stressed about it.
It’s a recipe for anxiety, to say the least.
Now, more than ever, your children need your support. Their fears can be addressed and managed by using the following coping strategies:
Create a routine.
Just like us, kids are used to having structured days.
They’re familiar with waking up, having breakfast, traveling to school, and then coming home at the end of their day. And even if your child always complained about going to school, they might have felt differently about it once they had to stay home.
A sudden change to their daily routine can be shocking for a kid. Whenever your child is doing at-home learning, try to break up their day into discrete time blocks. A steady schedule can provide your child with a sense of normalcy.
And be sure to pencil in a few fun periods, too, like:
2:00-2:15PM—play fetch with the dog!
Arrange remote counselling.
Even though many people think of children as carefree, happy individuals, that isn’t always the case.
If your child dealt with anxiety issues before the pandemic, their mental health may be much worse off since it began. At this point, they may be really struggling with their emotions.
Try to find a local counsellor or therapist who deals specifically with young children. A trained professional can share valuable coping strategies with your kid and help them process their feelings.
You can also try a few at-home stress reduction techniques, like mindful breathing. Find a quiet and cozy part of the house and put a couple of pillows on the ground. Have a seat with your child and ask them to close their eyes.
Then, tell them to focus on their breath. Let any thoughts that come up pass by, and focus only on what it feels like as you breathe in and out.
This technique is effective for children of all ages, and easy to understand (each of us breathes all day long, after all). By grounding ourselves in our bodies, it becomes easier to let go of anxious thoughts.
Reassure them that it’s temporary.
We’re coming up on an entire year of living in a pandemic. For a child, that might feel like forever.
Even though the virus isn’t going away, we’re developing highly-effective vaccines that can protect us against it.
This concept might be a bit difficult for a child to understand. You can compare it to wearing a shield or suit of armor like a cartoon character does. A mask is like a helmet, but a vaccine is like a sword and a shield.
You can support anxious children by letting them know that feeling stressed right now is normal—it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Check in with them often.
Each day, new developments about the virus reach the news. You and your child are exposed to a constant stream of information that’s constantly changing. What was in the back of their mind last week may now be at the forefront, causing them to stress and lose sleep.
If they are worried about getting sick (or worried sick), reassure them that your family is making every effort to reduce contact, stay home, and sanitise often. These measures can effectively protect someone from contracting COVID-19. And if your child expresses concern about their grandparents getting sick, let them know that vaccines are becoming increasingly available.
Try to limit their exposure to news channels. Sensationalised headlines might confuse your kid and make them worry.
Your child might not know how to express their stress verbally. You’ll need to watch for changes in their behaviour, like trouble eating, sleeping, or a loss of interest in their favourite things. If you notice anything concerning, make a note of it, and try to talk about it or arrange for additional support.
Take care of yourself.
If your kids notice that you are emotionally distraught, it will only amplify their anxieties. We aren’t suggesting that you pretend not to have feelings, but you should practice self-care. By looking after yourself, you can offer more assistance to your children.
Give yourself time and space to express your concerns, frustrations, and uncertainty—but try to keep it away from your child.
For holistic treatment, consider visiting a wellness center. This facility will have resources like therapy, life coaching, and other mental health services. You need to support yourself to better support your child.
After a year of living through a pandemic, you might expect that this would feel like our new normal. But for many children, it’s still hard to understand how drastically our lives have changed. Giving them the love and support they need right now is crucial to helping them cope. It’s a matter of reassuring them, checking in often, and helping them find bright spots in a dark time.
Veronica Wallace is a childhood educator and blogging enthusiast. Some of her favourite articles can be found on the KIDTHINK website. KIDTHINK provides a model of care that includes psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals to create a truly multidisciplinary team that all works together to give the children and their families the highest standard of care.