So, now that some schools are back in session and others still homeschooling, the anxieties of children are stirred, especially for those particularly sensitive, those with special needs, and even those who don’t appear rocked by world events.
How do we comfort our children, continue to strengthen their confidence, and keep them innocent under such crazy circumstances?
Dr. Meg has some suggestions for parents dealing with 2020 anxiety. Happily, these suggestions will help us bigger folks cope too.
Calming coronavirus fears: Where to start?
Be Alright sees many students with special needs. One student, now in college, had an unusual habit at bedtime. Each night, she had her bath, jammies, brushed teeth, glass of water and a book. Before she got into bed, she’d ask her mother, “Promise I’ll be okay tonight, and I won’t die?”
I know it sounds a bit odd, but this little girl, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 7, clung to this same routine for years. And, hearing her mother’s assurance she’d be okay until morning, she had the confidence to go to sleep. Honestly, she simply cut to the chase -without running around the bush. Every child with anxiety wants reassurance the Boogie Man won’t strike and the sun will come up tomorrow like it always does.
Today, however, reassuring our children of their safety has been given a new plot twist. If they hear the news, they hear death tolls in the hundreds of thousands. Even if the news is blockaded from view, it doesn’t take much for even a five-year-old to deduce something scary is floating in the air.
We can’t see it.
We don’t know when it will strike.
And, it has the potential to hurt or even kill the ones we love.
Put yourself in a child’s shoes. Imagine how frightening this sounds, even for grown ups.
- Keep your own anxieties in check. Kids are little sponges. Even if we aren’t discussing our worries, our kids can sense when things are off. Maybe you’ve been rocked by financial stresses, along with virus concerns. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your own anxiety, you won’t be much help with your kids. Reach out to a friend, mental health professional, or clergy member for support. Many organizations are offering low-cost counseling during this time.
Make time for meditation, exercise, and sleep. If things feel really out of control with school starting up, don’t ignore any feelings of desperation you may be experiencing. In crisis, mental and substance abuse hotlines are available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- Keep an eye for any “off” behaviors from your kids. Are your smaller children complaining of mysterious stomach ailments or headaches, struggling to sleep through the night, having nightmares? Unusual moodiness or tantrums can be another sign your small child is struggling. Unusual separation anxieties are a big clue. Pay attention.
Young children may need help identifying feelings. According to “Anxiety and Coping with the Coronavirus” by Rachel Ehmke and published online by the Child Mind Institute, a feelings chart can help children name what they are feeling and visual clues like a traffic light can help them identify the severity with “red” being the most severe.
You can say something like, “If a green light means you are super happy and giggly, yellow means you’re just okay-not super great, and the color red means you feel really yucky, what color are you right now?”
The important piece here: Pay attention to anything out of the ordinary. Trust your instincts, but don’t badger. Just make sure they understand you are available for cuddles, talking, or just spending time together.
Older children may take a little more coaxing. Just be available. If you have some more serious concerns with how they are coping, seek help from a mental health professional.
- Stick to a routine. Yeah, I know. How do you stick to a routine, when routines seem to have gone the way of the “other” life we used to live? Well, you stick to regular bedtimes and bedtime routines for one. For another, create a morning routine, especially if homeschooling is on your agenda for the fall. You don’t have to make it a serious, stern routine right now. Start small. Maybe consider 8:30 as a time for schoolwork. For now, that could mean an hour of quiet with play time outside after quiet.
For older kids, this routine looks different. Depending on whether you are homeschooling or heading back to school, make sure older kids have a weekly checklist of items you are expecting.
If you need help creating a routine or checklist, let us know. The elite educational professionals at Be Alright Tutors are available to help you and your family navigate this challenging time. Stay Healthy!