For Women, By Women
Dealing with your kids’ Corona anxiety
1st for Women Insurance recently spoke to Nikki Temkin, journalist of 20 years and accredited functional health and wellness coach. Nikki shares valuable insights and practical advice on mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown and beyond. In this article, Nikki offers tips for moms to help kids cope with anxiety in these uncertain times.
Stories about Coronavirus/Covid-19 and the threat that it presents us with as human beings are everywhere: in the media, on the radio, all over TV and the Internet. There’s really no escape from it and for sure, your kids have overheard you talking about it to others and noticed the masks and gloves that people are wearing. It’s also the first time that school has suddenly stopped for a reason other than a holiday.
The truth is that children will worry more when kept in the dark about it. Managing their anxiety when dealing with your own is a difficult task. Here are some tips:
- Manage your own anxiety. Your kids will pick up on whatever you are feeling. The more relaxed and calm you can be, the better for them. Yet, it’s also OK to be honest and explain that even you have your own worries which is normal at this time. If you are feeling overwhelmed, panicked or anxious rather wait until you feel better to chat with them. If you need help or support to manage your stress during this time, draw on your tools and resources or seek out support in the form of a friend, a counsellor, wellness coach or another healthcare professional.
- Discuss Corona with your kids. Avoiding talking about what’s obviously going on will simply exacerbate your children’s anxiety. Plus, they need to understand why they need to wash their hands or can’t see their friends or granny right now. It’s your job to filter the facts for your children – drawings or online cartoons can also be helpful. Find out what they know so that you can correct any misinformation. The goal is to give them facts-based information that’s reassuring and comforting. If masks are frightening to them, you can explain that those people are being extra cautious.
- Talk to them in a developmentally appropriate way. Giving more information than they need or too much detail will just be confusing. Do your best to be honest and direct. Answer their questions if you can and it’s also okay if you don’t have all the answers. Allow them to express their fears no matter how fantastical or dramatic they might be. Invite them to talk about their feelings no matter how uncomfortable and help them label the emotions. Being emotionally present for them is the best way to comfort and soothe children and to focus on everything you are all doing to stay safe and what can be controlled (e.g.s handwashing and social isolation) to make them feel empowered. It may be helpful to share with them that most people will recover from the virus and that kids seem to have much milder symptoms
- Fill the gaps where possible. Coronavirus may have left your children feeling a sense of loss or grief. Perhaps they are missing birthday parties, family get-togethers, their extra murals and socialising. Technology can help them connect with friends, family and even teachers. Try and encourage them to have daily contact with the people that they miss. Incorporate fun activities into each day whether it’s a boardgame or a creative craft activity. Some kids may not even mind doing schoolwork as it provides them with a sense of familiarity.
- Have a routine. Structure helps to make kids feel safe. Creating a daily routine and putting it where the kids can see it will help. Give them coping skills on the daily routine and these will not just serve them now but for the rest of their lives.
- Move it. Kids need physical movement and exercise on a daily basis to relieve stress and pent-up energy. Find an online workout that they can join in whatever exercise they enjoy or go out into the garden and throw a ball or do a silly dance. This will help to manage their stress.
Cut them some slack. It’s entirely understandable that kids might act out during this time by behaving badly, overreacting, fighting with siblings, having tantrums and other reactions. Teenagers might become more insolent and monosyllabic. Remember that even adults are having a hard time facing the unpredictably and uncertainty of this challenge – they are just kids so give them a break!