Four Simple Ways to Help Your Anxious Child During COVID-19
As we approach more continue changes around our COVID-19 pandemic, our children will continue to feel the stress we are all holding. They feel in their energic interactions with us. They see it in the way we move and speak. Children picking up on the larger things happening is something that we can’t avoid because they are one with
As things change rapidly, children may feel overwhelmed, scared or uncertain about what’s happening. Especially children who are more prone to anxiety or have sensitive temperaments, these feelings can manifest in REALLY big ways.
One of the most important and simple ways to help your child navigate the changes happening is by simply talking to them about what is happening. Many times, it’s common for parents to believe that because children are young, they aren’t as impacted by the things happening around them. Children pick up on everything, especially more sensitive children who are sponges to the world around them.
Here are four simple ways to help your child feel less overwhelmed and anxious during our pandemic.
Name It to Tame It
Naming what is happening is so validating for children. Take a moment to talk to your child about all the things changing. Have you started working from home? Are they going to school online now? Talk about what life was before the pandemic and share how it’s different now. Have your child draw a picture of what life was like before the virus and what life is like now. Have them take note of the things that have changed and the things that have stayed the same.
As you shift into a new routine, it can be helpful to create a chart of pictures or a list of what the new changes will look like at home. If you have the time and energy, you can even create a series of “before” and “after” the virus pictures to show how your routine has changed and what it will look like while you are all at home together.
Ask About Their Feelings
Simply asking how your child feels about the changes will help them feel grounded. When you ask, try as hard as you can be present with whatever they are experiencing. Validating their feelings by saying things like, “It makes sense that you feel that way” Or “Those seem like big worries. What can we do to help you feel better?” or “Your sadness is so welcomed here.”
When a child (or adult) is able to just name what they are feeling, we are able to release a little more so we don’t store it inside. Making it a daily practice to check in with your child’s feelings and internal world will help them feel grounded, safe and seen by you.
Be Honest But Don’t Give Too Much Information
Because we don’t know how long things are going to last, we want to help children feel reassured in the uncertainty. Being open and honest with your child about how long the changes will last is important. The key idea is that we want to reassure them that we are uncertain of how long this will last but it won’t last forever (let’s all tell ourselves that, too!). The goal is to give your child the felt sense of safety, even in uncertainty.
To help reassure your child that the changes won’t last forever, take some time to sit with them and draw a picture of their perfect day after the changes are away for good. Ask them how they will feel on their perfect day and reassure them that they will feel that again soon!
Slow Down in Hard Moments
We are ALL having lots of challenging moments. As hard as it may be with how overwhelmed you’re feeling as a parent, slowing down to be present when your child is having big feelings is so crucial for them to feel emotionally regulated and safe.
When your child is having big feelings, notice them and take a moment to slow down. As them how they’re feeling and what they need to feel better in that moment. When they feel a feeling, help them understand that their feelings are okay and loved and ways to move through it (take deep breaths, count to five, take a walk, ask for a hug). As you help your child process the hard moment, you help create a sense of feeling grounded. Then they know when they have feelings, they can share them with you!
Making these small, simple shifts will help your child drastically. In moments of overwhelm, our main goal is to find small moments of presence and to help our children feel that presence too.
If you’re struggling to help your child express their feelings about the changes happening, check out this e-workbook I’ve created for kids. It helps them process their feelings about the virus as well as their feelings around the changes happening.