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Soothing Your Child’s Pandemic-Related Anxiety

September 8, 2020 • Our Blog • General Health
Your child may be experiencing anxiety during this difficult time — and understandably so. Here’s how you can help them. As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues into late summer and early fall, many families are approaching the six-month mark of social distancing with no clear end in sight. While warm weather has offered opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy more activities than were available earlier in the pandemic, the days of summer camp, birthday parties, and waterparks still seem far off. That’s certainly anxiety-inducing for all, and many parents are struggling with unclear school reopening plans, balancing childcare with working from home, and uncertainty about the future. However, children may be feeling this anxiety especially acutely, and anxiety tends to manifest in different ways in children than it does in adults. Children who are struggling with anxiety tend to revert to behaviors from earlier stages of development. For example, they may follow their parents around the house, start sucking their thumb again, throw tantrums, or wet the bed — even if they’ve long outgrown these behaviors. They may also experience headaches or stomach aches, as anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms for both children and adults. If you’ve observed these symptoms or behaviors in your child and you believe they may be a result of anxiety, it may be a good idea to speak with a child psychologist. Additionally, there are simple steps you can take at home to help your child cope with these stressful times.

1. Display a Calm Demeanor

Children are remarkably good at sensing their parents’ stress levels. If you seem anxious, your child is much more likely to experience anxiety themselves. Conversely, if you can model a calm demeanor, your child will feel reassured and calm themselves. Of course, remaining cool, calm, and collected in the face of a global crisis is easier said than done. Ensure you can be there for your child — and for yourself — by setting aside time each day for your own mental health. Take a bath, go for a run, or speak to a therapist — while it may seem counterintuitive to take time away from parenting, that time will help you be a more present and comforting parent.

2. Encourage Your Child to Verbalize Their Feelings

One of the best ways to understand how your child feels — and what they need to feel better — is simply asking them. Be prepared to be patient; if your child isn’t used to dealing with anxiety, they may find it difficult to explain what they’re experiencing. Try telling your child that you’ve noticed they seem upset. Then, ask them to describe what else they’re feeling, why they’re feeling that way, and what they think could help them feel a bit better. Once they’ve shared, thank them for opening up to you — it’s important to teach children that clearly communicating their feelings is valuable.

3. Funnel Energy into Hobbies

With school out and summer activities limited, children may be feeling stagnant and struggling to find an outlet for their energy. It can be helpful for them to funnel their energy into a hobby, especially one that enables them to observe marked progress toward a goal. Learning to play an instrument, completing a large puzzle, or knitting a scarf or blanket can all be great ways for children to engage their minds and develop a skill. Even a non-violent or educational video game could be a good option, as your child may be motivated by the prospect of “leveling up.”

4. Support Socially Distant Socialization

Socialization and connection is important for humans of all ages, but it’s especially critical for children’s psychological development. If your child is feeling isolated and disconnected from their network of friends, their mental health will likely be affected negatively. If your child expresses a desire to see or talk to their friends, facilitate opportunities for them to do so safely. Encourage them to video chat with their friends or let them use your phone to do so if they don’t have their own. You may even consider organizing a socially distant picnic in which your family and another family sit on blankets six feet apart.

A Partner in Your Child’s Health

Health — both physical and mental — is top of mind for many right now, and safeguarding both our own health and the health of our children has suddenly become more complicated and more critical than ever before. If you’re in need of a helping hand during this difficult time, reach out to Kids’ Health. A leading pediatric clinic serving the Beverly, Massachusetts, area, Kids’ Health takes a comprehensive approach to healthcare. We’re committed to helping your child reach their best not only physically, but academically and emotionally, as well. Call us or reach out online to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment today.  ...