I have suffered from crippling anxiety most of my life. Thinking back, a lot of my anxiety and fears came from traumatic events in my childhood, and how my community and family responded at that time. During such a volatile time in our nation, I think it’s important to think about how we can keep our kids calm and their fears at bay during the pandemic that is unfolding before our eyes.
Most young kids will remember how their family home felt during the Coronavirus panic more than anything specific about the virus. Here are some tips I have seen over the past few days that I think are worth sharing:
1. Calm yourself: We have to manage our own anxiety before we can help our children. Reminding ourselves that we can handle hard things, acknowledging that this is a very hard time to be an adult and a parent, and giving yourself some grace and compassion that we are all just doing the very best we can go a long way in managing our own anxiety. Deep breathing and getting some fresh air are also ways to help.
2. Limit excessive reading and talking: Obsessing over the media or reading Facebook articles are constant reminders to ourselves of the uncertainty, and only increase our panic. Try limiting your cell phone and computer use. (I need to take this advice.) Our kids are so much more in tune than we think sometimes. Be careful what adult conversations you might be having with friends while your kids are around. They are paying attention more than we think.
3. Validate your child’s perception of reality: I thought this was a great piece of advice. It says to allow your child to talk about what they have noticed and they might feel and what is worrying them. Listening and letting our children know that we are there for support can go a long way.
4. Know your role: Let your kids know that worrying about safety is our job, not theirs. Boundaries make kids feel safe, and they need to know that our job as parents is to keep them safe, so for now all their job needs to be is washing their hands and having fun on their time off from school.
5. Be honest: Try not to make false promises. It’s ok to be honest and let them know we are unsure how some things might play out. Communicating that waiting is hard for everyone will help them understand that they aren’t alone.
6. Have fun: Try to watch funny movies, play games, and have dance parties. A lot of advice says that taking a break from the seriousness of everything is a huge stress reducer, not just for kids but for adults too.
While we are all home with our families over the next weeks or months ahead, let’s remember that our kids are watching us and learning how to respond to stress and uncertainty. Let’s build them up and prepare them to tackle the challenges of life. A hug and a listening ear can go a long way. We can always use tragedy or sadness as a teaching experience for our kids. And as it usually goes, they end up teaching us even more along the way…