The unusual circumstances we find ourselves in during this global pandemic have seen an increase in anxiety and worry in some children. It’s worth remembering though, that increased anxiety is a normal response to a very abnormal situation. It’s also recognised that dealing with your own anxiety can be the best way to make your children feel safe.
But what does anxiety look like in a child?
Anxiety could look like:
- Reassurance-seeking (Are we going to be okay? Is Grandad going to be okay?)
- Reluctance to separate from parents
- Physical symptoms like headaches and tummy aches
- Moodiness and irritability
- Tantrums or meltdowns
- Trouble sleeping
However just as parents try to make sure children eat a nutritious diet to keep healthy, they can also encourage healthy habits to promote emotional well-being and minimize the impact of the anxious times we find ourselves in.
We asked Educational Psychologist Dr Clara O Byrne for her tips to promote well-being in children who may be affected by the pandemic.
- Make sure that the young person has at least one trusted dependable adult in their lives (one good adult)
- Create a predictable and structured environment
- Value social connections and the social support and social learning that comes from mixing with other people
- Have a healthy diet
- Get active, physical activity is vital to good mental health
- Promote a regular sleep and bed time routine
- Explore creative activities e.g. colouring, craft, music
- Be consistent and follow through what you promise
- Model healthy behaviours
- Schedule family time together
Dr Clara also gave us some positive phrases you can use if your child is feeling anxious.
“Its okay you are safe”.
“I will stay with you”.
“That sounds really hard. Do you want to talk about it?”
“How can I help you?”
We have seen a few children here at the clinic since we re-opened with anxiety or behaviour issues. The lockdown may have felt like a shock to their system and once Frank re-balanced their nervous and breathing systems, they were better able to manage any stress or worry they experienced.
This whole pandemic experience is new for all of us. We all need space and time to adjust. Children too need time, support, and information. Using some of Dr Clara’s suggestions above will help develop that feeling of well-being. Learning how to deal with anxiety in a healthy way can help the whole family be more resilient, both now and when the pandemic is finally over.