Lately, all of us are likely feeling varying levels of anxiety. During this time of unprecedented uncertainty because of Coronavirus, communities worldwide are sheltering-in-place, schools have closed, businesses are being shuttered and the media outlets have been sharing stories that are mainly negative. If you have a child that experiences anxiety even in times of normalcy and predictability, living through a global pandemic can be traumatizing. One non-profit organization, Child Mind Institute, is dedicated to assisting families with education, resources and coping mechanisms that help support and encourage positive mental health and wellness.
Children can develop anxiety when they are young and carry-it into their teen and adult years. Whether your child worries about germs or a family member dying, some children begin to develop coping mechanisms on their own that may not be the most ideal. Compulsive hand washing, rituals, and outbursts of anger are just some of the ways children may try to manage their fear and their anxiety. Child Mind Institute, https://childmind.org/, offers relatable advice and tools to assist families today and every day, forming a strong foundation for good mental health.
Want to know one of the best recommendations to help your child handle what is happening with COVID-19? Make sure the way you are dealing with your own anxiety is being done in a healthy, effective way. If your child sees that you are handling the unknown situation well, it will help them to feel more secure during this time. A caregiver’s self-care is very important, so do things that make you happy and bring you joy. Recommendations include:
- Make time for yourself, even if this may seem difficult with everyone under one roof. Take a walk, garden, or sit outside with a good book.
- Set boundaries when it comes to reading about the virus and watching it on the news. Take a break from the constant flow of information.
- Do things you enjoy. When your child sees you happy, they will also feel a sense of calmness.
Symptoms of anxiety
Physical symptoms in a child may be the first indicator of anxiety. If your child gets stomach aches and headaches often, either before a birthday party, big test, or volleyball game, it may be evidence he or she has anxiety. Of course, being nervous can bring about “butterflies” in the stomach on occasion, but if your child exhibits symptoms that may also include diarrhea, vomiting and feelings of panic, it is likely that anxiety is taking its toll on their health. Younger children may not even realize what they are feeling is anxiety and expressing their feelings may be difficult. The physical symptoms are due to the “fight or flight” response the brain sends when it detects danger.
What to do next
If you believe your child is exhibiting anxiety or you are seeing indicators that they need help managing stress, it’s important to contact your pediatrician. Dr. Shaw or Dr. Kellow will want to rule out any medical concerns. If the child’s physical health is good, the next step is to help the child find a connection between their stressors and how their body is reacting to them. Believe it or not, it’s ok to tell your child that what they are feeling is stress and/or worry. By labeling their feelings, it shows a connection (and that their emotion is real).
It’s important not to avoid the things that are causing your child anxiety. If your child exhibits a belly ache before the next online test or assignment, it may be tempting to let them skip it. Unfortunately, avoiding what’s causing the anxiety actually reinforces it. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how your child that once hated speaking in class can now tolerate it, only because they persevered, using the tools they learned to handle life’s ups and downs.