How to Help Children Cope with Anxiety
We are experiencing a lot of chaos right now in our world. Don’t think for a minute that your children aren’t attuned to everything going on. Two weeks ago in my community, a tornado destroyed homes and schools and left more than 20 people dead. Now we are dealing with a virus that has shut down schools and businesses. It’s amazing the ways anxiety can wreak havoc on our lives. Some of you may be worried about your jobs, your health, and your future. This level of anxiety can be overwhelming for our children. What can we do to help them?
First and foremost, do not invalidate their feelings. Allow them to express how they feel, what they fear, and their feelings. Be a good listener and sounding board for your child. They need to understand that they have sanctuary at home and an advocate in you, their parent. Limit the news and give them the facts that we know, not the conjecture of the media.
On the other hand, do not feed into their anxiety by asking leading questions. “Are you afraid of getting sick/another tornado?” is a leading question that brings their focus to their anxiety/fear and creates anticipation for things that may or may not happen. Eliminate as much anticipation as possible. Be a good listener, then steer them towards solid coping strategies. Keep them busy and productive.
Work with your child to come up with solid, reasonable coping strategies. If they are afraid of getting sick, remind them of the times they have been sick and recovered. Teach them healthy habits: eating healthy, drinking a lot of water, exercise, and handwashing. Coming up with a strategy to address the anxiety will impower your child. This will give them tools to come up with their own strategies as they mature.
Each person is unique and should come up with strategies that will help them. For me, exercise is key and controlling my diet so that I know that I am doing everything I can to stay healthy. Your child has a unique personality and unique needs. Individualize strategies that you know will help them. Enjoy the extra time you have with your family.
In conclusion, don’t allow your own fears and worries to control your reactions and moods! Let your child know that you have their back and that we are all working together to get through these troubling times. Nothing is more important. Be alert to their moods. Make sure they are eating nutritious food, getting plenty of exercise, and plenty of sleep. Keep good, open communication with them. Finally, have an abundance of patience. Their anxiety is a real issue and can be overwhelming.