Coronavirus has caused our lives to change, and the future feels very uncertain. Change and chaos can be significant causes of anxiety. So it is not surprising that worry is a feature of our lives at the moment. Here are some simple steps to help you support your child. (with acknowledgement to www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z6ksy9q
Recognise their anxiety
Everyone gets anxious sometimes. We know that children tend to worry about different things at different ages. Their anxiety is influenced by what’s going on in the world around them. Every child is different, but you are the expert at recognising when your child is anxious. Do they want to stay closer to you than usual? Do they ask lots of questions and seek reassurance? Do they get tearful, or cross and grumpy? Do they talk about ‘feeling ill’, and having headaches or tummy aches?
Create a space to talk
Let your child know you are available to talk, but don’t force them to. Avoid significant conversations near bedtime, which is a time for calming down and going to sleep. But if this happens, encourage them to make a note (maybe in a 'worry box'), so you can both talk about it the next day. Then move on to a calming and distracting activity to help them settle for the night.
Try not to show personal anxiety and to be calm.
Parents and carers get anxious too! We worry about the impact of coronavirus on the world and on those we love. We know that children are good at noticing when others around them are anxious and will watch others' behaviour to work out whether they should be anxious themselves.
Learn to listen
Spend time listening to your child, asking questions, and being interested in how things are from their perspective. Be accepting of their worry, anger, and sadness. Let them know that their thoughts and feelings are understandable. Explain that, although the physical sensations we get in our bodies when we are anxious can be unpleasant, they are normal.
Place anxiety into perspective.
A worry is a thought, not necessarily a fact. Listen to your child and try to understand precisely what they are worried about. What is the bad thing they worry might happen? How likely is it to happen, and what would it mean if it did? Would it help explore alternative ways of looking at things, which might help them draw less anxiety-provoking conclusions?
Constant exposure to news and social media, and changes to routines, increase anxiety in children. Keep an eye on what your child is reading, watching, and listening to. Be aware if they hear news reports which they might find upsetting. Try to keep to a routine, with activities across the day (e.g. schoolwork, exercise, relaxing, keeping in touch with friends, sleep). Emphasise the importance of being kind and looking after themselves.
Acknowledge their strengths
Anxiety in children is reduced if they believe they can cope with difficulties. You can help by showing your child that you are confident they can manage. Help them to problem-solve where there are solutions to be found. It also helps them learn to address worries that you can’t do much about (e.g. by distracting themselves in fun and absorbing activities).
Show personal compassion
These times are stressful for everyone, and you need to look after yourself to best look after your children. Think about how you might be able to apply the above steps to yourself. But also think about how you can get support from those around you. By supporting one another, we are more robust and can get through this together.
Susan Chan @New Horizons has a arrange of supportive audio downloads to help you through these difficult times: https://www.susanchannewhorizons.com/audio-downloads