Keep Calm and Parent On
This past year has been full of anxiety and uncertainty for people across the globe. That is also true for children, who have endured months of staying at home, as well as separation from friends and fun activities. Even though in-person schools are back in session in the New Orleans area, children may still feel anxious during the pandemic and there are ways you can help them through this difficult time.
Limit Media Exposure
Gina LaRose, LPC, LMFT said it’s important to minimize children’s access to information when so much of the news is dominated by COVID-19 cases. Too much exposure to the news can lead to obsessing about worst-case scenarios. Preventing information overload can be hard to do in the internet era, but you should at least avoid having the TV news on frequently.
“Even if they aren’t talking about what they’re hearing, kids are constantly absorbing information,” said LaRose.
Healthy Talk and Routines
If children do talk about their feelings, parents should encourage them. You should be supportive and understanding of any concerns the children in your life have at the moment. Validate their feelings and acknowledge that this is a difficult, stressful time for everyone and that it’s OK to be upset from time to time.
Routines are essential for children. If they’re still doing at-home learning full-time or as part of a hybrid plan at their school, make a schedule for them to stick to when they are at home.
“Kids thrive off of structure and knowing what to expect,” LaRose said.
Set an Example
The Child Mind Institute (childmind.org) noted that going back to school after months of stay-at-home learning might provoke anxiety in some children, too. That can come in the form of separation anxiety or in fears of contracting the virus. The Child Mind Institute recommended that parents set the tone for kids and model good coping strategies. If you seem anxious, your children will pick up on that and likely be anxious, too.
“Monitoring and managing your own stress level is going to help minimize your child’s anxieties as well,” LaRose said.