Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety and Support Our Children

The COVID-19 pandemic may be a very stressful and frightening time for our children. While it is important to remember that fear and anxiety about disease is normal, excessive worry is not. All individuals will respond differently during stressful times, and anger, confusion and guilt are common ways children respond to world events. However, there are many things we can do as parents to support our children during these extraordinary times. All individuals manage stress in different ways. When stress becomes unhealthy certain actions may arise. Signs of unhealthy stress include, significant fear or worry, change in sleeping patterns, change in diet or eating patterns, change in overall health, and even substance abuse.

When talking to our kids about the current situation, a solutions focused approach is crucial.

Things to keep in mind when having these discussions include:

o Many things are being done to help the current situation (governments,  doctors, nurses, schools, …)

o It will get better

o Life will return to normal

o Focus on caring for our family and friends

Here are some ways to support our children:

1. All Children

i. Routines are important and can help to create a sense of predictability and security. Some examples of routines include scheduling daily academic time, outdoor activities and family time. Focus on the moment, mindfulness (sit quietly and focus on breathing and your senses)

ii. Role model calmness, routine, and a focus on family and friends

iii. It is appropriate to provide a fact-based discussion on the changing landscape of COVID-19. This discussion should be done in a calm and reassuring tone conveying the message that we are safe. We take precautions, but we are safe. Listen, provide age-appropriate information and focus on prevention (daily handwashing, social distancing)

iv. Focus on the positive, change in outlook from: ‘we are stuck inside’ to a focus on family and home

2. Older Students

i. Social Media: limiting social media and news watching. Watching the news together can provide an opportunity for conversation and help to keep things in perspective. Moderation in gaming time

ii. Nutrition: eat as healthy as you can. Make balanced meals that you can prepare together

iii. Sleep: try to ensure that older students are still getting enough sleep. www.sleepfoundation.org

3. Younger students

i. Stress: younger students may show their stress in different ways. For example; crying, irritation, ‘acting out’, reduced attention and concentration, regression to an earlier age such as bedwetting, and ceasing activities that they previously enjoyed

4. Strategies to help reduce stress in younger students:

· More time with trusted adults
· Increased play time, inside and out
· Routines
· Quiet times, to read books, listen to music, puzzles and playing board games
· Adequate sleep