The constant unpredictability of COVID-19 and the lockdown flux has created an unwavering air of uncertainty. Many of us face increased anxiety as we adapt to the “new normal,” which has a heightened focus on health, immunity, germs, and hygiene. As for our children during this time, understanding and accepting these changes can trigger amplified levels of unease as they struggle to adjust and comprehend the news in the world around them. Whilst it is normal for children to feel worried or anxious from time-to-time, it’s important to acknowledge when this anxiety impacts their behaviour and becomes more of a serious issue.
Anxiety disorders affect up to 19% of children
According to NHS Inform, anxiety disorders affect up to 19% of children and adolescents in the UK, which many would only expect to increase in response to the uncertainty of COVID. These are extraordinary and uncertain times for our children. In an attempt to ease this anxiety and ensure children continue to harness the powers of their magical minds, Marisa Peer, a globally renowned therapist, gives us ten stand-out tips on how to deal with children’s anxiety effectively.
All humans need to have certainty in our lives, and children need to know for sure that everything is okay and that they’re safe. These feelings of certainty and safety can be compromised when significant changes occur – such as COVID or starting a new school. As a parent, you must reassure your child that they are safe. The best thing to make a child feel secure while things are changing in their life is to make sure everything else remains the same. Still have the same mealtimes, watch the same television shows, do the same activities. Especially with coronavirus, try to avoid having the news or radio on that recites horror stories. Hearing this constantly will reinforce negativity in the child, and it will become their reality. In terms of coronavirus and the ongoing anxiety children might face during this time, constant reassurance is crucial to help settle their unease. Children only really live in the moment. Therefore, it is your job to reassure them that this will pass, it won’t be forever, and life will go back to normal. Young children especially need you to be present with them as much as you possibly can. If you can be the certainty in their life, be present with them, and reassure them about the direction of change and that life will continue, you will alleviate many of their fears.
Encourage positive thinking
It’s important to note that children don’t cope well with change because they have such little ability to influence the change in their lives. It’s key to try and find anything good about the change and reinforce this. Try and find the positive as much as possible. For example, if a child feels anxious because of parental divorce, say things like, “It’s so much fun that you can spend more personal time together with Mummy or Daddy.”
It is important to teach children the life tools and techniques they can use to calm their worries and improve their well-being. Magical Minds is a unique meditation and supporting children’s story that taps into a child’s imagination and subconscious mind to ease their anxiety. Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool that has been proven to help boost children’s physical and mental health. This simple yet highly effective approach is a great way to introduce children to the many benefits of meditation and the power of positive thoughts. This free 15-minute video can be watched or listened to by the whole family as part of a relaxing evening routine. It can be viewed here:
Understanding your child’s anxiety and validating this with them can show your child that you have heard them and respect their worries. Try not to use dismissive language such as “That’s nothing to worry about” or “That isn’t a big deal” as it’s not constructive to help them overcome these stressful triggers. Instead, focus on sympathising with the child. By helping to address their fears, you can help them to overcome them. It’s key that you don’t take-over the child’s anxiety and make them avoid certain situations to try to protect them – for example, interfering with them making friends if they are anxious to do so. It’s best to teach them how to overcome things and reassure them that they can face their fears.
Breathing techniques are a great way to lower anxiety immediately. Sit with them, breathe in and out ten times together and then repeat until they feel calmer and can talk about what is worrying them. Be there for them and enable them to tell you how they are feeling, try not to interrupt, and always reassure them with some positive messages. This is a great technique to practice with your child, and they can use this in situations to calm down when you are not present to comfort them.
Be aware of changes.
Changes in your child’s body are also signs to look out for. They might complain more often of minor aches and pains, impacting their ability to participate in their usual activities. These aches and pains can be a sign of increased anxiety and stress and act as inhibitors for the child as they withdraw further from daily interaction. They may need you to interact with them more to take their mind off worrying so they feel more secure. It’s great to plan out daily activities that can help provide some structure and excitement for a child, such as cooking, drawing, or sitting down together to read a story.
Pay attention to the language you use.
The words we use create our beliefs. Be conscious of the way you speak around your children. Children tune in and pick up a lot of the things we say. If you speak negatively around your child and use phrases such as “This is taking too long” or “This is never going to happen,” t reinforces a dismissive mindset when addressing specific situations. This can inhibit the child’s desire to communicate, which can reinforce the idea that what they are feeling or the situation that brings unease is permanent and cannot be fixed.
Busy isn’t always best.
While it may seem great for a child to attend many birthday parties or go to lots of after school clubs, like us, children need to slow down sometimes. We know the best ways to look after ourselves come to three fundamentals: exercise, sleep, and nutrition. If your child is feeling particularly anxious about something, assess the routine you have with them and see if you can make small changes that focus on their basic health needs. This could mean skipping a certain event so they can have down-time to themselves or simply ensuring they are getting enough sleep and are eating well.
Look for professional help if needed.
If you feel your child might need some extra support when it comes to managing anxiety, Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT)® is there to assist in dissecting why your child may feel the way they do and creating rapid solutions that solve these issues. RTT® challenges and replaces the old, out-dated belief systems and negative patterns of behaviour. Using the subconscious power, new, life-affirming, positive beliefs are formed, and healing begins.
Mum and/or dad knows best.
I would remind parents that they know their child better than anyone, so trust your gut instinct and pay close attention to any changes in their behaviour, no matter how subtle. Difficulty sleeping and changes in sleeping patterns are key indicators of signs of stress. Taking a long time to fall asleep or even sleeping more and taking frequent naps can be indicators of heightened anxiety and worry. This anxiety can also present itself as difficulty concentrating. They may struggle to sit through their favourite T.V shows or take a longer time to complete schoolwork. While it is natural for a child to have an inability to focus when there are many changes in the world around them, pay attention to the length of time this occurs. It is essential to teach our children the life tools and techniques they can use to calm their worries and improve wellbeing.
Article by Marisa Peer
Globally-renowned therapist Marisa Peer is a bestselling author, motivational speaker, and pioneering hypnotherapy trainer. Marisa is passionate about children’s mental health and wellbeing, beginning her therapy training in child psychology. For more details, visit www.marisapeer.com