Kid’s Anxiety About COVID-19: 10 Mistakes
Your kid’s anxiety about COVID-19 comes with a lot of landmines. In this article, you will find 10 quick tips to navigate the choppy waters of anxiety. Let’s get started!
1. Do not be afraid to discuss your kid’s anxiety about COVID-19 a.k.a. Coronavirus
To ignore this problem is to persist in denial. Your children are suffering in some way simply by a change in the environment. And they may not even be aware of the effects!
If we act as if nothing is different, we dismiss our own AND our children’s emotions. Trust me, ignoring our emotions will have negative consequences. To not feel in the face of danger is a mental illness, so be not afraid to bring up the obvious.
2. Do not dismiss their emotions
When our children begin to share their emotions, it would be a mistake to dismiss them – no matter how silly the emotion may seem. For example, your child may state that they are sad that they don’t get to see their friends or that they are bored and anxiously looking for something to do. These may seem like small problems in the grand scheme, but they ARE problems none the less. These are the REAL experiences of your children.
So, acknowledge and affirm their experience. This will provide a sense of connection and help your child regulate their emotions. It is not until you express empathy that you have the space to put their issue in the proper and larger context. You might say, give them perspective.
Do not feel an obligation to make your kids “happy.” Our first obligation is to be in a relationship with our children. We are mom or dad first, then problem-solver.
3. Do not try to “fix” their negative feelings and problems
Avoid the urge to jump into savior mode. Your kids have one…and it’s not you. ? Wait for them to ask you for help specifically. Give them a chance to solve the problem on their own. And if you are in doubt about their expectations of you, ask them to clarify if they want you to fix it or to just hear them out.
4. Do not move on too quickly
When we face difficult emotions and situations, we tend to avoid them. It is no exception with our kids, especially when we are facing the same stressor and may not be handling it so well. Avoid the urge to flee or to change the subject.
If you find yourself having difficulty staying present because of your own experience of stress or your mind being somewhere else, state your need for space out loud, but give your child an expectation for when you will return to discuss the issue. Will you be gone for 20 minutes or 5 minutes?
5. Do not overshare (follow your youth’s lead, answer questions as they arise)
Just like you can be overwhelmed, so can your kids. So be aware of the opposite end of the spectrum. Watch out for lecturing on the current events. Give your kids ongoing opportunities to ask questions about Coronavirus or your experiences of Coronavirus.
Pay attention to how your child is responding to the information. If their eyes are glazing over or they seem to be staring blankly, then it is wise to pause the conversation and allow your kid to reset. Also, if you observe fidgeting or darting wide eyes, your child may be overwhelmed and needs reassurance.
6. Do not make it about you
Like informational lectures, ranting about your experience can also do damage. Remember that you are the parent and oversharing your experience makes your child responsible for your emotions. Your child should never feel responsible for regulating your emotions.
If you are struggling, rely on your significant other, your friends, or maybe a therapist to meet your emotional needs. That is not to say that you can’t share your experience, you just want to be mindful of overload by sharing with high intensity or high frequency.
7. Do not try to be something that you are not (it is okay to admit your struggles)
You do not have to fake stoicism or act like you are a statue either! If you tend to act in specific ways with your child and you dramatically change your way of being, you will scare your children! ? They will say, “Who are you and what have you done with my mom/dad?”
After reviewing these tips, take a breath and relax. The goal is not to be a “perfect” parent, but to be a “good enough” parent. We want to stretch into a healthier way of responding, not bend so that we are no longer recognizable.
8. Do not use language that might blame others and lead to stigma
Conspiracy theories abound, but they can also find their way into your home. Perhaps you are angry with the way a politician, a teacher, a pastor, or your spouse has responded during Coronavirus. It is fine to be angry, but we need to shield our children from blaming and stigmatizing others.
While blaming others may help us to feel better momentarily, it leads toward resentment and division. We want our children to view others as people of value, even if those people are flawed. Instead, we can view these people as aids in helping us further recognize the truth and our identity and relationship with the truth.
9. Do not try to be a scientist or make scientific claims
Unless you are a scientist, you do not need to make scientific claims. Instead, acknowledge that we are being given information that is occasionally conflicted. Inform your children that scientific information is organic and grows as our understanding and observation of our experience changes.
Instead of focusing on the facts, help your kids learn how you determine what sources of information are trustworthy. Educate your children on the process of identifying proper authorities and integrating and testing new information as it is released.
10. Do not try to be a therapist or think that you are solely responsible for the kid’s anxiety about COVID-19
While you are responsible for your child’s emotional needs, that does not mean you have to be the expert when it comes to the tough stuff. That’s why we’re here to help! ? And while you are responsible for your kid’s needs, you are not the only one responsible. It is not as if their success or failure in life is solely dependent on you!
So rely on your trusted friends, coworkers, family, God, and occasionally a therapist. Just be a “good enough” parent and leave the rest to us. If you think you or your child may be having an especially difficult time managing the stress, give us a call and we will be happy to give you a free 15-minute consultation to point you in the right direction for your family. You may also find our list of 10 ways to help your child cope with anxiety helpful. Check out our Facebook page to follow our weekly live streams.
Ethan D. Bennett | Owensboro Counselor
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