Due to the COVID - 19 pandemic, adults all over the world are experiencing a stressful time. But with schools and colleges being canceled and due to the endless lockdown period, the situation is getting worse for kids. They are struggling to become happy, as they’re also experiencing the stress just as their parents do.
Dr Elke Van Hoof, Prof of Health Psychology, University of Brussels, expressed the lockdown lifestyle as “the largest psychological experiment ever that will result in a secondary pandemic of stress and anxiety in the latter half of 2020.”
Many families are facing major changes in their day-to-day lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kids are also going through this situation and their daily routines are affected.
Kids of any age can experience anxiety. The effects of the outbreak are making significant changes in their lives and causing fear and anxiety.
Being a parent you might identify stress and anxiety in your kids through different signs. From toddlers to teens, all of them have different causes and symptoms of anxiety and stress. You might notice that your kids are avoiding family dinner time, or seeking more attention from a particular family member. Kids may become irritated by silly things, they may always be in a bad mood, or lose interest in food or playing. Sometimes they may even experience sleep sickness, which is very bad for their physical and mental health.
As per the age group, kids may show some significant symptoms of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic:
However, there are ways parents may provide support to their kids against the stress and anxiety about COVID-19. Here are some guidelines to follow:
How to help kids with stress and anxiety due to COVID-19 outbreak
1. Create a routine
One of the old school methods to restore the normal life in your kids and to teach them how to adjust to the changing environment is to create a daily routine for them. Routines will help your kids to adapt to this changing environment and make them feel secure. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, many families are experiencing instability, so it's important to build a new normal routine for your kids.
Discuss with your kids and create a new daily schedule. A solid routine may motivate them to follow regular sleep timing, maintain a healthy diet, attend homeschooling sessions, and daily workout sessions. These habits are essential not only for kids but also for their parents. You may take help from some trusted resources, such as your kids' school, and create a daily work schedule.
You may create a schedule chart or to-do list and pin it in your kids’ room. This will make it easier for your kids to follow and track progress daily.
2. Talk to your kids frequently
You need to know what they know about the pandemic. Kids normally collect little pieces of information around them. Ask them what they know about the coronavirus or what they want to know about it. This way you can make them comfortable to talk about the coronavirus and gradually reduce the fear in their mind that only the adults can talk about it.
You need to share information about how to keep safe and secure using easy language. Always answer your kids briefly and truthfully, don’t provide too many details. Focus on providing messages that may help your kids feel safe. Ask your kids to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other government or state websites. This will help your kids to understand that you are a reliable source of information.
Listen to your kids patiently when they talk about their fears. Let them know that it’s OK to become sacred in such a situation. But, you should also motivate them by telling them that you are there for them. That’s how you may build trust and hope in your kids.
Due to stress and anxiety, they may feel helpless and confused. So, you must encourage them and remind them what they can do in this grave situation. Teach them ways to stay safe and healthy through social distancing and maintaining personal hygiene.
3. Always encourage positive behavior
Being a parent you should show good coping skills to fight stress and anxiety, to your kids. This way you may easily grow confidence in your kids that they are safe. Practically, your kids will respond to any situation exactly the way you will respond.
Kids may make mistakes. If your kid somehow did not wash hands, do not use tissues while sneezing, or wants to get out during the lockdown, do not get angry. You should remind them gently that this is a serious situation and he/she must follow a few rules to survive.
You also have to limit your own media consumption during this time. Frequent exposure to news and social media feeds may increase your anxiety as well as your kids’.
So, it’s wise to take breaks from the TV, your smartphone, or PC and spend some quality time with your kids.
You must share positive messages through your stories to your kids or share what you appreciate about them. If you can encourage positive conversation, stress and anxiety will be gone without notice.
4. Teach them self-care
Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician and president of the Orange County chapter of AAP, has expressed her concerns about self-care - “It’s more important than ever for parents to take care of themselves first. Unless parents are themselves well nourished, well-rested and maintaining healthy relationships, they won’t be able to provide the care or environment their kids need right now.”
Your kids will follow your health and self-care practices if you follow these:
Wash your hands often, your kids will do the same.
Always wear clean clothes and wash clothes daily.
Maintain a balanced diet (discuss with kids about buying the right groceries).
Exercise (daily about 30 mins is necessary).
Get enough sleep (8 -10 hours a day).
Spend quality time with family. Watch movies, play indoor games, help in cooking, etc
Get help from older siblings if you have a newborn baby at home. Teach your kids how to handle the bay.
Drink plenty of water daily. Green veggies and fresh fruits are quite necessary. Some kids don’t like them, but you should motivate them to eat, do not scare them.
Ask kids to listen to music with you. Music is a good therapy that may heal severe mental issues like stress, depression, or anxiety.
Teach your kids yoga and meditation. This way both you and your kids’ physical health and mental health will be in good shape.
5. Consult a professional if required
It's quite normal and understandable that adults, as well as kids, may be exposed to the dangers of stress and anxiety during this pandemic.
However, if your strategies to help your kids do not work as you have expected, and their stress and anxiety levels are growing day by day, then you must seek help from a mental health professional.
Your kids may fail to complete daily tasks and your orders, or avoid activities that they like very much, or suffer from insomnia which may drain their energy and appetite. These signs are indicating that their stress and anxiety levels are getting out of their hands. So, you should call a mental health professional in your neighborhood, fix an appointment (probably via video chat), and provide support to your kids.
Have you ever thought of how much your mental illness may affect your kids? No? Then you should.
If you are suffering from any type of mental health illness, then you must keep in touch with your doctor, take prescribed medications on time, and note down your symptoms. If you don't take care of your mental health, you might become the reason for your kids' deteriorated mental health.
6. Stay connected with your close ones
Due to the lockdown, people, especially kids, have become lonely more than anyone else. From toddlers to teens, all of them used to get in touch with their friends and other close relatives before the outbreak. But due to the pandemic, they can’t meet in person, as social distancing is necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
People are being instructed to isolate themselves from others, which is practically a sign of depression. That's why it's necessary to connect with your loved ones to maintain human connection.
You must teach your kids to maintain safe social distance, along with the ways to connect with people they love. By using modern technology such as smartphones, PCs, or laptops, you can make video calls or normal phone calls to family and friends. By using the internet and social media, your kids may share multiple types of documents and files with each other.
Currently, schools have started conducting classes via video group chat. There your kids may meet their friends and teachers.
But make sure your kids should use smartphones, computers, and the internet in a moderate manner. Too much of anything may become an addiction, which is not good for them.