September is typically an exciting month for many families with the start of the new school year. However, with the recent rise in Covid-19 cases and the new Delta variant families are facing another back to school year impacted by the pandemic. The normal excitement of the back to school season has been once again overshadowed with anxiety about what this year will bring. Are there ways to ease children’s anxiety during the Covid-19 Pandemic and reduce stress? How can parents provide their children with the proper emotional support & guidance?
It is normal to have some anxiety. Children who are typically easy going may begin to appear clingier and more nervous than usual during transition periods. Parents may also feel more anxious and worried. Children pick up on our emotions; so remember to take deep breaths to help avoid exasperating their anxiety. Great news is that most children’s worries an anxious behaviors are transient.
10 Ways to Ease Children’s Anxiety About Covid-19
- Be informed and read the school’s policies. Make sure your child knows what to expect. For example, tell her that she will have her temperature taken every morning. If kids know going in that they will have a temperature check at the door and need to wear a mask in the classroom, they’ll walk in feeling more confident and ready to face the new normal.
- Buy Fun Masks! Most children, by now, are used to mask-wearing and using hand sanitizer during the Covid-19 pandemic. Consider purchasing a few fun and colorful masks and hand sanitizer keychains to make it more fun.
- Explain how germs spread in an age appropriate manner, so that your child can better understand the reasons for social distancing. Discuss the spread of airborne illness when talking, shouting, singing, sneezing, etc. If it’s helpful watch the cartoon below to help explain the spread of germs and ease children’s anxiety as they see how to stay clean and still have fun at school. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the CDC’s Covid-19 suggestion of 3 feet social distance and masking.
- “Name it to tame it,” is a phrase coined by author and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel. Dr. Dan Siegel states that, “When you experience significant internal tension and anxiety, you can reduce stress by up to 50% by simply noticing and naming your state. Noticing and naming our emotions helps create some distance between the emotion and the intense feelings that accompany it.” By putting this simple tool to work, your emotions can inform you and not overwhelm you.
- Normalize the environment and foster your child with a sense of resilience. Younger kids learn from watching the behaviors of people around them. Even if you are vaccinated, it may help for your child to see you wear a mask in a store along side them. The more kids are prepared the less anxiety they will feel.
- Read relatable picture books. Children appreciate seeing characters in books that they can empathize and connect with. Try reading books about children wearing masks, such as Ella and Her Mask! Ella doesn’t like all the changes of the pandemic and especially wearing her mask, but she learns about doing her part to help end the pandemic. Another great book to ease children’s anxiety is A Unique Start From 6 Feet Apart, which discusses the changes at school due to the pandemic. For younger kids try reading Heroes Wear Masks and follow Elmo at preschool with a mask.
- Reinstate routines. Start practicing your morning routine. Have your kid put on school clothes and have breakfast as soon as waking up; drive by the school drop off area. You can also, spend some time in the school playground over the summer and meet other kids.
- Down time is important. Don’t take on additional family responsibilities or commitments. Kids need to decompress. They may feel overwhelmed if they are signed up for too many extracurriculars as well as starting back at school.
- Listen and validate your child’s concerns rather than dismissing them. For example a child is anxious about starting preschool. Listen and respond with empathy, “I know starting school can seem a little scary. I felt the same way when I was a little girl. Sometimes, I still feel scared when starting something new. When I feel like that, I think of who and what I will know in the new place.” A dismissive response would be, “Don’t worry; you’ll be fine!”
- Initiate a family mindfulness practice to do together. Incorporating simple kids yoga or meditation techniques is a win/win for everyone in the family. It takes 21-28 days to create a habit; so stay consistent.
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