Parenting in a Pandemic: How to help kids manage anxiety

Parenting in a Pandemic: How to help kids manage anxiety Cover Image

The COVID 19 pandemic has emerged as a major challenge for parents who are trying their best to help their children adapt to the new normal. Kids have been cooped up at home without any of their regular interactions and stimuli causing anxiety and uncertainty. This article by Sonia Jain will give you an insight on how you can help your kids manage their anxiety during a pandemic. 

Times have changed and all of us are still getting used to the ‘NEW NORMAL’. With continued school closures, work from home protocols and social distancing norms have turned homes into playgrounds and classrooms and parents into teachers and playmates. This has affected all of us, but especially children who have a lot of energy, and with little to no interaction with their friends or outdoor activities many tend to become edgy. The challenge to keep children engaged, healthy and safe has been on the top priority for almost all parents. So, the question is, how can we as parents make the best of the situation for our children?

Here are some ways by which parents can relieve the anxiety in children:

1. It’s Okay NOT to Have a Set Schedule

pandemic - schedules

Image credit: Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

This is an unprecedented period in our lifetime, and parents should remember to have grace with themselves and their children. Being suddenly thrust into a situation where entire families are home together indefinitely with no planning is hard enough; and working from home, supervising schoolwork, and taking care of younger children is incredibly difficult.

Many parents are asking about scheduling schoolwork and are interested in how homeschoolers schedule their days. The truth is that schedules vary from family to family, and the order in which the work is done is less important than the environment and method of implementation. The optimal homeschool schedule is the one that keeps an individual child—with his or her unique personality and needs—engaged. Parents, you will have the most success when you work with your children to implement a schedule that works for their unique situation. Older students and those who already demonstrate good time management skills may be fine on their own.

For younger students or those who need more motivation, the following tips may help:

  1. Plan work for short snippets of time; younger the child, the shorter the time period should be.
  2. If everyone enjoys sleeping in and working in PJs, take advantage of the novelty and let them.
  3. Change locations in the house or even go outdoors to avoid boredom. Social distancing at this time does not prevent taking nature walks or visiting parks that are unpopulated. Fresh air and a change of environment are helpful during periods of isolation.
  4. Include physical activity between work and—if it helps a student—while working.
  5. Some students work best in silence while others prefer to listen to music. Headphones can help keep everyone happy.
  6. Incorporate art for creative expression.
  7. Parents or older siblings can teach or read to kids while their hands are busy or their bodies are moving.
  8. Take advantage of the vast number of online resources available, including the many live streams , YouTube channels, virtual tours, and websites that are available specifically for this period of social distancing. Many profit-based learning companies are offering their resources for free during this time.
  9. Keep in mind that it’s okay if things slip through the cracks or if your kids get too much screen time. Everyone will adjust to this new normal at a different rate, and keeping expectations realistic will help prevent feelings of frustration and failure.

2. Give Kids Some Control to Ease the Stress

Family and child goals in this Pandemic

Image credit: Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

One thing that I see a lot of parents do when they are suddenly homeschooling is to over-schedule. Especially if they are also working from home, over-scheduling leads to conflict and unnecessary stress. I’ve found that when you try to mimic the school environment at home, children are very resistant to learning. So what we do is write out our goals for the day, and then I let the kids pick what order they want to do things in (this also helps with reluctant learners!).

We also usually just do one subject at a time, and then have an active break. And of course, we also do a lot of hands-on science experiments! You can fit in a lot of learning with a science experiments by learning about vocabulary, exploring the math aspect, finding out the history of that particular science experiment, and so on.

3. Focus on What’s Important: Feelings, Family & Fun

Family fun in this Pandemic

Image credit: Photo by Maxime Bhm on Unsplash

During a time of crisis management, think of the needs of your child on a holistic level. Children of all ages have a wide variety of needs right now beyond just education. They have physical needs beyond food and safety. They need to run, play, dance, and move their growing muscles. They need to work the small muscles of their hands, through art projects and crafts. In fact, children have spiritual needs as well, as they struggle to make sense of this quickly changing world. One way to address this is to have talks about deep things. They have emotional needs as they face the information overload and overwhelming news cycle. Limit social media and turn off the TV when children are around. For teens, limit the news to just the evening news or newspaper, so they don’t become stressed. Since they also have intellectual and occupational needs as they get older, you can focus on “adulting” skills, and doing chores together. And finally, they have socialization needs, as we learn how to live together in harmony at home.

4. Connection over Motivation

Family bonding in this Pandemic

Image credit: Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

The first piece of advice I would give to any parent thrown into this strange new world we’re all facing is to relax. Your biggest priority right now should be to help your kiddos feel safe, seen, heard, and loved. If it’s tough to get through all the stuff teachers have sent home in their attempt to serve your kids a little bit of normal, then do as much as you can, then leave it and play a game, go for a walk, bake a treat, or snuggle up together and read a good book.

When I work with parents, I encourage them to look beneath the surface, and this is something that I hope you all can do as well. Talk to your kids about how they’re taking this change. What are they feeling? How are they handling it? What do they miss most? Remember, when we worry more about motivating kids during traumatic times than connecting with them, we add to the trauma. So, work together, work with each other and turn the situation around to your favour and well being.

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