2020 blew in and swept us all off our feet.
It’s been a rollercoaster experience as we all watched the news from afar at the start of the year, then found ourselves living a new and unfamiliar life when lockdown started at the end of March.
As restrictions have lifted, we are far from being ‘back to normal’ but are adapting to the changes that include compulsory mask-wearing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing.
As adults, we have all felt the impact in some way, but the true heroes are our children. Their familiar experiences and routines have changed so dramatically but they carry on with resilience, humour and play.
Despite the brave face, your child may be feeling anxious about the changes. It’s our job as parents to recognise this and be responsive to their needs.
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
Like adults, children don’t always tell you how they feel. Parents have to play the role of detective to work out what may be going on. Generally, any regressions or significant changes you notice in behaviour are worth looking in to. Here are some of the signs to be aware of:
- Clinginess: Across the world, parents are reporting more cling behaviours. We are our children’s safe place so it makes sense that they would want us closer in uncertain times.
- Regressions: Bedwetting, wanting to be treated like a baby, are very common. Children want to return to a time when they felt more secure.
- Sleep Disturbances: These may show up as a new reluctance to go to bed, wanting to sleep with parents or nightmares.
- Restlessness and agitation: Anxiety makes it hard to focus or keep still, so you may find yourself getting frustrated with an increasingly distracted child who struggles to complete tasks.
- Outbursts or tantrums: If you are faced with meltdowns over small things or your child suddenly seems highly strung, it may be because they are dealing with difficult emotions or struggling to talk about their anxious feelings.
- Somatic symptoms: Headaches, tummy aches or feeling unwell without any obvious physical signs can be a child’s way of expressing how they feel inside.
How To Support Your Anxious Child
Age-appropriate communication is important. Children will have questions about the information they see and hear and can feel more anxious if their concerns are not addressed.
It’s important to explain what is going on in clear and simple terms without creating a reason to be fearful. Check-in regularly and ask how they are feeling. My favourite question is ‘What was the best bit of your day and what was the worst bit?’ This creates space for more than an ‘I’m fine’ answer.
Books can be a great way to address difficult conversations and topics. Ask friends, check out the REWA Community Library or visit Exclusive Books for a story that may reflect what your child is going through.
We found ‘Ruby’s Worry’ recently in Gabs and it’s a lovely talking point for families.
We all need a space to retreat to. Somewhere safe, calm and comforting. In a busy house, this doesn’t always feel practical but you can make a cosy corner up somewhere for your child to visit when they need to.
A soft rug or blanket, cushions and maybe a box of their favourite toys or books. Encourage your child to use this space when they feel anxious or overwhelmed.
We all have times where we forget to breathe! My favourite technique for young children is Bubble Breathing. You take a deep breath and slowly blow out as long as they can like you are trying to blow a huge bubble.
I ask my children to hold their hands like a bubble wand. It’s a simple technique. But once your children are familiar with it you can help them calm down or focus by asking them to do their bubble breathing.
We all know that we need to move our bodies to stay healthy. With most sports and recreational activities cancelled, our children don’t have the same opportunities to exercise.
Physical activity is known to reduce anxiety so it’s important to find alternative exercises this term. It could be setting up games in the garden, trying out a new class that is available locally or following free YouTube videos. It’s nice weather to walk as a family outside when you can.
Connection Through Play
Children have an instinct to play because this is how they make sense of their world.
You may have seen new themes emerging in play such as being sick or wearing masks. This is completely normal.
When children explore an idea through play, they feel more confident and less anxious about it. You can also support anxious symptoms through playful interactions.
Depending on their needs, you can provide all the input of a tight hug by playing ‘sausage roll’ where you roll them up in a big blanket. This is a favourite in our house and the sensory input has a calming effect.
When it comes to parenting you need to celebrate your achievements! Change isn’t easy and there are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions.
Always seek professional advice if you are worried about your child’s behaviour or mental health. You can contact www.sensobaby.co.bw to find out more, or download a free e-book on Child Wellbeing from the website.