The world changed drastically between 2019 and 2020. With the spread of COVID-19 and its ongoing effects on the economy, schools and social interactions it’s easy to see why everyone is feeling more “on edge” these days. Daily life has been altered considerably and for kids, with change often comes fear. You want to do your best for them. You’re scared too but you don’t want them to have to feel the same way. So how can you best support them through this time?
Put your oxygen mask on first
Remember (back when you could go on holiday), the spiel the flight attendants used to give about “in the case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first”? This is because if you are unconscious from lack of oxygen, you’re no help to your child. Whereas, if you put your mask on, you can help your child (even if they are unconscious).
The same goes for coping with the stress of COVID-19. If you don’t look after yourself first, then you won’t have anything left to look after your children. So the first step in looking after your kids during this time, is looking after yourself. It’s okay to be concerned, but if you notice your worry is constantly preoccupying your life, perhaps you need to look into some anxiety management strategies for yourself before trying to implement anything new for your kids. Talk to a friend, schedule a relaxing activity or even book in some professional help if you feel you need some further support.
Talk to them
This seems so obvious, but is often something we as parents don’t do too well. Sometimes, when there is something bad or scary in life, we try to shelter our kids from it. In an effort to do this, we avoid talking about it. Unfortunately, what this does is forces your kids (because little people are very inquisitive) to try and get the information elsewhere. This potentially opens them up to receiving incorrect and sensationalized information that could encourage even more fear.
Start by simply asking them what they know about the situation and then follow their lead from there. If they ask any questions, try and answer them honestly but age appropriately. This is a great opportunity to correct any incorrect information they have and set them straight. If you don’t know the answer to a question, take the opportunity to research it together. By doing so shows them you are interested, willing to listen to their concerns and offer comfort and guidance. They might want to ask lots of questions or they might not be interested at all, both outcomes are okay.
If they express any fear or anxiety, reassure them that feeling that way is normal in a situation like this. Many of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime and the world has changed significantly in such a short period of time. It’s only normal to feel overwhelmed and a little scared. It’s important though that they know you are there to support them and they try not to let their anxiety stop them doing anything they should normally be able to do.
Keep a routine
Children are creatures of habit and always feel most secure when things are predictable. It makes sense then that lately with the changes to schooling, play dates and so many other things that they’d be feeling “out of sorts”. Although it can be difficult, as much as possible try and keep a structure to the day. This means getting up and having breakfast at the same time, having a few set activities during the day such as lunch at a certain time, afternoon play time or homework time and something to separate the day from the night. Most importantly, try and keep the same sleep schedules as the last thing you want on top of all this stress is to change your children’s sleep cycles!
With so many restrictions, it can be difficult to find ways to keep in touch, stay entertained (without endless hours in front of a screen) as well as exercise. Try and be creative with your activities with your kids. There is a multitude of amazing information right at your fingertips on the internet to help with this. Or you might even have some suggestions from when you were a child. Perhaps do a dance concert in the living room for exercise, or hopscotch on the driveway. Maybe you could go completely old school and set your child up with a pen pal or even help them make a treasure hunt for their neighbourhood friend to find on their next walk. There are so many opportunities for fun, and the more fun we can help our kids have, the less anxious they will be. Check out some great local ideas here!
Remind yourself that it’s okay
As parents, we hold ourselves to a certain standard. We try not to give our kids too much screen time, we try to feed them healthy meals, make sure they do their homework, have friends, are well behaved and get their exercise in each day. As much as it will be helpful to keep routines in place and try to adhere to our usual standards, this just isn’t realistic. Frankly, it is putting far too much pressure on yourself to keep chugging along as usual when things are anything but usual. Setting these standards only places you and your children up for failure because even in a “normal” world, maintaining this level of perfection is near impossible. Instead, try and take a “good enough” approach. Forgive yourself for letting some things slide, because at the end of the day it will work out. Right now, all your kids need to know is that you love them and everything will work out and feel “normal” again eventually. If you are struggling with connecting with your children around COVID 19- connect with one of our Therapist’s today!