It has been 12 anxiety-filled weeks since all of our lives were impacted by a huge shift – schools were shut down, businesses were closed, sports events were cancelled, vacations were disrupted, and we were told to stay home!
A sense of panic settled into the atmosphere. None of us, adults or children, could predict the outcome. Hints of anxiety set in our hearts and souls.
As adults we’ve tried our best to manage our own anxiety about COVID-19, about finances, about our loved one’s safety. We’ve managed the stress of pivoting our work to home, of navigating new technology, of directing our children’s school lessons – all the while holding our emotions and our children’s emotions in check.
Is this even a reasonable expectation for us, as parents? Is there something that I can do to help support my child during this time?
I had the opportunity to interview Michelle Hogeterp, a Registered Psychotherapist, from Ottawa Centre for Attachment and Trauma Therapy. She helped shed some light on this subject, particularly as it relates to supporting our children and grandchildren.
I’ve outlined a few take-aways here:
The best thing we can do for our children during this time, is to deal with our own anxiety.
As a generation of adults, we have not been through this experience before and we ourselves, need to sort out our own feelings.
We are overwhelmed by the impact of this disease throughout the world, worried about our own loved ones, saddened by the restrictions placed on us. We need to find things that we can control, to dig deep to find security, in order to bring peace to our souls.
Regulate the amount of news we follow, and the discussions surrounding it.
The news can help our brains sort out the urgency of the matter, but it can also set us into a tailspin of fight or flight. Our children can sense our uneasiness. The discussions on social media can set our own hearts in a flutter and set the tone of the day or evening. It is important for us to find a balance.
Communication is a key aspect for helping our children navigate this new normal.
It is important to ask your child what they know about the virus. Ask them about why we are physically distancing, about why we haven’t been spending time with their grandparents. It is often shocking to find out what is really going on in their minds. They take in information through their own lens.
Play is one way that we can help our children manage their anxious thoughts.
Through play we can help our children see that although the circumstances of life have changed, their support system is strong and secure.
- Play games, do puzzles
- Enjoy nature – listen to the birds, inspect the insects, sit by the stream
- Create new family memories
Lawrence Cohen, in his book, The Opposite of Worry, talks about a playful approach to childhood anxiety.
“Connection helps children feel secure, confident, and happy.”
And finally, give yourself permission to just be tired, or sad, or angry, or to just BE.