Anxious Kids and the Coronavirus

Anxiety is a big emotion for kids and adults alike. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnosis in the US for those age 18 and older (source). If adults have such a difficult time navigating their anxiety, imagine how anxiety can feel to a child. Our kids don’t always have the words to articulate their internal struggles with anxious thoughts and panic.

When major events like a natural disaster, a school shooting or the Coronavirus pandemic that dominates the current news cycle happen, our kids that already struggle with anxiety can begin to feel overwhelmed with fear.

As parents, our primary job in situations like this is to educate ourselves, reassure our children and take preventative measures to protect their physical and mental health.

I asked author and pediatrician, Dr. Peter Jung, what parents need to know about COVID-19 and here is what he had to say:

Thus far no children under 10 years of age have died from COVID-19 to date and, for unclear reasons, few children are developing severe symptoms. Children are still at similar risk as the rest of the population in terms of becoming infected; so it is imperative to consider them as vectors of the virus, especially since they are less symptomatic and thus more ambulatory, and less prone to prudent hygiene habits.

You can find more information from Dr Jung at his website.

Armed with that information, how can we help our anxious kids during this time?

  • Relax. While it is important to be informed and vigilant, stress actually compromises the immune system (source). Our kids take their emotional cues from us. If we are calm and collected about the situation, they will find their peace in us and our response. Model using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga stretches and other mindfulness exercises. It will help both of you regulate in this stressful time.
  • Reassure. Provide your child with reassurance that they are safe, that you are monitoring the situation as the adult and that grown-ups have things under control. Remember that when dealing with children from hard places, they aren’t used to being able to depend on the adults in their lives for comfort and for survival. Reassurance is a powerful way to meet their needs when anxiety rears its head. When you are providing reassurance, resist the urge to dismiss their fears. Instead, acknowledge them “I understand this can be scary” and then provide reassurance “but Mommy and Daddy are here to keep you safe”. When we dismiss their feelings, our reassurance feels disingenuous to them.
  • Restrict. Kids of most ages don’t need to be watching the news, whether on TV or on their smart device. Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage and instead, engage them in age appropriate activities that will provide a distraction from an issue that they are too young to be concerned with. This is a good thing for adults to do as well. Pick one or two reputable sources of information and check in once or twice a day to get updates. Constant streaming of the media coverage surrounding COVID-19 is enough to make anyone stressed out.
  • Routine. Provide a routine for children who are off of school for prolonged periods of time due to COVID-19. Structure provides a feeling of safety to children of all ages. Make self-care for all family members part of this routine and provide as many opportunities for connection and co-regulation as possible.

Our kids from hard places are susceptible to stress from all manner of situations. Let’s try our best to make this time in our homes and families a source of positive memories and feelings for the years to come.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar