4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anxiety, Depression, & Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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It has been close to a month now since COVID-19 has changed society forever.  More and more people are realizing the seriousness of the pandemic, that it is not going away for the foreseeable future, and have been practicing social distancing as a result.  Initially, people were in a state of denial.  Now, anxiety and sadness has taken over as individuals and families are starting to break down emotionally.  In our last blog, 4 Ways to Manage Your Fear & Anxiety During the Corona Virus Pandemic, we discussed ways to manage anxiety during the pandemic.  In this blog, we are going to focus on 4 ways to manage children during the pandemic.

My wife and I have 4 young girls.  We have a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and two 16 month old twins.  If your family is anything like ours, it is quite challenging managing children during the pandemic, especially with no additional support (ie: grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.).  You need to be able to maintain finances during a time when finances are limited and you need to keep up with your child’s education at home since they are not in school.  You need to do this while managing your fears and worries along with your children’s emotions.  It almost seems impossible to keep your family moving forward during these times.  However, if you take a step back and shift your mindset a bit, you will realize the silver lining of this pandemic.  We will discuss this later in the blog.  For now, here are a few ways you can help manage your children while you are at home during the pandemic.

  1. Maintain structure and keep things predictable even during unstructured times

If your child was at school, their days would be predictable for the most part.  This is because they received a schedule at the beginning of the year and their teachers mapped out expectations early (ie: classroom procedures, behavioral expectations, etc.).  They would get to class, complete a do now, turn in homework from the night before, and then sit quietly for instruction, all without prompting from the teacher.  There would be some sort of group activity followed by a classroom discussion.  Although the group activity does not require a teacher present, children remain on task because they are engaged in the assignment.  For the most part, the flow of the lesson would run smoothly, mainly because the teacher spent time prepping and planning.  Without this prep work and planning, it would be difficult to manage a classroom of children.  This is mainly due to the level of engagement.  In order to keep your children engaged, you may need to get creative and change things up a bit.  This will require daily planning and prep work.  Incorporate time in your day to do this.  Otherwise, it is likely your child will be less engaged and the days will be much less structured.  If you thought your child would sit still for an hour or two and complete their work without getting off task every couple of minutes, you probably realized by now that this is not the case.

2. Send your child outside to play and do not let them come back inside until you say it’s ok!

If you are a parent, you probably remember the times when we were children.  We would come home from school and play outside until dark when our parents called us in for dinner.  We used our imagination, got dirty, built forts, hiked in the woods, and played ball in the street.  Today, you will rarely see children doing this.  They come home from school, quickly do their homework, and then their parents drive them from one activity to the next.  There is no time for imagination or play.  This is one of the silver linings of the pandemic.  Since activities are canceled for a while, your child is now able to take advantage of time and play.  They may be resistant to going outside at first because it is new for them.  However, encourage them to create a game, build a fort, build an obstacle course, and use their imagination!  If you set the expectation that they are not allowed to come back inside until lunch or dinner (depending on the time of the day), they will adjust and start to enjoy that time.  Who knows, maybe when this pandemic ends, children’s play and use of imagination will remain.

3. Spend time and connect with your child.  

There will never be more of an opportunity to spend time and connect with your child than now.  If you have young children, get on the floor and play with them.  They will want to create a game.  Go along with it.  Color with them, create a puppet show, paint your nails, push them on the swings, or create other crafts and projects.  If you have older children, go for a short hike, ride bikes, play kickball, dodgeball or another sport, or do something else outdoors.  If your child is into video, create a stop motion or a movie.  Learn an instrument together.  Exercise together.  Find a way to help the community with your child (create masks for health care workers, donate, or deliver food to people who need it and don’t feel comfortable leaving the house).  Whatever you choose to do to spend time and connect with your child, your relationship will come out stronger when the pandemic ends.  This will also SIGNIFICANTLY help to maintain your child’s behavior as they will feel grounded and secure during these difficult times.

4. Listen & talk to your child about their feelings regarding the pandemic

The other day, my 7 year old daughter told me she feels worried about the pandemic.  She said that she is afraid that she will never get to go back to school again.  She shared that she is worried that her grandparents will die from COVID-19.  Clients who I have spoken to through telehealth the last few weeks have said the same.  Listen to your children and help them process their emotions.  Acknowledge your own fears and worrisome thoughts as well while talking to your child.  For example, it is okay to say, “I am afraid too.”  However, provide comfort and reason as well.  For instance, you may say, “There are a lot of unknown factors right now but as long as we stay home and practice social distancing, we should be safe.”  Remain calm.  Check in with your own emotions and find ways to cope.  Let your child know that you are there to listen and provide reassurance that we are in this together.  Ask your child about ways they can help others during these times.  Although there are a lot of uncertainties, your child will see and remember how you and your family dealt with crisis and the pandemic.  This teaching will be extremely valuable in their future as they will have a better understanding of how to deal with uncertain times and crisis situations.

We hope you and your family stay safe and are well.  If you need any support, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!

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