Lots of feelings of anxiety and loss… by Jenni Cole
Anxiety in children is a very real fear for them – and it all centres around emotion.
Anxiety in children is a very real fear for them – and it all centres around emotion. The younger the child, the less able they are to understand locus of control – in other words what is happening to them outside of their control and what is within their control.
One of the best ways to help children is to model the behaviour, the thoughts and the coping skills. Start off by making sure that you are calm yourself. Voice the concerns by naming the emotion. Eg ‘It’s really worrying not knowing what is happening out there in the world at the moment’ or ‘It’s scary not being able to see people and do normal things’ or ‘It makes me feel different and frightened…’ Then ask them how they are feeling. If a child feels that what they are feeling is shared with others, it reduces their anxiety because it normalises their feelings.
You would then continue the modelling by moving from naming the fears and anxieties to a place where you start to find a ‘new normal’ for now – keeping the language around…’we can’t do this YET, but we can do this’… or ‘the time we can’t do this WILL PASS, so for now we need to change things a bit and do it this way’.
This is closely linked to the feelings of loss. There are many students who have had to deal with an abrupt and completely altered end to their schooling careers or end of year exams. Keep a close eye on University students too as they are a high risk group for mental health concerns. All students will be feeling degrees of loss. For some, they may still be reeling from shock, denial and anger and others could already be feeling down with a very low mood. There will also be some who have moved into acceptance of the situation.
Wherever your children are in the cycle, the most important thing as a parent is to validate their feelings and listen to them. Don’t try and fix things or minimise the impact by saying ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘don’t worry you can always redo your exams’ or ‘at least you’re not ill’. This won’t help them. You need to empathise and acknowledge how they’re feeling but then work with them to move them through the cycle so they don’t get stuck.
It may be that you need to get on the phone to other parents and find out how they are coping with their children; it may be you need to give a teenager space and an outlet for their anger (think drums or a boxing bag). You may need to call the school and speak to someone in the pastoral team. Keep a close eye on their eating, sleep and hygiene. If you notice changes this could be an indication that they are getting depressed and may need additional help.
Try to help them find something positive in their day, their week and the current situation. Keep connecting with them and find value in the close proximity and time you have together – it truly is unique.
If you’re worried, remember you can always call the Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/how...