Managing anxiety through a pandemic is hard for adults; the uncertainty, the fear, the economic fallout, the lack of human contact and particularly with those we love but can’t see are all creating a lot of stress in our lives. So how do we help a child with anxiety when we are struggling too?
Thumbsie® has put together a list of ten top tips for ways to manage anxiety in children.
- Talking – about feelings is really important to help children with anxiety. Encouraging children to express their feelings allows them to feel heard and validated. You don’t need to have all the answers but encourage conversations which include providing age-appropriate information about what is going on, reassuring them and asking how they are feeling.
- Routine and Structure – is recommended making sure that children have the security of routine with some flexibility added in. Variety between the week days and the weekends is important with meals and activities ready to stave off hunger or boredom.
- Exercise – although the restrictions are baffling at times, it is always possible to take your child out on their bike or for a walk. Fresh air and the positive mental well-being gains from exercise are key to anxiety management.
- Balanced Diet – many of us are feeling the effects of lockdown on our waistlines, however it is important to keep a healthy diet in place for children to keep energy levels stable and not spike anxiety rushes.
- A Good Night’s Sleep – Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important that your child gets enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed and creating a restful environment.
- Keep in touch with friends and family – the restrictions we live with are not making this easy, but helping your child to keep in touch with those they love and miss, is vital to help with anxiety. This may mean more screen time than usual, but it’s really important that they stay connected.
- Lower expectations – children and parents are being asked to work super hard to maintain school work which has put a lot of pressure on everyone. Give yourself and your child a break when it gets too much, allowing them to focus on what they need now and prioritise their mental well being.
- Keeping News Briefings to a minimum – is another way of managing anxiety. It is important to be informed, but the endless news cycle can confuse and upset children.
- Let them have space – although lockdown has been an opportunity to have some great family time, children also need space on their own. Being alone for short periods may be exactly what your child needs to help with their own anxiety if they are feeling overwhelmed or under pressure.
- Get help – if you are not coping with lockdown or your child needs more help than you can offer, then ask for help from a GP or helpline. The Young Minds website has useful tips on what to do if you need extra support, or look for your local NHS CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) website on how to help with anxiety.