We have two children, Boy Child, who worries about nothing, and Girl Child, who worries about everything. Much of her anxiety is focussed on separation but despite us being together all the time, she’s finding lockdown tough. Previously, a lot of her anxiety has expressed as tummy aches, now they seem to have been swapped for headaches. While she’s absolutely fine when she’s engaged in an activity, if she’s at a loose end, she becomes withdrawn and complains of headache. Here are some of the ways we’re helping her cope with lockdown, along with some tips from other bloggers.
Find Out What They Know
Children often overhear things when grown ups are talking but don’t understand the context. They then interpret it in ways that are ant always correct. Then they talk to other kids about what they think they heard and we end up with a whole load of misinformation.
The first thing to do is find out what they think is going on. Getting the facts straight stops them worrying about things that aren’t real. Lots of children may have heard that old people are more effected so will be worrying about grandparents. We’ve explained to our children all the things that we’re doing to keep their grandparents safe.
Keep Them Away from the News
We are very careful to make sure we don’t have the news on the radio or TV or let them read anything on social media over our shoulders. While we as adults have the context of understanding the numbers of people who love in this country, for a child to hear that 500 odd people have died today is very frightening.
Make Sure They Know This is Temporary
Girl Child is very sad about being separated from her friends and the teacher she adores. She knows it isn’t for ever (although realistically she may not have the same teacher by the time she goes back) and that helps.
Some family are writing down all the things they want to do after lockdown ends and putting them in a jar. We’ve decided not to do this because we felt that it would contribute to the sense that we are just waiting to for things to change rather than enjoying the new normal but it might work for your child.
Help Them to Express How They Feel
Talk to your child about what they are worried about it. We all know that a problem shared is a problem halved. Reassure them that whatever they are feeling is absolutely fine.
“I think validating their feelings and sharing your own is really important. It’s easy to just want to reassure but also letting them hear that yes it’s unfair, it’s OK to feel angry and you feel scared too helps them.” Emma from Free From Farm House
If they aren’t keen on talking, see if they will communicate in other ways. You could ask the to paint a picture of how they are feeling or encouraging some small world play where the dolls can express their feelings.
“My boy has ASD and anxiety – we found that providing lots of exercise opportunity and especially kids yoga (like Cosmic Kids) really help him. Also getting them “playing it out”. I noticed that my two children (3 and 6) played a game around the “virus” so I joined in and started to give simple explanations following their lead.” Eva from Captain Bobcat
For some children, it’s easier to write the words down than say them.
“We are big fans of journaling. It can be so helpful to encourage them to explore and share their feelings, and can also help to bring clarity and perspective.” Kate from Refined Prose
All children are different but it’s worth having a think about how they normally communicate their problems to you and encouraging them to open up.
Have a Routine while Schools are Closed
While some families may be happy just going with the flow each day (and that’s absolutely fine) anxious children often benefit from routine. It’s what they would have had at school so creating one at hoe can be helpful. It doesn’t have to be strict and it doesn’t have to include hours and hours of school work. Our routine includes things like dog walking, TV, free play and screen time.
If you’re not keen on a routine you could opt for a rather instead, where you have a few set markers during the day (for example, meals and a set bedtime) and the rest of the day you do similar things at similar times each day, so you might do something outdoors in the morning and play inside in the afternoon.
Keep Them Active to Cope with Lockdown
Being stuck at home gives kids less opportunities to run around and burn off energy which will in turn make anxiety worse. Try and build some physical activities in to the day. The endorphins they release will help them manage the anxiety better.
“We have started a daily dance/exercise routine in the morning and in the evenings we meditate. My kids love it. Everyone is calm and we take each day at a time.” Yvette from Uplifting and Inspiring Content
Our kids often just run in to the garden and have a random bounce on the trampoline which seems to help!
Stay in Touch so they Feel Less Isolated
A lot of Girl Child’s anxiety is about being away from the people she loves so staying in touch is really important to help to cope with lockdown. We pass my Mum’s house on our daily walk and she waves from the window, we FaceTime her and they are also writing a round robin story together where my mum writes a bit, emails it to me and then Girl Child writes a bit before sending it back.
“I think letting them talk to family and friends regularly will help them to feel that everyone in ‘their world’ is safe.” Michelle from Time and Pence
We’ve included letter writing in our daily schedule and she talks to her other grandparents on the phone. The school have also set up class email addresses so she can email her teacher.
Create a Retreat Space
We want Girl Child to have a special space she can go to when she’s feeling anxious so are planning to create a “retreat space” in one corner of her room. It will have lots of soft pillows and blankets, some fairy lights, teddies and I’ll use aroma therapies oils to add relaxing smells. The idea is to create somewhere that will give her a positive sensory experience when she finds things overwhelming.
How are you helping your kids cope with lockdown? I’d love to hear in the comments.
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