As a general rule I think it’s best to be open and honest with our children about life and the world around us.
The problem with this is that, during uncertain times like this, I have to admit that I don’t know all the answers. That no one knows the answers. I can’t tell my children when the parks and swimming pools will be open again. I can’t reassure them that they’ll be back at school and hugging their friends by a set date.
For anxious children this level of uncertainty can be really hard to cope with. It’s hard for all of us to deal with I think.
The main thing to remember, for me as a parent, is that we’ve never been in this situation before, so no one really knows how to handle it or what the best steps to take are.
We’re all just doing our best, trying to reassure our children as best we can while keeping them safe as best we can.
There are some things we can try along the way though, that might help our anxious children in these kinds of uncertain times.
Practice mindfulness together
Mindfulness is a great tool for people of all ages to help with anxiety.
It’s all about slowing down and paying close attention to the world around you and to how you’re feeling.
A great way to practice this with your child is to go on a mindful walk together. This is actually something that Rhys was asked to do as part of his school work recently and it was such a lovely thing to do together.
When you go out on a walk, stop now and then and just be still and quiet.
Ask your child to pay attention to all their senses and notice the different things they can hear, smell and feel. You can get them to sit and put their hands on the ground, or take their shoes and socks off and stand barefoot for a few minutes.
This is great for helping us feeling more grounded and connected with nature, which has a really calming affect on our bodies and minds.
Keep to a simple daily routine
All of our normal routines have been completely turned upside down since the schools closed and we all started working from home.
Some children will have adjusted to this really easily, but for anxious children it will be really unsettling.
So try and create, and keep to, a new simple daily routine for them to bring back a sense of predictability to their days.
This doesn’t mean have a packed schedule each day, but keep a few things that are consistent and predictable each day, like going for a walk after lunch and having a bath and then reading together at bedtime.
Do kind things together for other people
When we’re feeling anxious it can be really hard to stop the worrying thoughts running through our heads.
So try and help your anxious child break this cycle by taking the focus off themselves and their thoughts by doing something kind and helpful for someone else.
Get them to make a card and then write a thoughtful message inside to send to a friend of relative.
Let them paint another rainbow to stick in the window to make passers-by smile.
Help them record a video message to their grandparents about what they’ve been up to during this time apart.
When we do kind things for other people it makes both them and us feel good, and it’s a great way to feel like you have a bit of control in uncertain times.
Focus on the things you can do
When everything feels out of our control it can be really scary. So really try to focus on the things your child can do and can control.
Things like choosing to do something kind or helpful for someone else is a great place to start.
You can also talk to them about how, in the current situation with coronavirus, they can help protect themselves and other people by washing their hands properly, coughing into their elbows and limiting their contact with other people for a while.
Acknowledge and normalise their feelings
It’s so important to reassure your child that whatever they’re feeling at the moment is completely fine, valid and normal.
Let them express to you how they’re feeling, and encourage them to sit with those emotions for a bit instead of brushing them aside.
They might be feeling scared, angry, sad, hopeful, helpless, happy, nervous, and all sorts of other emotions, possibly all in one day, and that is just fine.
Add in positives
Once you’ve acknowledged what your child is feeling you can help them again by ‘adding in’ a positive to go alongside it.
So if they’re feeling scared and anxious about the current situation you can encourage them to add courage or strength to that emotion.
If they’re sad about not seeing their friends, help them to also be happy and grateful that we have the technology now to be able to video chat with them.
It’s not about taking away from what they’re feeling, but adding in more positive, helpful emotions to guide them through.
When the whole world feels strange and everything feels uncertain, we’re all going to feel more anxious than usual.
But hopefully some of these ideas and strategies will help if your child, or you, are finding it all particularly hard.
Do you have any other tips for things that help you or your child when you’re feeling anxious? I’d love to hear them in the comments if you do.