Helping My Child When They Feel Worried
By Anita McCallum, Elementary Principal
With all the uncertainty that comes with the crisis of COVID-19, children show us that they are worried or anxious in different ways. A younger child may not be able to articulate how they are feeling but show you by crying more, having more tantrums, meltdowns or appearing more aggressive. For some it could be shown through biting their nails, being more fidgety, or acting more irritable than normal. Others could show you they are worried or anxious by not sleeping well at night or not wanting to sleep or play independently. Here are some simple strategies you can use at home to help your child if you feel they are anxious or worried.
Children ‘owning’ their routine
Create a routine together each day; start the day sitting down to breakfast together and planning what will happen for the day. Ask your children questions such as: “Which teachers will you see today?” “What are the important tasks you need to do?” “What is a fun activity you would like to do when you have finished your learning tasks?” Add in when there will be snacks and playtime away from screens throughout the day. In class, especially for younger students, we use a visual aid to help them be aware of what is coming up next.
Set small, achievable goals
Keep the focus on something they want to do, something they would like to learn or improve e.g. skipping for a longer period of time, tying their shoelaces by themselves. Set a goal of how much time each day you will work together on this and then celebrate their perseverance and success when they achieve it all by themselves! This helps your child feel successful and independent.
A circle of support
Talk about how your child is feeling and who they can trust to talk to at home, at school, in your extended family. Draw this and put it somewhere they can see each day. Keep in touch with these people via video calls, messages, and letters. This helps your child feel connected and supported knowing they have people who love and care for them.
Let the worries go
Reassure your child that their feelings are valid and that it is ok to worry. Encourage them to talk to the people they trust about it. Set a timer for a few minutes to let the worries go; they can draw or write their worries on a piece of paper then read them out, throw the paper away and go and play something fun. This helps your child articulate their feelings and then let them go.
Teach your child breathing techniques that will help them self-soothe and calm down independently. Encourage them to sit and be still and take time to practice these strategies when they are not upset. This helps your child so then they know how to put this technique into practice when they are upset. Here is an example
It is completely normal and understandable for our children to have times where they feel anxious or worried, especially now. If you are concerned that your child is feeling anxious or worried, please reach out to your child’s teacher so we can continue to work together to support your children.