Tami Sobell is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor and Psychotherapist and, since the Coronavirus outbreak, has reduced her prices so as to help as many people as possible cope with managing the anxiety of their children, as well as their own.
Here, she explains what to do if you are a worried parent and the nine ways you can, in turn, help your child through a stressful time.
It's one thing dealing with our own stress and anxiety, but what about the stress and anxiety of our children?
Now that schools are set to close, one of the biggest concerns for all parents is of course, the rise in anxiety within their children. Stuck inside with parents who are working from home, unable to see their friends or fully grasp the reason why all this is happening.
Children don’t understand what’s happening, but they can sense the change in atmosphere and routine, hear things throughout the day and often pick up the angst of their parents.
Parents and therapy clients have been continually asking me, 'how do I help my kids? I'm feeling anxious myself as well! I don’t know how to get us all through this!'
The solution is simpler than it might seem, though.
However hard it may be, kids tend to follow our example. They cling onto our moods and they take from us what we give them emotionally. If a parent came to me previously with high anxiety, and was even more anxious about passing it on to their kids, I would tell them that the most important thing is that the child feels safe. This is the same circumstance.
In a world full of scaremongering and uncertainty, we are their baseline. If mummy and daddy are ok, then we will be okay. We are their world. Children look to their parents for security, and even when it feels like the hardest thing to do in the world, when they’re around us, we must try, as best we can, to give off an air of calm.
It’s also just as important to listen to their fears and help them to see that whilst they’re valid, we are in control of our thoughts and our time. It’s okay to tell them that you’re afraid too, so they know they are being listened to.
We can tell them we’re afraid to see them so worried and upset, but that we will take care of them always. Make a plan with them – they thrive on stability. We will do X, Y, and Z today. Playdates can also be arranged using so much technology – Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp video, Facetime etc.
In order to keep our children sane, we must first keep ourselves sane. An analogy I use with many clients, is that of the aeroplane; We're told to put our mask on before we assist our child; our mental health is so important to prioritise, in order to give as much as we can to our children who are suffering from feelings they've never felt before, and may not fully understand.
If a child is feeling very low and anxious, here are 10 things you can do to help them through this:
1. Write down your fears and put them in a balloon, blow up the balloon and then go outside and pop it and release them into the air.
2. With your child, write down all the things that they are worrying about and then rip up the paper into tiny little pieces.
3. Buy emoji-based stickers, dice, colouring books to help younger children to express themselves if you are concerned they’re hiding their emotions from you and you want them to open up.
4. Reach out to someone in the medical profession, and they can simply explain how it has happened in the past and how the world was able to move on and be happy again.
5. Show them breathing techniques that are easy to follow on YouTube, like this one:
6. Run an exercise class in your living room/garden/outdoor space.
8. Speak to other parents. Talking to others helps much more than we realise. When we know that others are feeling the same (any age) we automatically feel safer.
9. Give them lots of hugs, cuddles, kisses and reassurance that everything will be okay.
If you are a parent, or a teacher, or someone who is really struggling with handling this strange situation we have found ourselves in, there are professionals, like me, who are offering very low cost online and phone services to people of all ages. It is more important than ever to take care of our mental wellbeing.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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