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How to help children deal with stress and anxiety during Covid-19

How to help children deal with stress and anxiety during Covid-19

Covid-19 and the global pandemic it’s caused has brought about a new normal for families all over the world. One of the strangest and yet also most joyous parts of this new lifestyle has got to be all the time spent together. The slowing down of our hectic modern lives is definitely a blessing for many, but not everyone can enjoy it equally. Parents everywhere are seeking out ways to handle stress during Covid-19.

Dr. Megan Crisler

Numerous families are experiencing job loss, financial insecurity, and health concerns. Some parents are now working their full-time jobs from home while also caring for children and serving as at home educators. It’s a lot to handle and stress and anxiety are high for everyone.

We asked local clinical psychologist, Dr. Megan Crisler, to answer some questions we had as parents about how to best deal with this stress ourselves and how we can assist our children in dealing with issues they might be having as well.

Dealing with Stress During Covid-19

Q: How can parents tell if their child is experiencing stress and anxiety about quarantine or Covid-19? What signs should I be looking for?

The main things to look out for would be personality and behavior changes: sleeping more, becoming more argumentative, and loss of interest in commonly favorite activities are all sure signs of stress. Then again, these are all behaviors that we may be doing anyway that may not be a sign of anything serious. With all of the extra time on our hands, some may be more prone to naps and they may get bored of doing the same things over and over even if they are favorite activities. These are normal behaviors but also are risk factors for depression and anxiety.

The important point is to assume that there is some level of heightened stress and openly acknowledge that everyone is feeling it. We are surrounded by daily news of rising death counts and a simple trip to the grocery store is now blatantly frightening with all of the masks, gloves, and sanitization. Talk with your kids about how you’re feeling frustrated as well, which will help to normalize their experiences. This is a moment in time that will pass.

Also, turn off the news. It’s important to stay informed, but we do not need to be surrounded with the information 24/7.

Q: What can parents do to help their child cope with this unprecedented situation?

One of the best things parents can do is maintain some sense of a normal schedule, as best you can. This is so important. Keep weekdays structured and maintain a level of relaxation and fun on the weekends. Additionally, try to do something special daily that you ordinarily would not get to do outside of this whole mess. For example, within our family, we don’t have daycare right now and, while I have to very stressfully work at home juggling a 9 month old, I try to make breakfasts that my daughter and I can split (we love our eggs and avocados). This is a special memory that I will cherish because we don’t typically get to do this; usually I’m dropping her off at daycare where she has her breakfast as I rush off to work. These are special moments that I try to structure each day.

Special moments together will help children cope with these drastic changes.

Other ideas for maintaining structure and relieving stress during Covid-19:

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  • Regular afternoon walks
  • Do a craft together
  • Make something extra fun for dinner on Friday night to mark the beginning of the weekend. Some families have done regular theme nights for weekend dinners (e.g., German night, Hibachi night, etc.).
  • Avoid sleeping in too much
  • Make regular meals
  • Do all schoolwork/at-home work first thing in the morning. Then, the afternoons/early evenings can be reserved for something fun, like the walk or art project.

It will be the seemingly small things that you do that can add just a little brightness to an otherwise boring, monotonous week.

Q: I’m feeling stressed and anxious so how do I help my child when I don’t have the answers myself?

If your children start to ask questions that you don’t know how to answer, or the apparent stress is becoming extra difficult for you to manage as a parent, there are wonderful counselors available via telehealth. Telehealth is an awkward experience at first, but many find it to be a welcome change to the daily routine. Also, it’s nice to visually connect with someone outside of your home! Many of our counselors are continuing to see their regular clients, working on the same goals, and even doing parent-training techniques to improve compliance within the home. Telehealth is an excellent opportunity to connect with a therapist who can actually see how behavior is occurring within the home.

telehealth mental health stress during covid-19
Telehealth can be a good option for parents or children needing assistance.
Q: Are there specific types of therapies or apps that can help us through this time?

Absolutely! A phrase mentioned above was “This is a moment in time that will pass.” This is actually a large tenant of Mindfulness, which is a therapeutic approach useful for both adults and kids. It emphasizes the importance of focusing on the here-and-now, recognizing that all emotions, events, and experiences are simply moments in time that will pass. You acknowledge these experiences – don’t ignore them – accept them, and let them pass. There is obviously much more to this approach, but it is a helpful concept to keep in mind when going through stressful events. There are numerous apps available to guide you through these approaches at home, but also many therapists use such techniques (again, useful through Telehealth!).

Managing family stress during Covid-19 is something everyone is trying to figure out. It’s important to know you are not alone, and there are resources here to help you through it.

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