Living through the COVID-19 crisis has upended everyone’s lives. It’s also brought many losses with it, and not just losses because of death. This is especially true for children, who have missed out on important school activities and celebrations, in-school education, and other key childhood experiences.
Because they are young and still learning how to understand the world, the major interruption to life as they knew it before can be very distressing. Not only are they missing out on things, they’re also having to deal with new stressors: being at home all the time, distance learning, wearing masks, and more.
So it’s understandable that kids may display agitation and anxiety considering this situation. And as parents, you may struggle to know how to work with each other to help your kids. Here are some tips.
Present a Unified Approach
A stressful situation can be made even harder when both parents aren’t on the same page. When the kids are not present, talk with each other privately about topics that you may not agree on involving the pandemic. Perhaps one of you is cavalier about the health risks while the other would prefer to wear full personal protective equipment whenever leaving the house.
The time to talk about such disagreements is not in front of the kids. Work together and try to strike a balance, always keeping your children’s best interests in mind.
Children really do absorb their parents’ behaviors and attitudes. If you’re panicking and let your kids see fear controlling your life, they will be more likely to become anxious themselves.
This isn’t to say that you have to deny your own feelings and pretend like nothing’s wrong. You can admit that you’re a little nervous. But then talk with them about ways to manage fears. Again, work together as parents to accomplish this.
Take Their Fears Seriously
As parents, it can be all too easy to brush your kids’ questions and worries off with a pat answer. But kids need to be taken seriously. They feel more protected and grounded when they know their parents take them seriously.
Listen to them, answer honestly but age appropriately, and reassure them. Remind them of the steps you’re taking to be safe and healthy. Don’t let fear take over your lives.
Give Each Other Breaks
When possible, let each parent take a break now and then. Find a way for each of you to have time on your own or do something that lets you recharge. This is especially important for the parent who spends the bulk of the time taking care of the kids.
Connect with Each Other
Likewise, caring for children can make it easy to lose touch with each other. But make it a priority to check in as a couple and spend time together each day. This helps your relationship with each other, and will help your parenting relationship.
With the loss of built in, outside structure (school drop off, after-school activities, work schedule), it’s easy to let a routine at home slide. This can lead to a lack of predictability, which can contribute to anxiety in children. They thrive on knowing what to expect next.
While it’s not always possible to know what to expect next from the pandemic overall, you can help your kids know what to expect at home. This gives them a sense of security.
Finally, remember to squeeze in laughter and fun. Everyone needs this, especially kids. If your child’s anxiety continues to grow, though, consider reaching out for help.
Likewise, if you as parents are struggling with how to work together for the best interests of your kids during the pandemic, a neutral third party can be invaluable. Please call our office to find out more.