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A young girl hiding under bedsheets

Dealing with fear

First, process your own fears and make sure that you are calmly interacting with your child.

The primary factor in recovery from a traumatic event and anxiety is the presence of a supportive, caring adult in a child’s life. Even when a parent is not available, children can benefit greatly from care provided by other adults (e.g., foster parents, relatives, friends) who can offer them consistent, sensitive care that helps protect them from a pandemic’s harmful effects.

The most important and impactful form of communication to your child/teen is your own behaviour. Children typically tend to be perceptive and sensitive to the behaviour of others in their surroundings. If you and other adults in the household are acting and behaving calmly, you are sending a clear message to your child/teen that there is no need to panic or worry.

For this, you would need to watch and monitor your own feelings and reactions. Children can sense their parents’ anxiety even when parents are not voicing or expressing their anxiety related thoughts or fears. Carving a few minutes for yourself for mindful breathing pauses during the day may help you model calm for your child/teen.

Significant changes to daily routines or schedules are stressful for children and convey to the child that you are very concerned or there is a crisis. Try adhering to usual routines and schedules in the household as much as possible. Consistency is key. If your child/teen’s school is closed, helping your child/teen have structure during the day, may help anxiety. Sitting around idle without a plan for the day is likely to escalate anxiety, especially for teens already suffering from anxiety.

Help children find positive ways to express disturbing feelings such as fear and sadness. Every child has his/her own way to express emotions. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing, and drawing can facilitate this process. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

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This article is from the free online course:

Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19

UEA (University of East Anglia)